17 Key Considerations When Evaluating PLM Solutions
PLM vendors range from mainstream to niche editors serving multiple to specific industries, addressing more or less business capability scope. The so-called mainstream PLM vendors, or “mindshare leaders” as CIMdata refer to them, include Autodesk, Dassault Systemes, Oracle, PTC, SAP, Siemens Digital Industries Software. There is a long list of niche vendors which includes, but is not limited to: Aras, Arena (part of PTC), Aveva, Cadence, Centric Software, Eplan, Eurostep, Fusion Lifecycle, Gerber Technology, IFS, Infor, Intergraph, Kenesto, Lectra, Mentor Graphics (part of Siemens), Onshape (part of PTC), OpenBOM, Option Systems, Propel, Root Solutions, Synopsys, Upchain, Zuken, etc. (in alphabetical order, not an exhaustive list).
Pretty much every software solution provider managing product and asset data, covering engineering and manufacturing related business processes can be referred as a “PLM vendor”; even if they do not only refer to “PLM”. Many of them focus on different market segments and business capabilities, hence there is not simple one-size-fits-all categorization. Their unique selling points also vary based on the scope they cover, the industry segment(s) they target, and also the technology they promote. When evaluating PLM solutions, a main consideration is clearly the scope of the IT system to support the associated business capabilities and processes, but the assessment must not be limited to technical capabilities.
In this post, I elaborate on 17 key considerations when evaluating PLM vendors and their solution portfolio.
Evaluating and selecting PLM solutions can be a time-consuming and difficult process. It relates to selecting a digital platform, but also selecting a PLM vendor, leveraging or building business-vendor-service provider relationships throughout. There are many key considerations to evaluate, beyond the obvious assessment of capability, scope, industry expertise, positioning, openness, cost efficiency, flexibility, etc.
What is the vendor strategy for digital transformation, and how well do they understand the industry and the organizational context of a given enterprise?
Are they seeing the big picture, in terms of the wider capability landscape and boundaries with other disciplines and solutions?
Are they open and transparent about their overall strategy, and also how they anticipate potential relationship development during and beyond the initial transformation period?
Do they have “good practice” experience and knowledge, and how “easy” is it to access this information—and tailor it to the organizational context as there is never one-size-fits-all on these matters?
Are they willing to share upfront all the relevant “storyboards” to describe how their solution should be implemented and used?
Are they open to share their own strengths and weaknesses, and how do they aim to mitigate related gaps and risks?
What other industry players are they current supporting, on a comparable scale, timeframe, budget and scope?
What are the integration and data migration strategies, with tools and connectors to build bi-directional interfaces (even if that is only a future requirement, it is important to ask the question early enough)?
What relationship do they have with other vendors, partners and competitors, especially across the PLM-ERP-MES integration scope as relevant to the organization’s legacy landscape?
Do they have the capability to implement and maintain the solution, with the right-sized partners and service providers (having big name consulting firms as partners does not guaranty results, especially if they have “bigger project” to catch)?
What tools and technologies are they using and how flexible and scalable is their solution, what is their approach to address non-functional requirements?
What is their approach for solution personalization, app configuration and customization, and what methods and tools are available for it?
What ready-made training material exist and how can it be adapted to align with specific implementation requirements and personalization?
How is their licensing model structured, and how much flexibility does it offer, including when considering integrating the connected supply chain?
What lessons learned have they gathered from past client engagements and how will they leverage these to mitigate risks on future implementations?
What are the processes for issue escalation and resolution, and what are the expected response times and service levels?
What are the typical implementation roadmaps and timeframes, based on similar scope and complexity?