In my previous post (PLM Selection – Don’t do this) – I wrote about what not to do, if you want to make a PLM selection and many thanks for the responses and feedback I got on this post. It is obvious that a PLM selection is not as simple as purchasing a new car, but for the sake of the simplification, I will use it as a comparison once and a while in this post.

 Understanding the need

All around you, people are driving cars and there are objectives you can only achieve in an efficient matter if you have the flexibility of car. In some countries, the governments are pushing people to public means of transport for obvious reasons. However this reduces the flexibility, and in general it fails due to our individual (read customer centric) needs.

imageFor PLM this is somehow the same. Many companies require an implementation of the PLM vision to achieve their goals and being more customer-centric. Of course there are lots of standard tools available which bring you from A to B, but then you have to walk from B to C in order to get connected again for the next part. Not efficient and not connected. The challenges of public transport as an analogy for connectivity in a tool based environment.

So let’s assume which PLM to look for is similar to which car to select. From your needs and budget you will narrow down the search.

Do you need a bus, a jeep, a van, a sports car, an SUV, etc, etc?

 You can write down all the features and functions that you can imagine to do with your new car on a checklist and send this list out to somebody (a car consultant?) to do the verification with all the known car manufacturers. (You use a car consultant as it is too time consuming and you are not the expert in this area)

From the previous post we learned this is waste of time and budget, except for the consultant. I am pretty sure that most of the companies are aware of their pains and if they would invest in understanding the PLM vision, without jumping immediately into products, they would be able to create a shortlist of needs based on their main characteristics:

  • What is my main businesses process (ETOBTOCTOMTS – etc) and where do I want to be in the long term?
  • Am I using a single CAD platform or do I require a multi-CAD strategy?
  • Do I go with the flow (low risk/lower costs/less different) or do I want to be outside the flow (develop new practices / new technology / differentiate)
  • Is my company really independent in its processes and data or are we depending on specific collaboration. For example in a supply chain or conglomerate of companies?

 

For those questions, to formalize the company’s strategy and dependencies between business goals and organization, it is not as easy as buying a car. Often external help is needed, as inside your company it is very rare that you will find someone, who can spend the time to collect this knowledge (or has this broad knowledge) and to bring it back to the company in an ‘objective’ manner.

That’s the role of an independent PLM consultant. I underlined the word independent as you can read some remarks in the footnote of this post on what independent means in this context.

There must be hundreds of independent PLM consultants, who can assist a company formalizing their PLM needs, without jumping and starting to talk immediately from the point of view of a specific product. Complementary you have the dependent PLM consultants and also there you will find good expertise. Their knowledge and focus however is more to fit you in their product range – good once you have made your choice.

 Or you might say: “I do not need this consultant. Let’s spent some money on reports from known independent PLM consultancy firms”. They have general reports about PLM and for each of the major PLM vendors, they will have a specific, sponsored reports explaining the PLM capabilities of these platforms. Again look at the footnote of what it means independent.

Narrowing down the choice

Finish the first phase would mean in car selection terminology, you understood now where to look – it will be:

  • An electrical car (new technology, sustainable, short distances required so far)
    going for the future – knowing the future is open
  • A high-end tuned CAR (a big investment, but now you can enjoy)
    as long as you do not get in or out a personal crisis
  • the mid-range CAR (everyone uses this car, it is price effective)
    but you do not want to be like everyone
  • the nano (it is cheap – it is a car)
    understanding this car does not fit expansion of the family
  • the MPV – (it can do everything – even consume fuel)
    never comfortable but it serves all
  • leasing /renting CAR capacity (drive immediately – the on-line CAR)
    you have to get rid of the idea that you need to own it
  • a free CAR (drive now – pay later – the Open Source car)
    freedom comes with other obligations in the long term

 

 

Evaluating the need

questionaire Now that you have narrowed down the selection, you are able to go into the details. And then the second most important option of the selection process comes: how does this PLM product/partner fit to my company.

In car terminology, you would do a test drive. You step into the car and you drive and experience. In PLM this is impossible, it is software applied to your company, it is business and people change. So your choice will be more based on feeling comfortable with the future

You might want to start with some basic PLM functionality, which suits best at your current situation, and gradually you extend the PLM coverage (as you own and should have the vision) inside the company.

