Total PLMification and Paper vs. Software Thoughts

"Hardware is what it is. Software is what it does". I’ve got this brilliant quote from Dick Morley at COFES Russia last month. It made me think about frustration people have sometimes working with Product Lifecycle Management systems. From my personal experience, the biggest lesson PLM industry must learn is the negative impact of brutal marketing and overselling. It is not unusual to see sales and marketing promoting PLM values to support every process in every organization – to improve performance, reduce cost, innovate, revolutionize collaboration, streamline processes, optimize supply chain, etc. Sounds familiar? If you are with PLM industry at least for few years, you’ve heard a lot of these… With my historical past, it reminds me some Soviet plans from previous century. One of them, almost 100 years old, plan GOELRO.

GOELRO plan (Russian: план ГОЭЛРО) was the first-ever Soviet plan for national economic recovery and development. It became the prototype for subsequent Five-Year Plans drafted by Gosplan. GOELRO is the transliteration of the Russian abbreviation for "State Commission for Electrification of Russia". Lenin’s belief in the central importance of electrificaton to the achievement of communism is represented by his statement that Communism is Soviet power plus the electrification of the whole country.—Vladimir Lenin, [1]

While I certainly believe electrical power was an important factor to drive a progress and economic development of Soviet Union back 100 years ago, it overemphasizes the ability of technology to change social organization. Getting back to PLM, I can see how very often PLM propaganda trying to prove that PLM control and processes will automatically improve your organization. It is certainly not true. One size doesn’t fit all.

I’ve been reading an interesting article – Productivity tip: When and How to use paper vs. software. Navigate to this link and read the article. It is worthwhile reading. Simple summary – right tool for a right job. This message is not new. However, the examples author brings in the article comparing use cases for software and computers vs. old fashion paper are interesting. This is my favorite passage:

When it comes to notes and creating tasks, it all depends on how much you have to share with others and your own personal style. If you are building a spaceship, you’re probably going to need some pretty complex project management tools, and paper will likely reduce your efficiency. If you juggle a couple of things a day, it’s really satisfying to whip out a sheet of paper or note card and start crossing off tasks through the day.

PLM is a lot about task management processes and related data. The situation when total PLMification happens in a company can make engineers and other people in organization hate PLM. You need to decide how to get things done in an efficient way. Don’t overkill companies with complicated PLM technologies.

What is my conclusion? Software is what it does. Remember it and pickup the right one for a job. Don’t overkill 5 people team with complicated PLM technologies. At the same time, PLM vendors need to think about how to hide the complexity. Cloud PLM solves problem of installation and IT management. I believe PLM vendors should focus on new technologies and products that will make PLM transparent in many situations. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

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