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The most common challenges for SMB’s in a typical PLM selection process


There are quite a few challenges facing smaller and medium-sized manufacturers that have chosen Product Lifecycle Management software as the tool to improve their products and streamline their operations and ultimately, gain a competitive advantage.

Over the years, we have spoken with a substantial number of smaller and medium-sized businesses as they were evaluating PLM software solutions. Of course, everyone takes a different approach. Some like to dive in and fit their business needs to the software while others take a more analytical approach and choose a traditional RFP process.


Regardless of the approach, we still see these particular challenges:

  • Since most PLM software on the market is designed to meet the needs of a large enterprise, it becomes increasingly challenging for a smaller manufacturer to decide what solution best fits the company needs.
  • During the procurement phase, it is often the expectation that the total cost of acquisition can be lowered while the expectation towards the features and functions of the new solution remains at an astonishingly high level. It is like paying for a second-rate team but demanding that Lionel Messi will be amongst the starting 11.


As a natural consequence, utopian PLM illusions are being converted into projects, that end up becoming a failure. The more illusions, the bigger the failure. So, the question is, how can you best avoid PLM illusions in the first place?


The most successful companies approach the selection process with:

  1. A clear understanding of the goals they want to achieve with the PLM software
  2. A desire to view their software vendor as partners
  3. A focus on buying the people behind the software – and not just the software


A clear understanding of your goals you want to achieve with PLM software

At a minimum starting point, smaller and medium-sized manufacturers need to understand – in depth – what the PLM software solution should be able to accomplish. PLM provides tools to help streamline each phase of the product lifecycle, from cradle to the grave, while improving communication and collaboration internally and externally. At the end of the day, those tools enable companies to reduce time-to-market and decrease product costs, while also dramatically reduce waste and rework.

But you as a company should know your exact challenges and have an idea of how PLM can help solve these challenges.

A clear focus on what you really need from your system

Look at what you really need in a solution. And then try to make both your requirement specification and your solution definition as agile as possible.

We all know that we are not able to foresee all future processes or workflows. And because of this uncertainty, you need to have a system that can change and adapt to new demands. 

Ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Which strategic goals should company achieve and which of those goals should be supported by a PLM software system?
  2. Which business processes should be supported by the PLM system?

At first, do not focus heavily on the tool – the PLM system – but put your focus on what you want to do with it. Once you have figured that out, you are ready to choose the software.

But choose wisely. PLM software is not the main reason behind a PLM implementation failure, but it is certainly part of the failure. It does matter which PLM software you choose to go with.

Remain flexible and do not automatically settle for incumbent software if the products and plans do not match up well to your company’s strategic requirements.

Focus on buying the people behind the software – and not just the software

Like having a clear understanding of the goals you want to achieve with PLM, you should also have a clear expectation to the collaboration with your chosen PLM vendor. When looking for PLM software, you have a wide choice of vendors. Each with their own characteristics and expertise areas.

The best implementation scenario is where PLM-venturing companies and the PLM vendor join forces in a partnership to ensure the best implementation results.

Therefore, you should choose a vendor you best can identify as a solution design and implementation partner.


Your PLM investment should be sustainable

The digitalization is an extremely versatile and dynamic process many companies are experiencing these days. The complexity of products will only increase, and it is naive to believe that the process definition we have today will still be relevant within the next few years.

Therefore, is it of outmost importance to have a system that can be changed quickly and embrace new processes.

But you also need to consider the importance of having a system that offers you the opportunity and freedom to upgrade and customize the system without it becoming too costly.

Selecting a PLM system can be a challenge if a company is not aware of the options available within the marketplace.

Seek inspiration in our free e-book: “How to select plm software in a more sustainable way”

About the author

Leon Lauritsen

Leon has worked with multiple IT systems from ERP to BI and PLM. His experience ranges all the way from programming to business consulting, project management and business development. Leon started his career in IT development and has further earned a diploma in IT and Economics at Copenhagen Business School and an Executive MBA at Henley Management College.  

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