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observation I realized that time is flying when you are busy, and I promised to publish the conclusion from my previous post: More on who decides for plm in a mid market company. In my two previous posts, I described the difficulties companies have to select the right PLM system. So far I discussed the two extremes, the silent approach where a possible bottom up approach was discussed and as the opposite where an ‘academical’ approach was followed.

Now it is time to get the answers on the academical approach.

These were the questions to be answered in the previous post:

  • How much time has passed since the management decided PLM was good for their organization?
  • How independent is the consultancy firm?
  • Did they consider open source PLM as a solution?
  • What was the ranking of the PLM vendors?

How much time has passed since the management decided PLM was good for their organization?

planning The whole process of selecting a PLM system often takes more than one or two years, starting from the first activities till the final conclusion to start. I believe this is unavoidable, as especially in mid-market companies the business values that PLM can bring are not always discussed and realized on the strategic level.

However, I believe the recent years PLM has been recognized by analysts, by software vendors and many young companies as a necessity for innovation and in the long term remaining competitive.  And this is not only in the classical domains where PLM started – automotive / aero / industrial equipment.  PLM value is everywhere in different industries, even apparel for example.

For companies that are now in the decision process, I believe 2009 and early 2010 are the years to decide, because a recovery of the economy might put back the focus on execution and not on strategy and they might miss the management focus for PLM. And as I wrote in a previous post, companies who made the best pit stop will benefit upmost.

For companies still in doubt:  It is now or never

How independent is the consultancy firm?

It is clear that real independent consultancy firms do not exist – even if a consultant wants to be independent, there are three challenges to meet:

  • How can a consultant evaluate or judge PLM systems they have not seen?
  • How much experience does the consultant have in your business?
  • How much work is there required in the project for the consultant?

sel_a As you can imagine, reviewing the above challenges, you will realize that consultants usually specialize in systems, where their expertise it required – as they also want to make a living.  Consultants cannot afford to be an academic institute, as coming back to the previous point, all consultancy work at the end will be paid by the customer.

So to conclude on this point, if you want to be cost-effective, a company should do already a pre-selection based on systems and possible implementation partners, that fit naturally to their type of business and then evaluate how consultancy can be achieved.

What you will find out is that the major ‘expensive’ packages have loads of consultants to offer en the more and more you go into a mid-market environment, consultants become rare. For software from PLM vendors you will usually find a reseller network with people close to your offices that can support you. For Open Source software you will need to find the consultancy services through their software delivery program.

Anyway remember: 50 % of the success of a PLM implementation is based on the right implementation approach and partner not on the PLM functions and features.

Did they consider open source PLM as a solution?

search No, because the consultant was not familiar with it, and discouraged the company to look at it. In general Open Source PLM, like PLM On-Demand are interesting trends to follow and should not be neglected.  However the focus and approach for this type of solutions is different. I will not generalize at this moment as also I have no clear picture where Open Source PLM or PLM on Demand would be a big differentiator. I will try to evaluate and report it in future posts.

Comments from Open Source PLM Vendors or On Demand PLM Vendors are welcome to complete the PLM selection approach.

What was the ranking of the PLM vendors?

Ranking was done by the management, the selection team and the design department. These were the results plus their major comment:

Management

1. The slide show PLM provider – they liked the business pitch

2. The CAD supplier with PLM features and gadgets – good guys – we know them

3. The PLM provider who showed everything – too much handling of data – too complex

Selection Team

1. The PLM Provider who showed everything – they really did it

2. The CAD supplier with PLM features and gadgets– we understand where they are going

3. The slide show PLM provider – do they really have a solution?

The Designers

1. The CAD supplier with PLM features and gadgets– he knows what we want

2. The slide show PLM provider– could be a good solution too

3. The PLM Provider who showed everything – too complex, it will limit our productivity

slideplmAs the management had the final vote, they decided for the slide show PLM Provider, as they felt most comfortable with them.

The reason to drop the CAD supplier was that they were too afraid this provider does not know all about PLM. Both management and users felt the PLM provider that showed everything was too complex, this opposite to the project team where the members were very familiar with PLM capabilities after two years investigation and many demos and trade shows.

Conclusion: Selecting PLM, even in an academical manner is a subjective process. As in general the customer does not exactly knows what he needs and often the PLM provider shows too much in detail, the real journey starts at implementation time. And in this stage you need an experienced implementation partner who can match and communicate the expectations

observationLast 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.

 

point

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.

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