Out-of-the-Box is a PLM Fantasy (Neverland Revisited)

Out-of-the-Box is a PLM Fantasy (Neverland Revisited)

Last year, I posted a blog, Out-of-the-Box is a PLM Fantasy, which apparently struck a nerve. The response to the blog was both overwhelming and positive, but more interesting was its popularity with the other PLM vendors.

The simple message was that Out-of-the-box (OOTB) PLM doesn’t work as an enterprise solution. Assuming your corporate processes will remain static, which they won’t, there will never be an exact match between your corporate processes and OOTB PLM software. Your processes should be that key differentiator in gaining a competitive advantage, so it’s not rational to go OOTB.

Enterprise deployments invariably need to be customized, therefore the logical decision is to configure, then customize where necessary and continuously improve.

A couple of months after my blog was posted, an OOTB PLM vendor, published a blog pointing out reasons why you need an OOTB PLM. The heart of their argument was that organizations understand that customizations lead to disaster. So, then here’s the stress question (PLM sales talk): “Are you in the business of building products or customizing your PLM?”

Maybe they’re right and your business should fit the PLM software, not the other way around. Perhaps dumbing down your processes to fit a tool will make you more competitive.

This made me think of Neverland. “Dreams do come true, if only we wish hard enough” (J.M. Barrie). 

Well, dream on.

It’s a whimsical fantasy to believe any PLM vendor will continually pre-develop all of the requirements needed for a Fortune 500 company to make them more competitive.

The real question should be: is your PLM software vendor in the business of building a solution that can be configured, customized and upgraded to provide companies with the agility and responsiveness to meet market and customer demands?

Every industry and company is unique—each with distinctive strengths, product complexities, constantly changing competitive pressures, and opportunities. Organizations need to manage their product data across multiple disciplines, throughout their lifecycle including out to their extended supply chain, with the agility to be as competitive as possible.

The hard reality is that if your PLM vendor is proposing an OOTB approach, then they’re covering up issues with their architecture, and the ability to both customize and upgrade. Disasters occur when you attempt to customize on top of rigid OOTB architectures and schemas, which don’t support customization and upgrades. If you have customizations that your OOTB PLM vendor can’t support, then stop! PLM should be deployed on a true platform architecture where all customizations and configurations can be dynamically upgraded. You can even go one step further and insist that the vendor update your software and all the customizations you make. Aras does this 100% of the time for its subscribers.

OOTB Vendor Wisdom

The argument is that the OOTB PLM vendor is continually updating their products, incorporating years of customer and industry experience, therefore there is no need to customize to fit your business processes and needs because the best practice will be in the next release.

What they really mean, is don’t customize their OOTB PLM or you run the risk of not being able to upgrade. Instead, change your business to fit a tool. 

In a time of continual acceleration of new technologies, connectivity, product complexity, change and transformation, in addition to product data growing exponentially, there’s no wisdom in remaining with an OOTB PLM vendor—you already know you need the additional flexibility they can’t provide.

The PLM Dependency Fantasy

The OOTB vendor considers the trends before you do and works on incorporating them into their products. Maybe they will acquire and integrate everything you need, which must be better than having a staff to keep customizations up-to-date.

The obvious problem with this logic is that tomorrow’s digital processes do not exist today. By definition, that means there’s no OOTB software that can be expected to support processes which aren’t even defined yet. 

If the OOTB PLM vendor does not have the ability to let you customize and upgrade when it makes sense for your business, then you need to move in a different direction.

The Time to Value Fantasy

The OOTB PLM vendor’s argument is that OOTB pre-built is faster. They argue that a PLM vendor that provides open, flexible, and upgradeable solutions that include customization is a drain on time, resources, and money. 

If there is one thing traditional PLM vendors have proven, it’s that they don’t understand time to value. Overall, their ability to deploy and upgrade has been nothing short of pathetic. To be fair, this is not always completely on them.  If the organization doesn’t understand their own processes or is attempting to do what the OOTB vendor can’t do, it won’t end well.

Enterprise PLM involves multidisciplinary design through many domains, across the product lifecycle, and extends into an integrated supply chain that’s too complex for OOTB, especially with the rapid and pervasive nature of technologies being deployed across the digital thread.

Solutions like Aras are configurable with no and low coding and templates such as CMII certified Change Management.  That said, we’re realistic. The reason OOTB implementations get stuck is because technology and market demands constantly change, so you need to be able to flex and upgrade frequently with different technologies. 

How long does it take this OOTB vendor to update your software, including the customization you’ll need to make in order to compete? The reason my blog struck a nerve is because they can’t. They don’t upgrade your software and your customizations.

The Configure your OOTB Fantasy

OOTB solution providers claim they can anticipate what features and capabilities that customers will want to customize—and have corresponding configurations available. Supposedly, you get the best of both worlds. My response is, “Only in Neverland.”

Everyone agrees: if OOTB works, use it. If you can configure, then configure. But, given the speed of innovation, it’s pure fantasy to think the OOTB PLM vendor has anticipated your every need.. You need the ability to flex and add or modify whatever makes sense for your business—in a sustainable, upgradeable manner.

The OOTB vendor’s argument is that you shouldn’t lock yourself in with a Custom PLM vendor (they mean Aras). But that’s a fallacy.

Aras upgrades all our customers with all of their customizations. CIMdata checked this. Here is their commentary:  Aras PLM Platform: Redefining Customization & Upgrades

The companies that are locked-in are not the ones that based their strategy on a continuous transformational journey with an open, flexible and upgradable approach; it’s just the opposite. The OOTB has not thought of every scenario you’ll ever need, but instead provides only their starting point—a baseline, not an up-to-date flexible solution.

As always, I look forward to your thoughts.

Mike Lindner
  • The major burn of customization isn’t that companies do it, it’s that they do it poorly most of the time. Most don’t follow documented guidelines or best practices and instead hammer in something archaic and messy with an outsourced (and super cheap) team.  How does Aras combat or support this?