By John Laslavic
This article was originally published on LinkedIn. You can read the original right here.
I’ve been a PLM practitioner for a long time.
And throughout my 20+ years experience, there’s been one constant: Rip and replace.
Rip and replace has been the philosophy of legacy PLM systems for decades.
To extract the full value of a PLM, traditional providers demand complete system control.
All aspects of your product software are provided by a single company, with no effort made to integrate existing solutions.
As my CRO, Mike Domazet recently put it:
Most of my conversations with prospects and customers went something like this: ‘well, you’re going to have to get rid of that existing software to get the full PLM value’
But think back to the true vision of PLM: to unite all the players on the product lifecycle management value chain.
It was designed to bring the value of product data to every department, company, location, and function.
…it was designed to help companies deliver better products, faster.
But traditional PLM companies have turned that vision into walled software fortresses.
To even consider a PLM, you had to rip and replace your existing systems — an expensive and painful procedure.
But rip and replace is outdated, and it needs to end.
Product development models have moved on to frameworks like agile development,
DevOps, and continuous improvement.
PLM need to do the same. It needs to evolve beyond the single suite framework.
Why PLM has a rip and replace problem
PLM is fundamentally a collaboration tool based on product data. And that means it’s only as useful as the access it enables.
Legacy PLM providers argue:
A single software environment ensures a single source of truth and enables better data exchanges!
Armed with this certainty, they demand a rip and replace of existing solutions.
With their new, shiny, (probably recently acquired) PLM functions.
Of course, this is FAR from reality
Despite their promises, legacy PLM providers fail to provide the value chain integrations advertised.
First, legacy solutions that PLM systems are trying to rip and replace are tremendously valuable.
As John Hayes from Engineering.com said:
There is a lot of value in legacy systems… They were chosen as the best tools available to the company at the time. In many cases, they are still the best suited to the tasks at hand.
Second, the rip and replace ripping of legacy solutions results in expensive systems end-users don’t understand, leaving functionality unexploited and tools unused.
It happens like this:
- A new PLM is deployed and existing solutions are ripped out.
- Employees don’t like the new system, so they use it as little as possible…
- And develop workarounds for everything else.
- These workarounds mean there’s no longer a true system of record…
- Which makes the new PLM effectively useless…
- And additional workarounds are developed to counteract the failed PLM.
The only reason the whole thing isn’t abandoned is the sunk cost (political / financial) that went into the multi-year, multi-million dollar implementation.
Finally, the carrot that drives rip and replace mentality is seamless data integration.
Software suites must supply every solution an enterprise needs, including PLM, supply chain software, CAD software, and more.
All required functions are either developed in-house our acquired via acquisitions.
In the fortress mentality, you have a closed system, all integrations are done in-house or with ‘trusted’ partners as unique solutions for individual customers.
Customers end up losing on two fronts:
- They don’t get to use the existing tools they know and like.
- They don’t get the integrated ecosystem they were sold.
Integration is the name of the game
Integration is the key to reversing the mayhem of rip and replace.
For me, integration is about more than internal systems.
It’s about connecting systems, processes, people, and companies across the value chain.
It’s about creating an open ecosystem that companies and individuals can add to, implement, and integrate with as needed to achieve their goals.
Organizations shouldn’t have to rip and replace their legacy systems to upgrade their tech stack and work with new tools.
Rather, data should flow from new solutions across to legacy ones, without arduous hard-coded solutions.
And this isn’t just a nice to have.
Products are manufactured by a web of specialist suppliers, all connected by the product they’re making.
Product systems should mirror that complexity, pushing and pulling data at will across the entire value chain.
How to turn integration into a reality
I believe that organizations should use best of breed solutions in an agile way.
And by best of breed, I don’t mean the best software according to Gartner.
I mean the software that is best suited to the company at that specific time.
Sometimes, this will be the leader in that category.
Other times, it’ll be a legacy solution that’s been extensively customized.
The only constant is that organizations should be looking for solutions that can deploy and integrate quickly.
First, integration must support existing workflows and processes — workflows and processes that have evolved over time and are optimized to meet an organization’s needs.
Second, what’s best of breed today might not be fit for purpose tomorrow.
Organizations need to pick solutions that leave them free to adapt to the changing demands of the marketplace.
If history has taught us anything, it’s that the organizations who win aren’t necessarily the best.
It’s the organizations who can pivot on a dime.
Solution providers need to develop an evolutionary methodology
This approach – using best of breed technology, layering tools on top of existing databases and driving seamless integration with APIs – isn’t just a change to how organizations evaluate, acquire, and use technology.
It’s a fundamental shift in how organizations approach manufacturing.
Historically, manufacturers have been slow to embrace change.
And with good reason — product and value chain complexity makes production incredibly complicated.
A small change along the line might lead to a spectacularly expensive mistake.
But it’s time to change. To keep up with a grueling pace of innovation, manufacturers need solutions that are agile, quick and easy to implement, and integrate to… that can evolve with the business not hold it back!
Manufacturers need to adapt to rapidly changing demands, without breaking regulatory and system rules.
They need to evolve, and they need a system the supports that evolution.
By creating a shared version of the truth and uniting new tools with legacy solutions, organizations can take a big step towards an evolutionary methodology and the future of complex product manufacturing.
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