Perhaps an ambiguous title this time as it can be interpreted in various ways. I think that all these interpretations are one of the most significant problems with PLM. Ambiguity everywhere. Its definition, its value and as you might have noticed from the past two blog posts the required skill-set for PLM consultants.

As I am fine-tuning my presentation for the upcoming PLMx 2018 Event in Hamburg, some things become clearer for me. This is one of the advantages of blogging, speaking at PLM conferences and discussing PLM with companies that are eager to choose to right track for PLM. You are forced to look in more depth to be consistent and need to have arguments to support your opinion about what is happening in the scope of PLM. And from these learnings I realize often that the WHY PLM remains a big challenge for various reasons.

Current PLM

In the past twenty years, companies have implemented PLM systems, where the primary focus was on the P (Product) only from Product Lifecycle Management. PLM systems have been implemented as an engineering tool, as an evolution of (Product Data Management).

PLM systems have never been designed from the start as an enterprise system. Their core capabilities are related to engineering processes and for that reason that is why most implementations start with engineering.  Later more data-driven PLM-systems like Aras and Autodesk have begun from another angle, data connectivity between different disciplines as a foundation, avoiding to get involved with the difficulty of engineering first.

This week I saw the publication of the PLMPulse survey results by i42R / MarketKey where they claim:

The results from first industry-led survey on our status of Product Lifecycle Management and future priorities

The PLMPulse report is based on five different surveys as shown in the image above. Understanding the various aspects of PLM from usage, business value, organizational constraints, information value and future potential. More than 350 people from all around the world answered the various questions related to these survey.  Unfortunate inputs from some Asian companies are missing. We are all curious what happens in China as there, companies do not struggle with the same legacy related to PLM as other countries. Are they more embracing PLM in a different way?

The results as the editors also confirm, are not shocking and confirming that PLM has the challenge to get out of the engineering domain. Still, I recommend downloading the survey as it has interesting details. After registration you can download the report from here.

What’s next

During the upcoming PLMx 2018 Hamburg conference there will be a panel discussion where the survey results will be discussed. I am afraid that this debate will result again in a discussion where we will talk about the beauty and necessity of PLM and we wonder why PLM is not considered crucial for the enterprise.

There are a few challenges I see for PLM and hopefully they will be addressed. Most discussions are about WHAT PLM should/could do and not WHY.  If you want to get to the WHY of PLM, you need to be able to connect the value of PLM to business outcomes that resonate at C-level. Often PLM implementations are considered costly and ROI and business value are vague.

As the PLMPulse report also states, the ROI for PLM is most of the time based on efficiency and cost benefits related to the current way of working. These benefits usually do not offer significant ROI numbers. Major benefits come for working in a different way and focusing on working closer to your customer. Business value is hard to measure.

How do you measure the value of multidisciplinary collaboration or being more customer-centric? What is the value of being better connected to your customer and being able to react faster? These situations are hard to prove at the board level, as here people like to see numbers, not business transformations.

Focus on the WHY and HOW

A lot of the PLM messages that you can read through various marketing or social channels are related to futuristic concepts and high-level dreams that will come true in the next 10-20 years. Most companies however have a planning horizon of 2 years max 5 years. Peter Bilello from CIMdata presented one of their survey results at the PDT conference in 2014, shown below:

Technology and vision are way ahead of reality. Even the area where the leaders focusing the distance between technology and vision gets bigger. The PLM focus is more down-to-earth and should not be on what we are able to do, but the focus should be on what would be the next logical step for our company to progress to the future.

System of Record and System of Engagement

At the PLMx conference I will share my experiences related to PLM transformations with the audience. One and a half-year ago we started talking about the bi-modal approach. Now more and more I see companies adopting the concepts of bi-modal related to PLM.  Still most organizations struggle with the fact that their PLM should be related to one PLM system or one PLM vendor, where I believe we should come to the conclusion that there are two PLM modes at this moment. And this does not imply there need to be only one or two systems – it will become a federated infrastructure.

Current modes could be an existing PLM backbone, focusing on capturing engineering data, the classical PLM system serving as a system of record. And a second, new growing PLM-related infrastructure which will be a digital, most likely federated, platform where modern customer-centric PLM processes will run. As the digital platform will provide real-time interaction it might be considered as a system of engagement, complementary to the system of record.

It will be the system of engagement that should excite the board members as here new ways of working can be introduced and mastered. As there are no precise blueprints for this approach, this is the domain where innovative thinking needs to take place.

That’s why I hope that neutral PLM conferences will less focus on WHAT can be done. Discussions like MBSE, Digital Thread, Digital Twin, Virtual Reality / Augmented Reality are all beautiful to watch. However, let’s focus first on WHY and HOW. For me besides the PLMx Hamburg conference, other upcoming events like PDT 2018 (this time in the US and Europe) are interesting events and currently PDT the call for papers is open and hopefully we  find speakers that can teach and inspire.

CIMdata together with Eurostep are organizing these events in May (US) and October (Europe). The theme for the CIMdata roadmap conference will be “Charting the Course to PLM Value together – Expanding the value footprint of PLM and Tackling PLM’s Persistent Pain Points” where PDT will focus on Collaboration in the Engineering Supply Chain – the extended digital thread.  These themes need to be addressed first before jumping into the future. Looking forward to meeting you there.



In the world of PLM, we are most of the time busy with explaining WHAT we (can/will) do. Like a cult group sometimes we do not understand why others do not see the value or beauty of our PLM concepts. PLM dialogues and conferences should therefore focus more on WHY and HOW. Don’t worry, the PLM vendors/implementers will always help you with WHAT they can do and WHY it is different.