How to Put Sexy in Unsexy PLM

How to Put Sexy in Unsexy PLM

A few years ago, I wrote my article – Who will make PLM sexier? My point was that for a long time PLM was associated with the complexity and now it is a good time to rethink the complexity and introduce a simple and sexy approach in PLM system design and user experience.

Andrew Sparrow raised the same question earlier this week on LinkedIn – A big question for you: How do we make PLM sexy?

It was over two years ago, I remember it well, I’d been in an hour long presentation to IBM European senior managers, together with Q&As and we were having lunch debating the world of PLM, 3DEXPERIENCE etc. One of the senior managers was frustrated insufficient younger ones were coming through to replace the retiring Gen-X and Babyboomers. He asked me, how do we fix that? I said, let’s make PLM Sexy! Let’s give them a reason to come over and join us all in the real 4IR journey. And since then, I’ve been asked the same questions over and over

To me, as much as I’d like to boil the ocean and change the name, instead, it’s a case of making everyone realize that if we want to lead and disrupt in the 4IR, we need to demonstrate that there’s nothing more important than PLM to ideate, innovate and create new, sustainable products and customer experiences

Read comments and draw your opinion. I can see mixed responses there.

While the last decade in software development convinced everyone that user experience is extremely important, the question about how to make it happen is still not answered. The majority of PLM vendors are focusing on user experience, PLM remains a complex beast.

I found interesting examples in recent Microsoft SharePoint publications. Check the article shows examples of Microsoft SharePoint home website for companies here.

Visionaries driving digital transformation and creating the modern workplace know the intelligent intranet is the heart of a digital workplace.  The intelligent intranet delivers experiences that provide shared content and solutions for collaboration, drives employee engagement and communications, and harnesses collective knowledge by connecting people and content.

Home sites are natively responsive, so you can rest assured that every page will be beautiful, fast, and accessible on any device.  Coming later this year, a dedicated home button will allow one touch access to your home site in the SharePoint mobile app.  You can also configure your company logo in the Office 365 navbar to link to your home site. Doing this means your home site will always be one click away in any of the Microsoft 365 web applications.

In The Verge article, How to put sexy in unsexy software, I found a new video of SharePoint. Check this out.

Here is a thought. Engineers are conservative users. Not sure simplicity is something that appears to engineers as valuable. It removes the opportunity to sell engineering and development skills. Engineers are rarely supporting simplicity.

Therefore, the opportunity for new PLM user experience has more chances of success when it comes to many scenarios of downstream data users where users are looking for data consumption rather than complex engineering scenarios.

What to do with engineers? How to find a path to engineering heart? A complex graph, 3D visualizations or workflows. PLM systems tried all these approaches with very mixed success. Excel flexibility, combined with visible simplicity and demand for skills is a successful combination. Is there an opportunity to bringing engineering complexity hidden behind the simplicity of spreadsheet user experience? It will require some specific knowledge from engineers to work with this, but the ability to manage it and the skills needed to understand can give it a chance.

What is my conclusion? One size doesn’t fit all. PLM systems are targeting a diverse group of users in the organizations. So, what is sexy for one group will be unsexy for another. How to diversify the UX approach and bring the right elements of UX to various groups of users – engineers, manufacturing planners, procurement, management, sales, and customers? PLM was focusing on designers and engineers for a very long period of time and ignored large groups of users in the organization. A browser-based user experience, simplicity of Excel paradigm and the hidden power of data management can make a difference. 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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