In their latest guest blog for WhichPLM, Centric Software offers their advice on migration versus upgrading when it comes to legacy PLM systems. Centric is focused exclusively on the product development requirements of retail, apparel, footwear, luxury goods and consumer goods companies.
How do you spot the warning signs that a legacy system should be replaced? And if so, how do you assess which PLM partner is your ideal match?
Any business that brings products to market can benefit greatly from the right PLM solution. How do you know if your PLM is still right for you? The scenario should look something like this: the system is modern, easy to use and your PLM partner continuously supports you with new innovations. You should see measurable results including: increased margins, decreased time to market, streamlined communications, high adoption rates and less work (not more).
How do you know if it makes more sense to upgrade your legacy PLM solution or switch to a new one? While status quo may seem like the easiest route, you could be risking either stagnation by not upgrading or a massive investment if you do. Assessing your current PLM solution and making a decision to stay or start fresh can be a daunting task.
Read on for expert guidance on how to assess if your current PLM solution is still the right one. And, if you need to change, learn about the most important selection criteria for a new solution.
Is your legacy PLM system holding you back?
First, you should examine the value that your current solution brings and opportunity cost of what it is lacking. Are you potentially losing business by not having the best possible system? Are you losing productivity because of rework and data entry? Can offsite teams contribute to the system in real-time? Are you getting closed-loop feedback from product testers, factories and other suppliers? Do your PLM processes still fit your business model? If any of these scenarios are the case, your PLM is not performing and supporting your business as it should be.
Companies that switch to a more modern PLM system are rewarded with more innovative products, better product margins, increased agility and more flexibility in terms of future adaptability. And not least: happy employees! There are many indirect and direct ways that the wrong PLM system negatively affects business, work and working life.
Identify the warning signs:
When the decision was made to adopt a PLM, business and technology were likely quite different than they are now. Here are some key questions to ask:
- How much customization was needed?
- How easy is it to change business processes to keep up with change?
- How many IT resources are needed to support the system?
- Did you get the ROI that you were promised?
- Is the system being used as intended, or are teams working outside of the system?
- Are your users of the system happy with it, or are they routinely frustrated?
Carefully consider these questions and you will know whether to upgrade or move on. A PLM solution should make business and everyday work easier, not more complicated. Even if your legacy system can be upgraded, moving to a new system might be easier, more cost effective and perform better in the long run.
Choosing a PLM partner is a major decision. What are the must-haves when making your selection, and the questions you should ask?
1. Is the PLM solution modern and mobile?
A modern PLM system is easy to use, intuitive and fits the most needed business processes. One of the most prolific tools in business today is Excel; does your PLM mimic the functionality of Excel? Does it have better viewing options to help your teams function? Can views be configured easily so teams can see relevant alerts and slice and dice data on the fly?
How mobile is the PLM solution? With global operations and teams on the go, mobile solutions are a must-have. Does the PLM have easy to use apps? When you think of the apps you use daily on your phone, they don’t need in-depth explanation and this should be the case for your PLM solution.
2. Is the PLM partner dedicated to fashion, outdoor and retail?
When your PLM partner specializes in your industry, not only will the solution be better suited for you from day one, but the vendor will understand how you work and the subtleties of your way of working. PLM requirements and business challenges vary radically across industries and it is important that you have the right fit.
Is your potential PLM partner a specialist or do they just say they are? Be sure to evaluate the customers they have signed over the past few years – reach out to them yourself and ask how happy they are. Here’s a hint – when you ask for a reference, a vendor will only give you the name of someone that they know is happy; the reference is not truly representative and may be biased. Do your homework!
3. Is the PLM solution configurable or customizable?
It is best to have a solution that is configurable, which means you have the ability to configure the system to your specifications on your own – without the vendor! Highly customized PLM systems are costly to manage and updates require an army of an IT department or expensive external consultants.
From a usability perspective, you want to be able to create your own dashboards and easily generate reports and analytics. Think of it like an iPhone today. You can easily adjust your settings and apps to suit your needs and preferences. Your PLM solution should work like this. Having an easily configurable solution far outperforms customization from a cost and time perspective.
4. What is their track record of market-driven innovations?
How often is your PLM partner innovating their products and tools? Some cutting-edge providers have 3-4 software version releases each year and match their pace of change with that of their clients. Dig into their history of innovation and be sure to ask about the latest innovations, the features and if user feedback was incorporated. You want a PLM partner who is driven by the voice of the customer and has systems in place to take customer input seriously to drive innovations.
5. What is their migration history?
How many brands have migrated from legacy systems to theirs? Or competitive systems to theirs? What was the average implementation time and what was the migration process? And, you need to find out if those customers are happy and achieving the promised ROI.
6. How happy and successful are their customers?
Any PLM partner worth considering will have a healthy roster of happy and successful customers. They should be able to provide you with relevant industry references and case studies that specifically speak to ROI. Talk to customers of any PLM partner you are considering and go through all of these questions with them. Speak with both new and old customers to get a 360-degree view of how the PLM partner works with their customers over the short and the long term.
7. What is the implementation cost, approach and timeframe? Agile vs Waterfall.
An agile implementation is what you are after. With this approach, the system is implemented in small, but very frequent, steps. Your PLM partner will work with your PLM team and IT department to understand your requirements. They will retreat and configure and consistently test to ensure they are on the mark. This will happen repeatedly, so this approach requires internal dedication. It is a much more user-friendly approach that will ensure your PLM solution specifically meets your evolving needs.
With a waterfall implementation, your PLM partner will collect an enormous amount of information, your requirements, find out what type of system you require and then go away and customize the solutions. This process can take months and the risk is that even if your partner comes back to you with a solution that fit your needs 6 months ago, your needs may have already changed.
8. How will the PLM solution integrate with other systems?
Most modern businesses utilize multiple software systems to handle different functional areas, such as ERP to handle financials and planning systems to oversee production and logistics. You want a PLM solution that can easily merge with all of your systems. Ask questions such as: How does the PLM connect to other systems? Does the PLM offer Application Programming Interface (Rest API)? What options are there for getting data out of PLM into another system? Does the PLM include a Software Development Kit (SDK) to create new applications connected to the PLM?
9. How supportive is your potential PLM partner?
What kind of support and training is offered by your potential PLM partner? You may operate a global company and have requirements for support that are immediate and outside of the 9-5 of a particular time zone. Is support available 24/7 or are you at the mercy of one consultant being available to trouble shoot within a day or two? You need to know how knowledgeable their teams are and how long they have been in the industry and delivering on implementations. And, are they experts in your specific industry? Having a supportive partner is germane to your success.
Change can be daunting. But in the world of business, not progressing means you are regressing while your competitors innovate around you. If your legacy system is holding you back, now is the time to find the right PLM partner. A modern, industry specific and agile PLM system is crucial to your ability to be competitive in a rapidly evolving marketplace. With the right PLM you will empower your employees to do their jobs effectively, decrease time to market, streamline communications and have more time to innovate. And with the right PLM partner, the transition can be quick, affordable and seamless!