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My last blog post was about reasons why PLM is not simple. PLM supporting a well-planned business transformation requires business change / new ways of working. PLM is going through different stages. We are moving from drawing-centric (previous century), through BOM-centric (currently) towards model-centric (current and future). You can read the post here: PLM is not simple!

I was happy to see  my blog buddy Oleg Shilovitsky chimed in on this theme, with his post: Who needs Simple PLM? Oleg reviewed the stakeholders around a PLM implementation. An analytical approach which could be correct in case predictive human beings were involved. Since human beings are not predictive and my focus is on the combination of PLM and human beings, here are some follow comments on the points Oleg made:

 

Customers (Industrial companies)

Oleg wrote:

A typical PLM customer isn’t a single user. A typical PLM buyer is engineering IT organization purchasing software to solve business problem. His interest to solve business problem, but not really to make it simple. Complex software requires more people, an increased budget and can become an additional reason to highlight IT department skills and experience. End-users hate complex software these days,therefore, usability is desired, but not top priority for enterprise PLM.

My comments on this part: PLM becomes more and more an infrastructure for product information along the whole lifecycle. PLM is no longer an engineering tool provided by IT.

There are now many other stakeholders that need product data, in particular when we are moving to a digital enterprise. A model-based approach connects Manufacturing and Service/Operations through a digital thread. It is the business demanding for PLM to manage their complexity. IT will benefit from a reduction in silo applications.

 

PLM Vendors

Oleg wrote:

…most PLM vendors are far away from a desired level of simplicity. Marketing will like “simple” messages, but if you know how to sell complex software, you won’t be much interested to see “simple package” everyone can sell. However, for the last decade, PLM vendors were criticized a lot for complexity of their solutions, so they are pretty much interested how to simplify things and present it as a competitive differentiation.

 

Here we are aligned. All PLM vendors are dreaming of simplifying their software. Imagine: if you have a simple product everyone can use, you would be the market leader and profitable like crazy without a big effort as the product is simple. Of course, this only works, assuming this dream can be realized.

Some vendors believe that easy customization or configuration of the system means simplification. Others believe a simple user-interface is the key differentiator. Compared to mass-consumer software products in the market, a PLM system is still a niche product, with a limited amount of users working with the exact same version of the software. Combined with the particular needs (customizations) every company has (“we are different”), there will never be a simple PLM solution. Coming back to the business transformation theme, human beings are the weakest link.

 

Implementation and Service Providers

Oleg wrote:

Complex software, customization, configuration, know-hows, best practices, installation… you name it.More of these things can only lead to more services which is core business of PLM service providers. PLM industry is very much competitive, but simplicity is not a desired characteristic for PLM when it comes to service business. Guess what… customer can figure it out how to make it and stop paying for services.

Here we are totally aligned. In the past, I have been involved in potential alliances where certain service providers evaluated SmarTeam as a potential tool for their business. In particular, the major PLM service providers did not see enough value in an easy to configure and relatively cheap product. Cheap means no budget for a huge amount of services.

Still, the biggest problem SmarTeam had after ten years was the fact that every implementation became a unique deployment. Hard to maintain and guarantee for the future. In particular, when new functionality was introduced which potentially already existed as customization.  Implementation and service providers will never say NO to a customer when it comes to further customization of the system. Therefore, the customer should be in charge and own the implementation. For making strategic decision support can come from a PLM consultant or coach.

 

PLM Consultants

Here Oleg wrote:

Complex software can lead to good consulting revenues. It was true many years for enterprise software. Although, most of PLM consultants are trying to distant from PLM software and sell their experience “to implement the future”, simplicity is not a favorite word in consulting language. Customer will hire consulting people to figure out the future and how to transform business, but what if software is simple enough to make it happen without consultant? Good question to ask, but most of them will tell you it is not a realistic scenario. Which is most probably true today. But here is the hint – remember the time PC technicians knew how to configured jumpers on PC cards to make printer actually print something?

Here we are not aligned. Business transformations will never happen because of simple tools. People are measured and pushed to optimize their silos in the organization. A digital transformation, which is creating a horizontal flow and transparency of information, will never happen through a tool. The organization needs to change, and this is always driven by a top-down strategy. PLM consultants are valuable to explain the potential future, to coach all levels of the organization. In theory, a PLM consultant’s job is tool independent. However, the challenge of being completely disconnected from the existing tools might allow for dreams that never can be realized. In reality, most PLM consultants are experienced in one or more specific tools they have been implementing. The customer should be aware of that and make sure they own the PLM roadmap.

My conclusion:

Don’t confuse PLM with a tool, simple or complex. All PLM tools have a common base and depending on your industry and company’s vision there will be a short list. However, before you touch the tools, understand your business and the transformation path you want to take. And that is not simple !!

 

Your opinion?

Oleg and I can continue this debate for a long time.  We would be interested in learning your view on PLM and Simplicity – please tune in through the comments section below:

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