Enterprise software choice is a complex decision process. The time when you was able to buy a software from trusted XYZ vendor and sleep safe is over. These days IT and other software decision makers are facing challenges related to technological and business options related to new business models, cloud technologies, specific vendors, user experience and many others. You need to swim in a sea of changes in enterprise market in order to decide what software to choose.
Very often you can hear debates about what is Product Lifecycle Management – vision, business strategy or software. Whatever PLM means, companies and people responsible for PLM strategy and software need to make their buying decisions related to PLM software, vendor and implementation.
Last year I posted about how you can select PDM software in 5 simple steps. The last step was open ended and assumed that you need to make strategic PLM decision. Here is a quote from last year article:
"If you company is looking how to manage product development processes beyond controlling and sharing CAD (product) data, you need to evaluate PLM system. Don’t make a PDM choice without making your PLM decision first".
Today, I want to propose few rules that can help you in the decision process related to PLM software and vendor selection. It is not about how to build your overall PLM strategy – I will mostly focus on software and vendor choices.
1. Find real PLM use cases compatible with your requirements. Use trusted advisers that will help you to navigate to examples of PLM software usage. PLM software market place is opaque. There are lot of online information, analyzes, comparison and testimonials about PLM software. To make real financial, technological and product assessment of vendor is tricky. However, you should remember to buy a software that can perform according to your need.
2. Analyze your company engineering software (CAD and PDM) and enterprise environment (ERP). Regardless on grand PLM vision, you have to integrate PLM software with environment, which includes connection to CAD/PDM, interoperability with ERP system(s) as well as many other design, engineering and manufacturing system coming from other vendors including homegrown software developed by IT department and contractors.
3. Don’t buy immediate technological advantages. For most of PLM systems, technologies doesn’t change much for the last 10-15 years. Even if PLM software vendor claims some technological uniqueness today, it will be adjusted in 2-3 years by new development, another new technologies and technological acquisitions PLM vendors are making. If you want to make some tech-driven decision, do it ‘test based’ for a specific use case and/or process in your company.
4. Cloud PLM is first about software eco-system and IT strategy. Cloud can bring lots of advantages. However, if your company is still on premise and IT is conservative, think carefully before pushing into cloud PLM race. You can burn time and resource on convincing your company and solving "general cloud software obstacles" before getting PLM value pay off.
5. PLM usability is relative. Everybody wants (and claims) to be easy to use like Google these days. However, devil is in details and enterprise software is different from consumer web. Also, what looks simple for you will be different for your colleague. Test by yourself, but don’t underestimate software evaluation by people outside of IT ecosystem. There are few books and online resources for UX (user experience) passionate people – try them out. Start from Steve Krug’s book Don’t Make Me Think – it will help you to build a sense of simplicity and own guidance.
6. Don’t buy PLM vendor roadmaps. Most of roadmaps are aspirational. You must look on available software releases and community of users. Community will give you an indication of how careful vendor is following their roadmaps, promises and (mostly important) long term software compatibilities.
7. Open source software isn’t much different from functional and technological standpoint. Open source software is not cheaper and simpler – it is just a different business model. There are variety of open-source flavors and you need to read all legal provisions. Involve your legal advisers to help you to go through language and meaning.
What is my conclusion? In my view, PLM software domain will be turbulent in 2014. New companies, technologies and business models are coming to disrupt and change existing industry landscape. However, your PLM software buying decision will probably stay with you more than 1-2 years. So, my recommendation is to review available software, make trials, experiment and build use cases. These days software vendors are open to convert customers into their trusted advisers. Don’t afraid to be a part of the PLM vendors’ development process and decision making. In most of cases, it is fun and you will love it. Just my thoughts…