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To me, PLM always sounded like something that should be plastered across an anvil that Wile E. Coyote drops onto his own head. You could say that Road Runner represents happiness, and the coyote a frustrated humanity: the harder we work for happiness, the more our hackneyed schemes get the better of us. We’ve had PLM on the brain lately, a we’re wondering how much structure is ‘enough’?

Elaborate PLM software: worth it?

In theory, Product Lifecycle Management is critical to every successful project: in order to shape our future, we have to set goals, and devise ways of achieving them. At its heart PLM really represents the process of setting those goals, and discovering/planning/documenting ways of making them happen. PLM Software is intended to make this process simpler, but in many cases it can be unwieldy.

I’ve been lucky enough to work with teams all over the country, and see how companies big and small manage their design processes. After seeing the utter chaos caused by lack of structure, I can say with some confidence that creativity cannot thrive without a solid foundation. I’ve also seen corporate teams’ creativity crushed under the burden of excessive planning and rigid adherence to arbitrary conventions. The more complex the coyote’s scheme to catch the Road Runner, the more spectacularly he fails.

Today’s Question: Is PLM Software worth it?

The question is not whether Product Lifecycle Management is a good thing; clearly, it’s important that business processes be properly managed. But the structures we create for the management of our projects range in complexity from simple doodles on graph paper to massive corporate data structures, and everything in-between. Small businesses often struggle for lack of structure, while big corporations strangle themselves with excessive red tape. How do we find solutions that equip us for growth without inhibiting it?

How much structure is ‘enough’?

Filed under: DESIGN

  • The things go even worse ‘coz Road Runners can’t read at all 🙂 Good points, good analogy and the best illustration. Thanks! Totally agree. Beep beep!

  • Wow, Josh.  

    In your next post, I propose you ask if government or the cloud or bottled water is worth it 🙂



    If nobody makes any mistakes and follows the correct standards always. You don’t need any PLM. But since rainman doesn’t work in the CAD busniss we need PLM.

  • Adam

    haha, I’m afraid I’ll have to take credit for this one, Mark! (see author above)

    The question isn’t whether PLM software is worth it, but how much complexity is enough for a given organization. We use the term ‘PLM’ to encompass a huge variety of software solutions from simple FileMaker Pro databases all the way up to full-scale SAP solutions. Clearly process organization is worth something, but how much of it is the “right” amount for a given organization?

    I’d be especially interested to hear your take on it, Mark! If you are consulting with someone about PLM solutions, how do you help them decide which solution is right for them?Adam

    PS bottled water is most definitely not “worth it” (environmentally, financially, or health-wise), so I’m not sure your argument works! 😉

  • Adam!  I’m sorry – I should have paid better attention. I’m far from a PLM expert but let me go ahead and comment anyway 🙂

    IMHO, PLM maps to the company process, not the other way around. If a company says “Here are the things we need to track”, “here is the window into the data that we want to have”, “here are the people we need to view that data”, “here is the process we need to use”, the PLM tools need to map to that.

    In some typical cases, an out-of-the-box type solution might be fine.  However, most companies want to customize their PLM process to best match their business practices.  Can PLM be complicated?  It sure can. But, if you see a complicated PLM setup, I think behind the scenes, you will see complicated business practices (often for good reason).

  • Adam

    Well said, Mark! Good points, all. 

  • Josh M
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