When searching for any IT solution vendor, much is talked about finding the right one to form a partnership with for your company and choosing the right PLM supplier is no different. At the Product Development Partnership, we work hard to match clients with the right PLM vendors, much like the popular dating website!
When it comes to choosing a PLM solution, a successful implementation is not only based on the product and its functionality, there are many things to consider…
Company size: it’s a good idea to choose a supplier that matches with the size of your organisation, i.e. small ($50-$100M turnover), medium ($100 to 500M) or large enterprise ($500-10B). You will often find that the small PLM vendors offer certain specialties or are strong in a particular region that your company operates within.
Solution look and feel: the User Interface of a solution is important, but be careful as looks can be deceiving. You need to check that the functionality delivers what it is your business requires.
Industry expertise: make sure that the processes covered within the solution align to your business processes. A PLM supplier may offer industry expertise within a focused market sector i.e. Apparel, Footwear, Luxury, Accessories or Sporting goods or focus on a specific business process for example: Trend, Storyboarding, Creative Design, Line Planning, Tech Pack (Product Specification), Costing, Ethical & Technical Trading, Sourcing and Tracking.
Time in the industry: how long as the supplier been in the Apparel PLM sector? Do they have a good track record in the industry (as a solution provider) or other industries (as a PLM solution provider)?
Does the supplier support you geographically? It’s all well and good if the supplier offers a great solution, but make sure that they also have the required resources to implement and support your PLM solution implementation. Be careful to ensure that they have ample resources with the required domain skills within the regions that you want to deploy your PLM solution. Don't fall for the global implementation team that just appears for the pre-sales part of the project. Worse still, the “24×7 Support” claim. In all my years in PLM, I've never worked in a company that provides a good support organisation. In my view, this is one of the weakest areas for most PLM suppliers.
Research and Development resource: Does the supplier have the capacity to continue to deliver new developments required by your organisation? Is investment in R&D growing?
Watch out for the ‘ease of implementation’ marketing messages! In my experience, there are very few PLM solutions out there that are easy to implement (unless the solution is weak, resulting in a limited return on your investment).
“Our solution delivers against your total requirements.” Some companies offer broad and deep solutions that offer a good purchase choice, but these are few and far between. It takes an expert to see through the cracks in a solution and to help you to avoid costly mistakes.
Most PLM solutions will need integration to maximise the return on investment: in many cases today’s customers can build the integration themselves, avoiding large additional costs or the integration may be provided by the PLM vendor. New technologies such as XML and SOA have reduced the integration issues and challenges that were once a very difficult and costly part of any PLM implementation. Today, there are lots of relatively low-cost middleware integration engines to help your own IT departments to deliver the required integration to the main business systems. Technology is not the only challenge when it comes to integration, you will still need to carefully consider how to align the To-Be processes and data assuming it is a one way or bi-directional interface. Not forgetting the biggest integration challenge, changing the way people think in order to deliver real change management benefits.
We find our clients their perfect PLM match
At the Product Development Partnership, we operate solely and independently on the behalf of our clients, not the software supplier. We do everything possible to provide our customers with the choices to help them arrive at the best possible match. At the end of the day, it may not be the most feature-rich software that gets the deal, but it will be the one that matches best with the requirements of the customer overall, whether budget, process, location, technical or support-based, etc. Before we recommend any PLM vendor, we spend days comprehensively benchmarking (evaluating) the solution to ensure that it does what it claims it will do, so that you can easily compare between multiple vendors.
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.