Last week I saw once more a post, where free PLM software was offered and combined with the open source aura it should be THE solution for companies that want to implement PLM during this economical downturn. I believe this is a big mistake and for the following reasons:
WYPIWYG (What You Pay Is What You Get)
I learned that the WYPIWYG rule usually applies in the software world. Free software is nice, but does not guarantee that in case some functionality is missing or corrupt, that it will be fixed. So in case a company wants to implement the free PLM software, what to do if you feel something important for your business is missing ? You can ask the software provider to implement it for you – but will this be done ? Probably only when it is easy to achieve it will be done, but no commitment as the software is for free.
To assure it can be done, the software vendor will say it is open source software, so it can be changed if you want it. But who is going to make the change ? The mid-market company that thought to have selected an economical solution is not an IT-company – so who to hire? The open source software development company ? And this is what their business model is based on – they have the expertise with their software, so probably they are the best to adapt the open source software – not for free of course – and they learn from that but the customer pays.
Conclusion: there is no such thing as a free lunch.
It does not mean that all open source software is bad. Linux has shown that for an operating system it makes sense. Operating systems are 100 % in the scope of IT. PLM is something different. PLM systems indeed need to provide an IT backbone to assure data collaboration and replication globally. However PLM is probably more focused on business process changes and NOT on IT.
PLM requires people with business skills and not software developers
From my experience, PLM projects fail in case there are no business knowledgeable people available. It did not only happen with free PLM software or open source software. Some years ago, ERP vendors started to provide free PLM software to their customers to keep PLM companies on a distance. Like free PLM software it looked nice business wise, the software is free when you buy their ERP system. But who is going to implement it ?
This free PLM software availability has changed in the past years for ERP vendors. Also ERP vendors see PLM as a growth market for their business, so they started also to invest in PLM, providing PLM consultancy and no longer for free PLM functionality. However in one of the projects I was involved, it is clear that PLM and ERP are complementary approaches. Interesting is that none of the PLM vendors focus on ERP, apparently ERP vendors believe they can master PLM. I won’t say it is impossible however I believe if there is no real PLM vision on the top level of an ERP company, you cannot expect the competitive focus to exist.
Are CAD vendors providing PLM ?
Some CAD vendors have an embedded data management solution to manage their own data. This is usually more a PDM system and often the word PDM (Product Data Management) is too much for that. These systems manage their own CAD data but have no foundation for a multi-discipline Engineering BOM. For me, this is the base for PDM, as most companies have several disciplines working with different tools all around the same product. So CAD data management for me is not a the base for PDM, so for sure not for PLM.
PLM vendors bring real PLM value !
For me it is clear having worked with different vendors in the past: an ERP vendor, several PDM and PLM vendors, it is clear for me in order to bring committed value to a customer, you need first of all people with PLM skills – the ones that can differentiate between business process adaptation and software development. In order to implement PLM successful companies need to change the way they were working (read many of my previous posts about this – in particular this one). Software developers tend not to take this approach, but they adapt or extend the software to support the old way of working.
Finally paying for PLM software guarantees that the development of this software has a continuation based on business drivers and best practices. A PLM software vendor has the drive to improve to stay in business, both by software capabilities but even more by providing industry best practices.
Therefor my conclusion is that free PLM software does not help mid-market companies.
Feel free to react as I believe it is an important topic in this market.