If your PLM system isn’t meeting customer expectations, well, you’re not alone. As any relationship expert will tell you, the first step is to openly discuss the issues with your PLM partner.
But does that conversation still leave you feeling like you’re in a one-way relationship? Has there been a string of unfulfilled promises and missed important dates? Does your partner not listen to your needs? Are they not open with their technology? Do they fail to disclose future plans? Is your partner’s system badly in need of an upgrade? Do you tell yourself you have too much invested in this relationship?
If that sounds a little too familiar, you’re in company. The fact is many organizations find that they’re entangled in relationships with high-maintenance PLM partners. For instance, I spoke to someone who said he couldn’t possibly give up on their PLM vendor relationship – there were just too many integrations to legacy applications. The breakup would be too expensive and painful. If that sounds like you, chances are you’re in a dead-end PLM relationship. How can you break the cycle? Start by taking these positive steps for a better future.
- You Don’t Have to Stay
First, acknowledge you’re not married to your PLM vendor. You don’t need to defend the status quo or show an unhealthy disregard for future challenges. Your PLM system is a platform to manage product complexity and bring new innovative products to market. It’s a key to driving operational excellence and owning your lifecycle to drive stronger customer engagement. No matter how big and complex it is, if it is not performing, it is sunk cost. If your PLM system isn’t tightly aligned with your business transformation goals, you are opening yourself up to a world of hurt. Identify the gaps – the differences between where you are today and where you need to be tomorrow.
- Understand Your Failings
One good step to achieve transparency is a 360-degree survey to determine what enterprise users think—including those who should use PLM but don’t – or can’t. A recent survey indicated that 89 percent describe their PLM systems as difficult or too complex, so you’re unlikely to get a “thumbs up” from this crowd – and that’s the point. A healthy dose of reality is a good wake-up call for everyone to rally around.
Unfortunately, digital transformation technologies are proliferating and accelerating at an unprecedented rate, so not all users are as digitally literate as you’d like. For instance, they may not have picked up on the nuances of the systems architecture you use to control variability across your product platforms.
I often see PLM strategies that are little more than continuous adoption of incremental offerings from the vendor. If your strategy is to pick one vendor and just cram that vendor’s technology down everyone’s throats, well, you’ve already lost. Become digitally literate. At the very least, learn the pros and cons of the major PLM vendors and digital transformation technologies and understand how they address the digital trends that are most important to your organization.
- Get Professional Counseling
It doesn’t cost much to get the qualified professional assistance of an independent consultant, like CIMdata, Forrester, or Gartner. In fact, they’re a bargain compared to the millions of dollars your company can spend propping up misaligned legacy systems that haven’t been updated in years. These experts have a good handle on your PLM vendor’s weaknesses. And, since they work with so many clients, they can bring valuable insights and external perspectives.
- Determine What You Want from Your Next Partner
Before you move on, make sure you know what you want from your next PLM relationship. What are the real requirements – the “must haves”? I don’t mean just the ones from your favorite vendor. What are the tough ones – the digital ones that will differentiate you in the future? Here are a few examples:
- Do you own your lifecycle? Some do, and they’re going to eat someone’s lunch.
- Does your PLM platform have open APIs and a dynamic data model?
- Will the architecture enable you to configure and customize (with no fear of upgrades) to new releases that take as little as months or even weeks?
- Does your platform support a Digital Thread and Digital Twins?
- Will your platform be flexible enough in the future to configure your PLM micro services for the applications you’ll need?
- Is your new PLM cloud-enabled? Can it run in a hybrid environment?
- Can you upgrade your software frequently to stay current with new digital technologies? After all, how can you keep your enterprise connected and competitive if your PLM software is outdated?
- Can you deploy real PLM (not engineering PDM) using an agile methodology with low-cost deployments, administration, and free upgrades?
- Find a Flexible Partner
Has your vendor moved to a subscription model? If you think your draconian software license agreement doesn’t matter, consider the vendor’s motivation. It must sell add-on products to make money. With a subscription model where the applications are all-inclusive, the PLM vendor’s sole motivation is to work with customers to build new and transformative PLM capabilities that can be quickly and easily deployed and upgraded.
On a journey to PLM success, we all encounter setbacks. But failure is neither good nor bad; it’s simply feedback. What matters is what you do with that feedback. Since you’re not married to your PLM vendor, take the time to review what’s gone wrong and learn as you move forward. Companies that search out new solutions and refuse to remain stuck in the past, know their gaps and are unafraid to change. And that’s how you can achieve a positive, happy PLM relationship.
My relationship with Aras started in January, in large part because I am passionate about helping people achieve their digital and business transformational goals. Hopefully, this helps.