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WhichPLM Evaluations: Comparison Tool

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WhichPLM is delighted to publish our new PLM comparison tool.

Selecting the right PLM partner isn’t easy, but it’s a choice more brands and retailers than ever before are making. Whether it’s to manage multinational growth, improve collaborative relationships between internal stakeholders and suppliers, or just become more efficient at headquarters, every sector from fast fashion to luxury has seen significant PLM uptake in the last few years.

The odds are good that, as a retailer, brand or manufacturer, you already have a PLM initiative underway, or that one will become necessary as part of your business’s long-term strategic objectives.  With results proven by the world’s biggest brands and smaller businesses alike, PLM is no longer seen as something nice to have – it’s become a business necessity.

The vendors who make PLM are looking to capitalise on its popularity through marketing. But despite them all using the same acronym, the quality of solutions, services, and strategic vision on offer differs dramatically between vendors.

Making the right choice

With more than forty process areas covered by each of the leading PLM solutions – and that scope is increasing every year – making the right choice is more than just a matter of weighing up a few key features and functions.  A modern PLM project will impact every area of your business, and newer modules like marketing and CSR (corporate social responsibility in the form of compliance, sustainability and legislation), although they may not seem like priorities today, will become vital in the near future.

And while prospective PLM customers are becoming better-educated through services like WhichPLM, it remains common for selection teams to lack the experience and deep domain expertise to scientifically measure everything they need to take into account before making their choice.

This isn’t to say that project teams do not understand their businesses – most of them certainly do – but rather that, until recently, there has been no single, objective tool they could use to compare and contrast not just their software, but the broader partnership potential of different vendors.  Without this yardstick, customers were still, purchasing promises of future development, or finding that essential modules they had been told were ready were either still in development, or were barebones in comparison to the best in-class the market has to offer.

In an industry characterised by extremely rapid development, where domain expertise is vital, the best vendors are those who understand fashion from the design room and the factory, all the way to the retail shop floor. But how do you, as a project team member or executive, figure out which vendors these are?

Similarly, with every stage of the product lifecycle, and every office – domestic, satellite and external supplier – likely to be impacted by a PLM implementation, the best vendors are those with expert resources in your time-zones, on the ground, ready to talk to end users and demonstrate how their day-to-day lives will change.  Can you be confident that your shortlisted vendors have the right people in the right places?

And at the functional level, the supplier landscape is also likely to change before your eyes.  PLM software is becoming more complex and more capable, making it difficult for anyone but the most dedicated hands-on analysts to keep pace.

Your criteria

Do you really know how one vendor’s approach to integrating Adobe Suite to PLM differs from another’s?  Can you be confident which materials management module is best?  Does your favourite vendor offer a mature CSR module? And how do you make sure the UI/UX (user interfaces and user experiences) of your shortlisted solutions measure up to the expectations of the next generation of users coming out of universities?

These criteria are as important to measure as they are difficult to get a straight answer on.  A vendor may tell you, for example, their compliance features are as good as the industry average – but is the average good enough for your needs?  What plans do they have in place for coming revolutions like Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning?

Make no mistake, these are hard questions.  They cut to the core of vendors’ fears, and will prompt you, as a prospective customer, to deeply analyse your own strategic plans for the future.  But given the scale of investment (both monetary and in terms of skilled resource time) that a modern PLM project demands, the difficult questions need to be asked.

Unfortunately, though, transparency isn’t typical in this industry, and a potential customer cannot always count on getting an honest answer.  This is something we have seen the negative results of first-hand, time and time again.

The detailed questions

As the industry’s only independent body of experts, WhichPLM is accustomed to working on behalf of brands, retailers and manufacturers to ask precisely these sorts of detailed questions.  But rather than restrict the resulting insight to consultancy engagements, our goal instead is to establish clear metrics for measuring PLM software solutions against other competing solutions.  Methods of comparing the process maturity of one platform to another.  Ways of gauging the success of one vendor’s implementation team versus another’s.  A vision for assessing roadmaps against roadmaps.

This is all done with the aim of providing freely available evaluations that allow you, the customer, to get answers you can trust, and that were arrived at through scientific methods.  These are the answers you will need to make an informed, future-safe choice – even in areas you might not yet have realised matter.

Each PLM evaluation is free to download from our website, and each compares and contrasts key PLM vendors against one another, and against an independent, scientific scale that we believe accurately measures each vendor’s current attainment, as well as assessing their future development roadmap and strategic vision.

Informed by decades’ worth of hands-on experience working on PLM software, and working with the brands and retailers who need it, our evaluation methods, scoring system, and principles are entirely transparent.  These have been made available to every key PLM vendor in recent years, and while those who have volunteered to undergo the process are to be commended, we urge prospective customers to ask those who have declined to justify their unwillingness to undergo an unbiased inspection.

Perhaps these vendors – some of whom may be on your shortlist – consider openness to work against their best interests.  Embarking on a modern PLM journey is a long-term partnership, and one that will affect the lives of everyone linked to your company – from the boardroom to the factory floor.  As a customer, a significant part of your due diligence should be to ask those vendors who haven’t commissioned a WhichPLM evaluation to explain their decision. If a vendor has complete trust in their solution, then they should be open and transparent and should not fear their scores going public. If that’s not the case then, as a potential buyer, we would recommend you exercise caution.

Compare and contrast

New for 2020, we’ve launched our PLM comparison tool. Although each evaluation is freely available, until now there was no easy-access way of quickly comparing those evaluated. 

Today, you can simply visit our comparison centre to see how vendors fare against one another  – both overall, and when it comes to certain functionalities. If, for example, great UI & UX is a non-negotiable for your business, you’re able to quickly analyse those vendors who outperform in that area (and those that don’t).

Although we’re not advocating that this new tool be used in place of a proper RFI and/or selection process, it can certainly help to define expectations, and confirm (or rebut) any current vendor marketing.

So, why not visit our comparison centre to help kick-start your PLM journey today?

Lydia Mageean Lydia Mageean has been part of the WhichPLM team for over six years now. She has a creative and media background, and is responsible for maintaining and updating our website content, liaising with advertisers, working on special projects like the Annual Review, and more.Joining mid-2013 as our Online Editor, she has since become WhichPLM’s Editor. In addition to taking on writing and interviewing responsibilities, Lydia has also become the primary point of contact for news, events, features and other aspects of our ever-growing online content library and tools.