So you’ve had the first dates and you’re now getting closer to popping the key question: who is it that you want to spend the rest of your project with? OK you’ve spent time getting to know each other, you know what they have to offer and you like their looks: U.I. (User Interface), Features & Functions and Culture. You also have a strong idea of the costs involved based on a three year package, you understand what’s involved in configuring the solution, you may know what the potential cost of customisation is going to be and possibly you have a good idea of the integrations costs. Yet, even with all this information, you’re still not sure, so you’re going to visit Supplier reference sites to get that warm, cosy feeling.
The PLM Customer Reference Site Visit
Although this is a good suggestion, be mindful of the following:
• Often the reference used by the suppliers will do and say lots of good things. Remember they have vested interest in you joining the group of users and it’s not unknown for a PLM supplier to compensate the reference in some form, perhaps with a reduced costs on future upgrades, licenses, support, consulting days, the list goes on! I’m not saying that you shouldn’t use the references supplied by the PLM software suppliers, but keep this in mind.
• There’s a lot of value in visiting references that have been supplied by the PLM suppliers, for example they are likely to be the best and most mature of their clients. Be careful and ensure that you get a close look at their software solution to gain a good understanding of just what it is they’ve achieved since starting out on the PLM project. Ask lots of open ‘what, why, when, where and how’ questions.
• Arm yourself with a list of relevant questions ‘specific’ to business challenges and keep these to yourself until the day of the visit, otherwise the questions could be answered by the sales guy working for the PLM supplier but delivered by the customer.
• Ask the Suppliers to supply you with a list of customers and make contact with them. It sounds like a lot of work, but you only get out what you put in and this is one of the most important decisions you’re going to make for a long time, so get it right or you may end up getting divorced early in your project! Some people will provide you with lots of positive feedback and some will give you the bad news. At the end of the day, its worth the effort to get closer to the facts.
• Use Linked-in and Plaxo to search for people from their customers. In many cases, they may not want to speak to you for competitive reasons, but you will find many people within companies that are willing to share their experiences and information on their PLM projects.
• Listen to what’s being said in the market place and look for customers that decided against a PLM supplier, it may provide you with very valuable.
• Like the saying goes, ‘there no smoke without fire’. Listen to the chat and gossip. Like it or hate it, this can be extremely valuable when making your final choice.
Let’s hope that you have a long and successful relationship with your PLM supplier.
Please free to share your experience in assessing and selecting a PLM solution. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org I look forward to your feedback.
Mark Harrop is a leading Apparel PLM expert with more than 34 years experience in the industry. Mark co-founded the Product Development Partnership Ltd, the team of experts behind WhichPLM.