PLM reports – how to compare apples and oranges

PLM reports – how to compare apples and oranges

Recent Forrester Wave report made some turbulence in PLM world. I shared my thoughts in my earlier blog –What I learned about PLM leaders from Forrester Wave report. Aras $100 millions revenues based on the Forrester research criteria was an interesting surprise. While Dassault Systemes, Siemens PLM and PTC are compatible businesses, Autodesk, SAP and Oracle has very little in common when it comes to PLM for discrete manufacturing. Overall, Forrester report left me with mixed feeling of comparing different companies.

Earlier this week, article Which PLM Solutions are Best? Forrester Names PTC, Dassault and Aras, But Misses the Point written by Verdi Ogewell caught my attention. article criticized many aspects of the comparison made by Forrester Wave. Here is my favorite passage:

In the end, the two big “problematic” take-aways are the limited view in terms of the complete integrated product development chain, and the heavy weighting of the strategy/vision side of the participants’ solutions. Anyone thinking about investing in systems based on evaluations that are excessively focused on the developers’ visions of the future would be well served by looking at their previous history.  How successful have they been at implementing these visionary pieces in reality?

“This evaluation of the PLM market is intended to be a starting point only,” Forrester writes in the report. It will be interesting to see how the commercial PLM tools are evaluated with a broader scope of PLM applied. My qualified guess is that such a perspective will affect the scores and the placements in the future Forrester Wave

The question – what PLM solutions are the best is a great question to ask, but from my experience, companies are rarely answering the question in a vacuum. Usually the question should be answered in the context of a specific manufacturing company and specific needs.

And the solutions presented in the Wave are hard to compare. It made me think about various aspects of comparison I didn’t find in Forrester Wave that can help to manufacturing company to make a strategic decision to choose one of these vendors.

PLM is very sticky

Once manufacturing company started to use PLM solution, it becomes incredible sticky. The data collected and managed by PLM system is very hard to export and import to another system. And the problem is often less technical, but more product and methodology specific. It also related to a very low percentage of companies using plain out of the box solution. Configuration and customization are very often and lead to a specific solution that very hard to replicate.

Forrester excluded market presence from comparison. At the same time, it would be very interesting to compare how many companies are using a specific solution for how long. These data points can be incredibly important to understand how many companies are dependent on this solution for their day-to-day business.

One size doesn’t fit all

Discrete manufacturing segment is combined from companies of different sizes. This high level of variety is important to understand broadness of solution and the ability to cover market segments. This information is hard to get, but without the comparison can be missing the point completely.

The functional scope can be also different. My assumption that PLM in Forrester Wave comparison covers cPDM functionality defined by CIMdata. But, at the same time, article is criticizing Forrester for not covering Product Definition tools.

Adoption and new users

One of the biggest problem in PLM is adoption by new customers. While many (mostly large) manufacturing companies are buying PLM strategy and vision, the number of smaller companies are not there yet and not even considering PLM as a viable option. So, to compare how many new customers were acquired by each vendor for the last year, can give another interesting comparison data point.

Manufacturing companies are buying commitments (not PLM products)

This one is a bit tricky. Although, manufacturing companies are buying PLM products, in fact, they are looking for long term commitments from vendors. And this thing is often a significant criteria in overall decision. It can be a strategy “thing”, but not only . I didn’t find anything that can help me to understand who is the most trusted PLM companies.

What is my conclusion? To create ranking of PLM companies is hard. Forrester Wave reminded me Gartner MQ (Magic Quadrant). I think Gartner stopped to produce them many years ago for PLM. With small number of vendors and high level of diversification is very easy to end up with “apples vs oranges” comparison. This is what I think we’ve got lot of useful information, but not necessarily simple answer what solution is the best. I can see a point to compare solutions, but an ultimate decision about best PLM software probably doesn’t exist for the moment. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Want to learn more about PLM? Check out my new PLM Book website.

Disclaimer: I’m co-founder and CEO of OpenBOM developing cloud based bill of materials and inventory management tool for manufacturing companies, hardware startups and supply chain. My opinion can be unintentionally biased.



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  • marclind

    Oleg – Excellent topic. We see people struggling with how to evaluate all the time.

    Think you hit the key with “question should be answered in the context of a specific manufacturing company and specific needs”.

    The traditional PLM selection process is broken IMHO. Making a spreadsheet with a functionality ‘wish list’ and having vendors check boxes and then show slides & demos doesn’t work.

    The major vendors just check all the boxes, and have PLM blackbelt sales engineers show off magical demos that look incredible. Then… it’s time to Pick & Pay.

    Legacy proprietary vendors do everything in their power to force you to buy ‘sight unseen’.

    Actual users rarely get to ‘touch’ the software. And no one knows if it will really work for the complicated, cross-functional business processes required.

    We/Aras believe that hands-on POCs with REAL data are not only important, but 100% necessary for a company’s evaluation in order to ensure solution success.

    The best way to know if you’re picking the right package for your specific needs (today and into the future) is to get to 2-3 solutions, and take the time to do head-to-head Pilots.

    As you point out, PLM is a mission-critical, long-life system. Picking something that will impact your company’s competitiveness for 10+ years without even trying it is a recipe for disaster.

    Just my 2 cents.


  • beyondplm

    Marc, Thanks for sharing your thoughts! Pilots… I can see your point. I will need to think about it. This is an obvious way for companies to make a decision after you shortlist to 2-3 vendors.

  • David Ewing Jr.

    Ill add to Marc’s thoughts. Getting the short list to a head to head is important. The content of that head to head matchup is where the firm can get an apples to apples comparison.

    A robust POC will include user stories and requirements to evaluate actual business processes. However, Ill take the front end bet and raise you the back office. This is what a firm MUST add to the POC to evaluate their potential reality. By adding cases to unearth the realities of deployment, maintenance, customization, and upgrades to the evaluation the firm gets a real picture of the their PLM solution – roses, warts, and all.

    Now a firm knows what it will be stepping into for the next 10 years. I bet Jaguar Land Rover didnt such an evaluation.

    All the best Marc & Oleg. Good points from all!

    David Ewing Jr.
    Director, PLM Strategy – Design Automation Associates

  • Forward thinking customers have realized that the future is built on adaptable platforms, not “sticky” turnkey solutions. The future belongs to companies who provide open and well-documented APIs, extensible data models, and a commitment to interoperability. Companies trying to retain annuity revenue streams by selling to the C-suite and locking customers into legacy code bases will struggle to compete. Marc hits the nail on the head re: POCs. The power of an open model becomes obvious when a customer tries out a solution on real data and processes.

  • beyondplm

    Ed, cannot agree more about openness and APIs. Actually, just out my last blog is about it – Web APIs and route towards digital transformation – . Best, Oleg