Should PLM be a platform?

Many of the PLM solutions available bill themselves as a platform. It is interesting to look at whether the platform strategy is an advantageous approach for a PLM system. The rest of this blog post will examine the question.

In the strict definition, a PLM system need not be a platform; it comprises a collection of processes and technologies that support Product Development through its entire lifecycle. Therefore, PLM and platform do not necessarily go together, it could consist of point solutions.

What is a platform?

In the technology and software world, a platform is defined as a single underlying application that forms a backbone for the overall application. This platform can then be used to install user apps which provide different capabilities. The main characteristics of a platform are as follows:

  • Multiple capabilities are included in a single technology suite. In the case of PLM, examples may include CAD data management, project management, BOM etc.
  • Ideally, the various apps in the platform would communicate seamlessly with each other
  • A platform has an underlying database which is keeping track of all the various objects
  • Users are presented with a single interface, regardless of their function and activities

PLM as a platform

Let’s look at PLM as a platform

In this scenario, all the required PLM functionality is incorporated into one system (usually from a single vendor) and users access the system vis a unified interface. The important feature of this approach is that interconnections between apps are the responsibility of the PLM vendor.

PLM as point solutions

Let’s look at PLM as point solutions

In this scenario, all the required PLM functionality is made up of multiple point solutions (usually from different vendors) and users access the various systems individually. The owner of the overall PLM process is responsible for interconnections between the various applications.

Which is the better approach?

Both approaches are used by organizations, some deploying hybrid solutions. Let’s look at the advantages and disadvantages of each landscape:

PLM as a platform

PLM as point solutions

So, which is better? The true answer is probably situation specific and depends on an organization’s maturity, size, business model and other factors. Keep an open mind!

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