OOTB is Dead

Out-of-the-box (OOTB) is dead.

If your employees are mindlessly walking around, unable to use data to get their jobs done because you have an old customized OOTB system, you have a serious problem. That’s right: PLM zombies.

The root cause for this workplace outbreak occurred when you decided you could achieve some future vision with OOTB enterprise tools. And then someone did the worst thing you can ever do—they customized it!

Customizing OOTB to meet your business needs is like doing a swan dive off the high board into quick sand—now you’re stuck and sinking. According to one PLM vendor, customizing on brittle architecture is a mistake. They recommend using their product OOTB, so just dumb down your processes to fit a tool. And do the same for the next tool, and the next… and you’ve built yourself a rigid IT infrastructure. You’ve become zombie meat, plain and simple.

Now with this proliferation of zombies exchanging spreadsheets, my advice is to follow the Zombieland Survival Rule #1: Cardio. To escape a pursuing zombie, you’ll need to outrun it, and this means being in good shape. Wait, you’re bogged down by brittle legacy architecture. Okay, remain calm. Whatever you do, do not keep customizing the OOTB. The key is getting at your own data so you can escape.

You say, “Help, get me out of this OOTB goo,” as you reach up with your outstretched arm to the person on the platform.

I respond, “Hang on, I want to explain why OOTB is dead.”

It’s not rational to pretend OOTB applications will work in the future because no one can’t predict the future with enough certainty to build everything you’ll need. Additionally, you have unique processes that give you a competitive edge, and it’s ludicrous to believe your software vendor has the extrasensory perception to predict and develop exactly what makes you better than your competitor.

But for the sake of argument, let’s says I’m wrong and the software vendor, using its thousands of customers and millions of years of experience, can predict everything you’d ever need. If that were the case, they would save many millions of dollars acquiring other software companies instead of concerning themselves with the challenges your company will face this year… next year… the year after, and so on.

If you want to read my original thoughts on the OOTB myth, here are two previous blogs, Out-of-the-Box is a PLM Fantasy and Out-of-the-Box is a PLM Fantasy (Neverland Revisited)

One thing we can reliably predict is that we don’t know the future. Your destination is not defined. Since you don’t know the future or the processes you’ll need to compete, then by definition, no OOTB software can be expected to support the capabilities and processes not yet defined. And because of this, customization will be required with whatever solution you choose.

You not only can’t predict it, but all of it will be accelerating.

“We won’t experience 100 years of progress in the 21st century—it will be more like 20,000 years of progress (at today’s rate, which is accelerating).” - Ray Kurzweil, The Law of Accelerating Returns

Which leads me to my next point: how long has it been since you upgraded your PLM? It’s not practical to upgrade OOTB applications built on “brittle” architecture that was never meant to be customized and upgraded. And no PLM vendor upgrades your customized system—except one.

“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.” CIMdata, 2018

Vendors that are limited due to a compilation of rigid architectures would like you to believe in something called the 80/20 rule, which comes from the Pareto Principle. In 1896, the Italian economist, Vilfredo Pareto, discovered that 80% of the land in Italy was owned by 20% of the population. In business, this 80/20 rule states that 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. This has been adopted by vendors of rigid architecture to convince you to use enterprise OOTB software—80% OOTB and only customize 20%.

The 80/20 rule in PLM only makes sense where the architecture is rigid, so the 20% doesn’t follow. Why would you customize something not meant to be customized? The purpose is to perpetuate a myth. Kind of like saying lightning never strikes twice in the same spot. Wrong. It hits the Empire State Building approximately 100 times per year.

It’s not just the OOTB functionality and sub-optimization of your processes that are dead. For many years, PLM vendors have locked in their customers’ data. Oleg Shilovitsky does a good job explaining this in his blog, Digital Lifecycle Future PLM Networks. Companies need to connect everywhere, and the only way to do that is to own your organization’s data, not let an application dictate that to you. In some cases, you have to actually pay for the right to access your data, which is nuts. You need to own your data and only put it where you have access to it, can move it, federate it, share it, all in an open architecture."

“Help,” you say again.

“Oh yes, you know you don’t need my help. There’s an open platform waiting and you can freely download it any time.” 

Decommission OOTB. That’s CIO speak for the Zombieland Rule #2: Double Tap. Always make sure with a second clean shot to all the servers that OOTB is dead. Make your future safe, build it on a resilient open platform—one that can react to your future needs.