Out-of-the-Box: A PLM Fantasy

Every now and then, someone whose opinion I respect will mention Out-of-the-Box (OOTB) in PLM as a trend. It’s not a trend—it’s a fantasy. Anyone that has been around PLM for any period of time is aware of ugly prolonged deployments, some in excess of a year, and some even for a number of years. Those that cross the finish line invariably include extensive customizations, higher costs to administer and maintain, and often an inability to upgrade. The exchange can go something like this:

“Next time, we go OOTB.”

To that I say, “All the world is made of faith, and trust, and pixie dust.” (J.M. BarriePeter Pan)

“We’ll even change all of our processes to go OOTB.”

Okay, maybe leave your window open and try this in Neverland, but it’s not going to happen in the real world. OOTB is a reaction to getting burned, not a well-thought-out, forward-thinking strategy. The fact is there are no easy buttons to success in anything, including PLM.

The root cause for why OOTB is not achievable is that Fortune 500 companies design, manufacture and deliver complex products and services with hundreds to over a thousand software applications that manipulate and use product data. With tens of thousands of users working in multiple functions and disciplines, and the need to use many continuously changing processes and other transforming technologies and data models, trying to put in a static OOTB PLM technology that matches all of these processes is not only impractical—it’s nonsensical. There is zero chance there will be an exact match between your corporate processes and OOTB PLM software. And that assumes your corporate processes remain static.

Processes are optimized to give your company a competitive advantage, which is why you want a PLM platform in the first place—to optimize how you develop, deliver, and service your products, to drive product innovation and time-to-market as efficiently as possible. If you have to sub-optimize your processes to make a technology work, you are choosing to make your business less efficient. The goal is to use PLM to gain a competitive advantage, and your processes should be that key differentiator, therefore it’s not rational to go OOTB. The logical decision is to configure, customize, and continuously improve. The real key is an open and flexible platform.

If you look at your entire business and technology landscape, you’ll find what I would term “white space”—areas not yet connected to provide a true Digital Thread. No single PLM provider comes close to providing every capability that a large enterprise needs, so it is incumbent to have an open, flexible, scalable, upgradeable platform to reduce that “white space,” thus allowing you to continually improve your processes.

Sometimes OOTB is confused with a simplified deployment. The insinuation is that with a simple click you can avoid those lengthy deployments, which is not the case. As an example, at no charge, you can download-and-go with Aras Innovator by clicking the following page: Aras Innovator Download

Despite how easy Aras Innovator is to download, and configure with an extremely user-friendly interface, this doesn’t change the fact that every company has unique processes that will always change. The key is the ability to allow you to customize, but not inhibit your ability to upgrade. Aras Innovator uses a modeling engine that allows you to subscribe to the functionality in our services layer. Uniquely, this resilient architecture allows Aras to upgrade subscribers and their customizations 100% of the time.

The trend in PLM is flexibility, not OOTB. Knowledge workers want to innovate now. They are creation machines. We know this because they download our software and begin doing POCs without telling us. This can be at odds with structured IT Departments whose strategic PLM platforms have stalled, lagging behind their knowledge workers that want a tool they can download, customize, and go. In other instances, it’s embraced and they’re empowered. Many have gone on to become large deployments.

PLM can be an awfully big adventure—be flexible and fill in the white space. As always, I look forward to your thoughts.

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