PLM implementations are complex. How many times have you heard about that? I think a lot. Last 15-20 years of PDM/PLM business demonstrated that PLM and ease of implementations are not coming together. If, in addition to that, you ask for low cost, people might be thinking you are joking. I’ve been sharing my thoughts about PLM implementations and improvement of PLM adoptions earlier. The core problem that exists in PDM/PLM is complexity. Navigate to my old blog – Complexity Kills or Three Ways to Improve PLM Adoption to read more. In addition to that, I outlined 3 main factors impacting fast PLM adoption – massive customization, legacy data and integration with ERP. Read more here - 3 main factors of mainstream PLM adoption. PLM implementations are big, expensive and take long time. I called it "big mono-PLM projects". Customers are implementing PLM products that become legacy faster than an implementation ends. The investment made into this system deployment keeps them with old technologies and products and preventing customers from moving forward. Read the following article – PLM Implementation Lifecycle Challenges to get more confirmations and data points.
One of the opinions about PLM implementations is related to so-called "PLM business transformation". My blogging buddy Jos Voskuil refered it as "PLM journey" in his co-named blog post PLM is a journey. According to Jos, PLM requires significant effort including promoting PLM values to the minds of management in companies. Here is the passage, which explains it –
You would assume that the value PLM brings would make it a no-brainer. However for successful implementing PLM there is no standard approach (and definition). Often people believe PLM as an IT-solution. And the common sense is that you buy an IT-solution, you implement it and continue working in a better mode. That’s where the implementation fails as PLM is different. So let’s start our journey
Another aspect mentioned by Jos is related to the role of IT in PLM implementation. Because PLM, according to Jos, is a business transformation, IT cannot successfully manage this project. At the same time, it is hard to get people from specific functional units to be focused on the overall product development process improvements. This is how Jos explains that –
But when it comes to implementation, there is usually only one cross-disciplines unit that can accomplish this assignment: the IT-department. And here is the crucial mistake discovered time after time where PLM implementations fail. PLM is a business transformation, not an IT-system implementation. Business should lead this transformation, but it is very rare you find the right people that have the full overview, skills and availability to implement this transformation across departments. People from the business side will be primarily focused on their (small) part of the full process, leaving at the end the project to be done to IT.
PLM technological challenges
I would like to provide an alternative view on why PLM adoption is slow. It is a technological fault. The technology to solve complicated multi-domain data management problems and cross functional process improvements are not good enough and not ready to mainstream deployments. It requires extra effort and extra understanding how to deploy it successfully. Implementation take long time and, automatically, making technology outdated. Significant investment made by companies in long lifecycle technological products is not allowing to make agile improvements going up to speed with technological changes.
Most of PDM/PLM technologies and products these days were developed 10-15 years ago and it is not reflecting modern state of development coming out of new platforms, web, open source technologies, cloud and many others. It reminded me the initial phase of tablet computer development. Do you remember the early tablet computers? Refresh your memories by navigating to the following wikipedia link. I think some of your might remember this clunky device which require some extra effort to operate as a table and even touch using specially supplied pen interface.
It took time, effort and technological shift to deliver a modern generation of tablet computer – iPad. The spec of iPad was significantly different from early tablet laptop combos. The discussion about iPad limitation back almost 3 years ago reminds me some conversation about modern PLM technologies.
What is my conclusion? The realities of PLM implementations today are high cost, extensive need of services and expensive implementation. Which can be solved by hiring an army of consulting people to take a company through the "PLM transformation" period. That would be a "PLM journey" as we know it now. A potential alternative it to bring new level of technology that will provide new user experience, device independence as well as plug-n-play technology that eliminate needs to people to be involved into long implementations . Do you think it is a dream? I don’t think so… just my thoughts.