No man is an island. And the IT department shouldn’t be one, either. I came across a very interesting trend that in my view will change the way industrial companies will treat their PLM infrastructure and get PLM IT expertise. Wall Street Journal article It’s Time to Get Rid of the IT Department.  Joe Peppard says that IT made sense in a bygone era when technology was separate from the business. Now it just hurts both. Many companies are moving toward distributed networks of tech expertise and knowledge throughout their organizations. Peppard argues IT needs to be decentralized within a framework and infused into every business unit. He suggests organizing employee groups around specific missions and embedding tech expertise in each area.

The article made me think about how PLM IT is going to change in the next few years and what role PLM SaaS infrastructure will play in this change.

What is classical PLM IT

At this moment, the vast majority of use cases PLM (product lifecycle management) is a comprehensive system used by large businesses to manage their product development processes. It enables companies to track and store information about products, from conception to end-of-life. PLM can help manufacturers streamline operations, improve communication between departments, and make more informed decisions about their products. If you’re looking for a way to optimize your product development process, PLM is the solution for you.

However, here is the thing, typical high-end enterprise PLM systems are a complex beast that requires a well-established operation, IT skills, strategy, and organization. Such organization is absolutely needed, but at the same time, requires a bigger centralization, alignment, and organization across the organizational units. IT is responsible for the installation of PLM software, integrates data, solves all engineering challenges of global organizations including extended enterprise. This is where a digital thread begins.

Reasons for the decline of IT departments

The article in my view made a valid point with regards to the situation. While companies need the IT function, but they don’t need an IT department. A modern IT organization is decentralized that is capable to perform its functions and, at the same time, being aligned with company success metrics. The main reason for the decline of the IT department as we knew is related to the fact IT stopped being a tool that brings technologies to the organization. The wide adoption of SaaS technologies made them available for all organizations without borders, restrictions, and, sometimes, even without IT approvals.

So, technology is becoming easier and more available, the needs of servers, IT involvement into projects is declining and the main reason for IT is shifting for their traditional functions. Companies could be well served with a decentralized IT function that’s integrated with business units and/or key corporate functions — a lean central IT team focused primarily on organization-wide data sharing and driving common technology standards where it makes sense (financially or technically).

How PLM IT can keep up with technologies?

Easier access to PLM technology creates a situation in which the skillset needed from PLM IT is changing. There is more need for technology and business advisory and understanding of cloud technology combined with the need to work remotely and support the distributed PLM fracture. PLM systems, computer design systems, downstream manufacturing, and supply chains all need to be connected and it becomes more and more important.

Speed and time are other factors. In the past, the PLM project duration was long and provided enough time for IT to deal with multiple issues such as planning, consolidating requirements, working with multiple divisions and users in the company. Modern PLM software changed the way product data can be managed. The focus is shifting towards getting access to up-to-date information and organization business processes rather than setting up, configuring, and maintaining the systems.

How organizations are adapting to the changes in PLM IT

The way organization is searching for business systems and product lifecycle management infrastructure specifically is changing as well. The complexity of product development is changing as well as the need to serve distributed teams and organizations. A substantial portion of the PLM solution is tightly connected to the product development process (not only storing and controlling the data). PLM solutions are tightly involved in the manufacturing process, required during the earliest stages of the design phase, and stop being only CAD-centric products. Such complexity put a significant demand for additional resources from IT for training, education, and consulting related to the implementation of the systems in real-time. The demand for speed is growing and IT quickly becoming a fast reaction resource to help customers in real-time. Customers don’t see multiple systems but always think about one platform to manage the data and processes in real-time.

The future of PLM IT

What will be the future of PLM IT? It is a question that is asked by many industrial companies, PLM vendors, and consulting/service companies. Here is my quick take on the top three changes in the future of PLM IT – (1) Consulting; (2) Support; (3) online services.

What is my conclusion?

A question of consolidation of multiple functions such as document management, product data management, product lifecycle management, quality management, computer-aided design (CAD), supply chain, manufacturing is real. Companies are developing complex products and demand to get access to real-time data in a real-world managed by distributed teams. It creates a different reality and requires different PLM IT people and systems. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Disclaimer: I’m co-founder and CEO of OpenBOM developing a digital network-based platform that manages product data and connects manufacturers, construction companies, and their supply chain networksMy opinion can be unintentionally biased.


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