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Look under the hood before you buy!

Implementing PLM is costly and time consuming and selecting the right software and partner is the first step in a successful project.  It is important for you to research programming and architectural differences found in PLM software and communicate these effectively to both the technical and non technical members of your PLM team. Key Questions you should ask yourselves in this process are:

What do we really need to know before we get started?

Selecting a PLM Solution requires communication and collaboration between IT and the business units. Technical due diligence is key for an organization to properly select a subset of vendors that will meet technical requirements. Questions IT will want answered are: What platform is the tool built on? What integration capabilities are offered? What programming languages are used? What databases are implemented? What overall architecture from a hardware perspective is in place? In listing these questions the beginning framework for the PLM vendor technical inquiry begins. It is not uncommon for the business users to think all PLM solutions are the same and do the same things. If not, then the idea that they can be customized to fill in gaps in their functionality is often communicated by the vendor’s sales team. A non-technical user might think that their perspective is accurate enough to attach themselves to a particular vendor this early in the assessment process.

How is each PLM Solution technically unique or different?

Vendors should provide documentation and technical details about their products and demo as often as possible. Either in house or through the facilitation of a consulting partner a vendor technical questionnaire should be developed. This chart should list all technical aspects of a solution and provide a column in which to check off each vendors ranking. TEC (http://www.technologyevaluation.com/) and whichplm.com offer tools to get you started. This evaluation form should be a living document and constantly updated as you receive new information from vendors. Remember, it is what you don’t know today that will hurt you tomorrow! Being biased towards a certain vendor up front will only come back to haunt you later. So maximize this exercise by being objective and make sure your consulting partners provide you with unbiased opinions as well. There is a vendor/ consulting eco-system that might make them less partial then you think.

How can we “get under the hood” to see what is really there?

Getting closer to a short list of vendors is a great way to get under the hood. Develop relationships with the sales team, management, the demo person, the consulting team and the CTO. Each member of a vendor’s team holds a certain perspective on the product and its features. Mix it up and have non-vertically aligned team members meet up as well. This will reveal any “salesmanship” that might be in the way of you really understanding what you are selecting. Client references are a good way to learn more about a product. However, remember that they selected the references. This is not a great litmus test. Ultimately the best way to evaluate the product is to engage in a small pilot where you can test drive the product and the team.

Why does one PLM system cost more?

For some of you cost is the biggest factor and will determine which vendor you can select. For those of you where cost is less of an issue remember to include all of your costs: software, maintenance, support, consulting, hardware, etc. It adds up fast and in many cases consulting alone can often cost up to five times the cost of the software. Look at hidden costs like how long will your team need to be focused on this project versus working on their core business goals? How long until the system is up, content is migrated and you are actually working in the system? Don’t forget to ask yourself: “Will we need to hire a team internally to manage the system? Will they require training? Do we have staff on hand to manage them? It is not uncommon to see recruitment ads for PLM programmers with knowledge of apparel PLM systems online. Many of these programmers’ competencies include technical skills your internal team may not even have. Why would you be hiring them in that case? Probably because the cost of hiring them through your vendor or consultancy is prohibitive and you still need to complete a project.

Why are implementation times different across PLM vendors?

At the end of the day the languages and platform choices of your vendors and ultimately of your IT department will mandate the total cost of your system. Your choices will either make your life easier or bring your organization to its knees. By looking under the hood you can make educated decisions and achieve your goals quickly, cost effectively and end up with happy users, the goal of every PLM project.

To get more detailed answers to the questions above join the session called” Look under the hood before you buy at www.plmbootcamp.com.

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