PLM Vendors: Expectations from Platform Strategies
PLM solutions rely on digital enterprise platforms to deliver data management processes and integrations with ERP, MES and other platforms. Some of these solutions are targeting specific industries, focusing on certain manufacturing or engineering sectors (e.g., discrete vs process manufacturing, but also fashion, consumer goods, retail, etc.), or are more focused on small and medium enterprises vs large OEMs.
A number of PLM editors provide generalist solutions and serve multiple industries with their platforms and apps, such as the more “mainstream” vendors: Autodesk, Dassault Systemes, Oracle, PTC, SAP, Siemens Digital Industries Software, etc. (presented in alphabetical order, not an exhaustive list). Most of the above-mentioned providers are covering significant enterprise capabilities across a wide process scope, into PLM, CAD, ERP, MES, ALM, APM, etc.
In this post, I elaborate on OEM expectations from PLM vendors and the maturity of their platform strategies.
Without trying to dive into vendor specific strategies, there are clearly a number of OEM expectations that must be covered by their respective solution portfolio. These considerations range from capability maturity, integration readiness and openness, enterprise architecture alignment, business and pricing models, strategic trusted relationship.
Capability maturing and platform roadmap
PLM solutions are expected to address industry drivers and respond to specific OEM pain points: from improving product innovation quality to reducing time to market and improving on-time and on-budget product development (for illustration only, not an exhaustive list).
Mainstream vendors are to address all PLM domains, from EBOM-MBOM management, BOM-CAD and document alignment, hardware and software lifecycle integration, simulation / CAE, requirements, portfolio and project management, change integration across PLM-ERP platforms, product quality, FMEA, compliance, audit, product and project intelligence, work instruction and technical publication maintenance, etc. It is important to understand how mature these capabilities are within a given solution platform, how they integrate with each other, as well as how they might extend across the wider enterprise.
Integration readiness and openness
Integration, a.k.a. the Digital Thread(s), is a core priority of modern digital enterprise platforms. As part of vendor development roadmap, it is essential to understand how a given solution is to integrate with other specific enterprise platforms and tools. Capability and interface maturities are to be understood in order to answer the following questions:
What business storyboards and processes align with other enterprise platforms?
What are the off-the-shelves connectors and interface APIs, and how do they align with open standards for integration?
What third party integration solutions might be available for consideration?
Enterprise architecture alignment
Nowadays, enterprise architecture is a standard practice for business, platform and data alignment, from master data strategies to data structure policies and integration standards.
It is critical to assess how modular a given PLM solution can be, how the editor is adapting its platform models and data construct to industry standards and to allow for ongoing alignment with the wider enterprise architecture.
Business and pricing models
Every PLM platform comes with associated business models and a pricing strategy, leveraging cloud technologies, solution element portfolio, scalability and flexibility covering app personalization and extension, deployment, upgrade and integration. It is also critical to understand its pricing model, how simple or complex the license model, how to track usage and adjust to flexible capacity requirements, against a given operating process and capability scope.
Mainstream PLM solutions can be quite complex, hence licensing usage and optimization is not to be underestimated, including the ability to transition from one model to another, and how to deal with agility and flexibility requirements. It is also important to match integration cost and potential third-party tool pricing model to get the full picture on a given capability model.
Strategic trusted relationship
Building business relationships involved transparency, openness and trust. It is critical to be clear about the business model and dependencies to its successful implementation:
How does the vendor operate and differentiate itself from the competition?
Is it a technical sale or a business-driven decision-making process, or both, and what is the premise from the engagement?
How are issues to be escalated and managed to resolution?
How will customizations to be implemented and how flexible is the business model?
How are technical and business being mitigated, and how well does the vendor understand the business context, short- and long-term imperatives?