Are PLM conferences dead?

Are PLM conferences dead?

Conference business is tricky. In the world where information is available with a single click on your computer or mobile device, you need to have a good reason to push yourself to a flight (sometimes to a different country) and attend the conference. The amount of conferences I’m going these days is much smaller than it was a decade ago. Information availability and social networks and communications are to be blamed.

One of the very few independent conferences I was attending recently was PI PLMx. I attended the San-Diego event, which is a US-based event. A mirrored event in Europe took place two weeks ago in London. My old blog about PLM Innovation 2011 is here. You can see the program of the event. Many of these questions are still applicable. To key concept behind the PLM Innovation event was to bring customers to speak about real problems and share the real experience.

I applauded MarketKey’s idea to create a customer-focus conference back in 2011. But the time brings changes in the PLM conference game. More information online created a challenge for people to decide about attending the conference. As many people told me – you go to the conference and we watch your tweets. I can appreciate that, but I can tweet slides without traveling to London or San-Diego from my home office.

I wasn’t able to attend PI PLMx London 2020 marking 10 years of the conference. But, I attended virtually and Jos Voskuil notes. The thing that struck me the most is the conclusion – PLM is not broad enough to sustain the conference.

At the beginning of this week, I was attending the 9th edition of the PI conference in London. Where it started as a popular conference with 300 – 400 attendees at its best, we were now back to a smaller number of approximately 100 attendees.

It illustrates that PLM as a standalone topic is no longer attracts a broad audience as Marketkey (the organization of the conference) confirms. The intention is that future conferences will be focusing on the broader scope of PLM, where business transformation will be one of the main streams.

As much as I like the idea of MarketKey to broaden the scope, I can see a big concern about jumping to this conclusion. Let’s take a look at what we learned during the last years.

Here are things that I’m continuously hearing from conference attendees.

1- We don’t want to pay to attend the conference and travel expenses to listen to vendors’ commercials.

2- We don’t want to hear abstract stories about concepts that are not connected to the practical sense of PLM implementations.

3- We don’t want to hear success stories that repeat themselves and hiding real problems.

In my view, the challenge of any PLM event is to bring enough budget to fund the event and as a result, the content was drifted towards commercial success, marketing slides, and typical success stories. The real customer stories aren’t getting approvals. Stories about PLM platform failures are not presented very often. PLM language is complex and it creates even bigger concerns.

For my over a decade of time blogging at Beyond PLM on all platforms, I can see what topics are triggering interest and what subjects are just staying flat. It is a potential time to rethink PLM events. It requires to bring the content that you can “sell” to the audience. Back to basics, back to the foundation, back to simplicity. Back to something that people can trust. PLM language is blurred enough, so making it even more complex won’t give any benefits.

Also, remember that everything in the modern online world needs to be tested first. So, plan also testing it online.

What is my conclusion?

Are independent PLM conferences dead? I think, the answer – it depends. I know many people struggling with their PLM decisions and fighting alone to balance tools, budgets, organizational and cultural changes and timelines. Companies are struggling with very basics things – Part Numbers, Change Management, Revisions, and others. To discuss the real problems, can be an opportunity. This is the foundation – the story. This is a single unit. The scale of the business always starts with the unit economics. If a single unit doesn’t sell, making it broader or scaling it up won’t solve the problem. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

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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