PLM – Back To The 80s?

Rewind TimeWhen I read in the Twitter feeds from Oleg and Jonathan Scott at The Dassault Systemes Customer Conference that it is taking Dassault 4 years to implement V6 at a customer and they are rolling it out “big bang” style, I had to check my calendar to see if we had somehow returned to the 1980s. After all, that’s about the last time anyone boasted about a multi-year PLM implementation.

4 Years is a long time.  In a multi-year implementation, what are the odds that the business requirements won’t change from the start of the project until the time the software is rolled out? Most growing businesses today are innovating their processes on 4-6 month cycles. Can a vendor truly meet today’s dynamic business needs with 4 year old requirements / automation?

This example also implemented the system with “limited modifications allowed” and “few necessary”.  My first thought was, if there is little or no modification being done, then what the heck is taking so long? But that’s not the biggest concern…

Not only is it difficult to imagine that business requirements will not change over a multi-year span, but it’s also tough to imagine that any PLM system out-of-the-box would map directly to a customer’s specific competitive business practices so well that there was very little modification required.

My opinion on the real world requirement to customize PLM is well known. Business processes are a source of competitive advantage these days. It is unrealistic to think that the business processes that are hard-coded in an enterprise PLM software package will serve the needs of multiple companies, especially those with complex and unique products.

We wrote about situations like this awhile back in our Stuck PLM report. Shrink wrapped PLM rarely works, and big bang rollouts cause big problems. The technical folks won’t use a system that doesn’t meet their needs and non-technical users will likely get overwhelmed and reject the system entirely. Both user types end up creating workarounds and the PLM system won’t contain reliable real-time data. Eventually the system fails because it is not the trusted source of the truth.

All this makes me wonder what will happen to these types of deployments over time? All businesses change; at least the ones that stay competitive do. After a long implementation cycle and big bang rollout, how do other PLM providers ensure that the software they implemented will be adopted by the users and meet the customer’s continually evolving, increasingly complex needs? And at what cost to that customer?

What do you think? Did I miss something or are multi-year, big bang implementations not something anyone should be promoting in 2011?

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