A PLM system, implemented well, has the potential to significantly impact key performance indicators. It can help companies reduce time to market, improve product delivery and success rates, mitigate risk, improve margins, and boost productivity. However, choosing the right PLM provider requires smart teamwork and careful consideration.
We interviewed our Senior Solution Consultant Dr. Keith Smallwood, who has been on both the client side and the provider side of PLM solutions, to draw out best practices for choosing the PLM solution most likely to deliver the success buyers want to see. Below are six questions buyers can ask to compare solutions and vendors, and pinpoint an ideal fit.
1. Is this the right time to purchase a PLM system?
The best time to implement a PLM system is when the organization has clearly identified strategic business goals that require a step-change transformation in ways of working to achieve those goals.
PLM is a critical tool to support this transformation as a key component of the People-Processes-Tools combination. Using business process reengineering methods to ensure the best fit for the PLM system in this combination is a very effective way to maximize return on investment, ensuring everyone can move forward with confidence.
2. Is this vendor committed to PLM solutions?
For some PLM system vendors, the PLM system is often one several major products they develop, sell, and support. For diverse solution providers like these, the developers, customer service, and sales staff who support the PLM system can lack deep experience in the industries and processes where PLM thrives.
To test whether a vendor is committed to PLM, ask about their PLM system roadmap. Is the roadmap informed by ongoing customer input? Are they continually working on usability and productivity in the application? Jack-of-all-trades vendors often consider the job of development done as soon as a PLM solution hits the sales floor. Committed PLM providers never stop working on their PLM solutions, in collaboration with satisfied, longtime customers.
3. Is this vendor committed to our business transformation?
A PLM system cannot solve problems in isolation. It must be part of a larger movement to transform the processes and decisions that shape the product journey. If the vendor doesn’t take the time to consult with buyers about their plans for business transformation, that may be a serious red flag. PLM implementation is a journey, and a strong vendor will walk beside their clients, sharing best practices and support – before, during, and long after adoption.
4. Do we want to partner with this vendor for years at a time?
Transformation pays big, but it takes time. An ideal PLM vendor understands the many phases and steps involved in implementation, and is committed to staying helpful and available through each stage.
While evaluating the technical features of PLM solutions, it is just as important to evaluate the people who support the PLM solution. Do you trust their depth of experience? Do other customers seem to trust them and value their partnership? Do you believe in their roadmap for the future of their PLM system? Do you trust their willingness to listen to feedback?
5. Does this PLM solution integrate with the systems and tools we already trust?
Connection is king in successful PLM implementation. The right PLM solution will add immediate value by connecting the data and communication platforms the client already knows and uses daily. Considering all the other systems and tools teams use in their daily work, buyers should look for a PLM system that can build stronger information flows with minimum developer time.
6. Can I see the path to transformation this PLM solution provides?
A great PLM vendor will help clients to clearly map out the unique path from good to great that their solution can provide. When speaking with potential vendors, does it seem obvious how their product will help you to harmonize and integrate end-to-end processes and systems? Can you see clearly how it will help teams make better, more timely decisions? Will it help to reduce risks, and enable compliance by design?
When buyers are in the milieu of the research and evaluation process, working through a steady stream of PLM demos, conversations, and collateral, it’s easy to lose track of important details and criteria. Use the evaluation resource as you navigate meetings with potential providers, to align around the factors that can ensure a great long-term fit with the right PLM vendor.