Are Free Upgrades too Good to be True?

According to the consulting firm, Kalypso, “eight out of 10 dollars spent on PLM go to systems maintenance support.” And you thought your license costs were high?

A couple of weeks ago, I attended the Aras ACE User Conference in Phoenix, AZ, where I had the opportunity to talk to many members of our community as well as many prospective customers. When you ask them why they chose Aras, or why they are considering Aras, there is a common overriding theme—the challenge of upgrading their PLM system—something I had personally experienced leading PLM teams prior to joining Aras.

Working for a large conglomerate with many PLM systems—most were highly customized and stuck in time. They ranged from five to fifteen years old. And like many companies in the same boat, they had costly migration/consolidation efforts underway—something you ideally do immediately after a M&A or re-organization. The problem with waiting to consolidate systems is that you’re increasing technical debt, often while reducing money and resources that could have been allocated toward achieving hard benefits and making your company more competitive.

 The real question is, why did these systems get stuck in the first place? They all went in with varying degrees of success, many taking longer than expected, and all highly customized to achieve the intended business goals. But, then they start their journey toward what I like to call, “instant legacy.” If those customizations can’t be easily upgraded, the moment the system is deployed, it is legacy waiting to happen. And this is where the fun begins. Some business leaders would contend that once a deployment is complete, assuming you haven’t done an upgrade, your costs to maintain and support should be flat—but it’s not. The day you stop making products is the day you’re done.

 Business transformation is an ongoing process. PLM and other systems continue to be customized, and ideally upgraded, with tight integrations across the enterprise landscape. An additional complication is the speed at which business is occurring. This includes the need to keep up with releases from other integrated systems such as CRM, ERP, MES, etc., the need to adapt processes to meet new market demands, regulatory requirements, and unanticipated business challenges. If you’re stuck fixing up an old legacy system, you’re running a serious risk that you cannot meet these challenges and certainly not in a cost-effective manner.

Each year, companies that find themselves in this “instant legacy” predicament may consider an upgrade, but it tends to not happen for a variety of reasons. Usually it comes down to the fact that the benefits, which aren’t easily quantified, cannot be justified due to the costs of an expensive upgrade and the disruption to the business. As the years roll on, this is no longer an upgrade, but a migration, and by that time, the business is feeling the negative impact of the legacy PLM system. Since all those costs over the years are now sunk costs, your costs are similar to a re-implementation, and this is where Aras factors into the equation.

This is what caused me to look into Aras a couple of years ago, and something that Aras customers cite as a major factor in their choosing Aras. Quite simply, with Aras, you can customize, and Aras will upgrade you whenever you want as part of your subscription costs. As a result, you’re better able to adapt and keep current for much less.

 When I first started seriously looking into Aras, I thought, “it sounds too good to be true.” I thought, perhaps Aras customers like Microsoft, Airbus, GM, and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries weren’t as sophisticated as us, and they surely don’t spend the kind of money we do customizing legacy PLM. What I learned was that actually, depending what you are doing, you will end up spending several times less. As hard as it is to believe, Aras does in fact do all the upgrades for you, even those that are heavily customized—all without any loss of data.

 For me it was one of those “Aha” moments, and it’s the same story I hear from countless customers and prospects, like I did a couple of weeks ago.

The true “Aha” moment, belongs to Peter Schroer, and the team, who years ago had both tremendous vision and discipline to be what Forrester has called, “the disruptor in the PLM market.” The upgrades, which are available at no extra charge for any subscriber, would not be possible without an Open Platform, and the discipline of an incorporation strategy that rebuilds all applications on services within the platform. This means you don’t end up with a hodgepodge of different rigid architectures, which is why so many legacy PLM systems get stuck.

Is it really possible to customize and upgrade? Yes, and this has been independently verified.

“. . . it is important to note that the guaranteed upgrade of a highly customized PLM solution is not only possible, but is in fact commonplace among Aras subscribers. Many report that the upgraded database is typically returned from Aras within two weeks. Aras says the technical part of the upgrade generally takes a few hours, with the remaining time consumed with validation testing. Customers still need to validate integrations and perform their own acceptance testing.” (CIMdata, May, 2018)

An excerpt from their conclusion:This is what CIMdata concluded: Aras PLM Platform: Redefining Customization and Upgrades Commentary

For companies that have already embraced Aras, the solution’s elegance is in its simplicity and in the fact that it is possible to upgrade without a penalty for customization. The follow-on impacts are significant, and for many of Aras’ customers there is a lot more value to come. The Aras PLM Platform’s architecture is not just highly customizable, it is also highly sustainable. The days of missing or significantly delaying upgrades have potentially ended. The Aras PLM Platform is a robust solution with a high degree of resilience to business and technology changes, thereby protecting a company’s short- as well as long-term PLM investment, ensuring future adaptability, and contributing to a reduced total cost of ownership. To answer our earlier question as to whether or not the Aras PLM Platform could be a true innovation, significantly customizable to satisfy business requirements without causing negative side effects, the answer is a resounding Yes.

Future proof your technology investment by making your PLM, upgradable. I encourage you to look into this and stop spending the bulk of your budget on maintenance and support. Get the biggest bang for your buck by focusing your spend and best resources on what makes a real difference for your business.

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