So what I have seen companies are doing? They invite 3 to 5 suppliers of a PLM system to come and do a benchmark. Sometime they have a predefined scenario which everyone should follow; sometimes they allow the vendor to suggest best practices. I do not believe in this approach as I wrote in one of my older posts – I called it the academic approach.

I believe a PLM implementation requires a partner who understands your business, has experience in your business and is available and affordable to consult and work with.

Here there is not the unique need any more for independent consultants, as most of the PLM vendors have their consultants with product specific experience in your market. Only be aware of the following:

  • In this stage you are in a sales process – so each vendor will explain how easy and fast to implement, how easy to understand and how unique they are. Check here with customers.
  • They will use FUD (Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt) and it is very difficult to understand the reality here. Here an independent consultant or customer reference can help to understand the reality
  • If the PLM supplier is selling hammers, for sure everywhere in your organizations there nails will pop up

image The main goal is to find a partner for the future, which you trust, from whom you feel they understand your business without immediately selling product features or customizations.

In my analogy with the car selection process, I live in a small village where we have one real car dealer for the mid-market from a certain French brand. The car dealer claims 60 % of the people in our village drive a car from this brand, due to the local support (I am sure it is less but it is visible)

Part of their sales process is to explain that if you consider another brand you might get stuck in the village on a snowy morning without support when you urgently need it (horror stories and all the other FUD). And if you want an electrical car, they will explain you that you do not want an electrical car as from insiders (unknown to us), they learned that they are not reliable, not cost-effective, where their brand is in the top of most of the lists.

 

So what replaces the test drive?

I assume if you have gone through the selection of a partner, who speaks the same language, has a clear vision and has shown the capability to deliver (through references and the interaction you had so far), you have only a short-list of one or maybe two candidates.

 So what is usual the case – the purchasing department starts to negotiate with both candidates (and sometimes invite a third supplier as this is company policy) and they try to squeeze out each of the PLM suppliers to the maximum for the full project scope till both sides have the feeling there is a base for a partnership .

How did you engage with your partner 😉 ?

My recommendation is to discuss with both candidates your possible roadmap. Let them explain in detail what should be done as the first small step and have them propose from there the next following steps. The first step should be with a clear budget, time (max 2 – 3 month) and effort specification – internal and external; the other steps roughly budgeted for costs and efforts

Then you have to make your choice, you do this first step, making sure it is reversible or it can be a single step. It is a verification of your first step (call it engagement / a test drive for a month) and from there you evaluate if you continue for the big step or rethink your first choice.

As choosing a PLM platform is a long term relation – at least 5 – 10 years – you need to use the engagement phase to meet the family and learn and understand the future.

Again the independent consultant?

Yes, when writing down the above paragraphs, I realized again that it is easier said than done. If you are not experienced with the PLM market guiding this process will be difficult and time consuming if you do it once in your life. So also in the selection phase an independent consultant can assist you with the selection process, the most logical roadmap for your company and interface with the PLM suppliers, knowing their strengths & weaknesses

Conclusion

PLM selection is not such a complex process where you need to understand all the details upfront. It is based on common sense, not equal to buying a car but also not rocket science. The independent consultant fits well in this approach, in cases where you did not have the time or people to build the expertise internally to define a PLM vision, justification and selection

Looking forward to your feedback

Independent

  • not influenced or controlled in any way by other people, events or things
  • free; autonomous, self-governing, sovereign; self-reliant, self-sufficient

The above definition says it all – not influenced or controlled. However being independent does not mean you have the knowledge of all products and technologies that exist. So an independent consultant should assist with the common best practices of PLM, independent of the software.

The same for the comments on PLM Research – see the LinkedIn post in case you are group member – The Trouble with PLM Research .

An interesting discussion as also these PLM research organizations work with a certain state of mind – there is no single PLM definition according to the PLM suppliers – and each of the PLM research companies have to deal with their understanding of what these supplier can do, meanwhile keeping their business also alive.

Which means in order to have good relationships with the PLM supplier, they need to be in a good relation and due that relation they sometimes write some biased reports about a single PLM supplier who sponsored the white paper. Nothing wrong with this approach as long as you understand the context of this information.

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