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’?


Adam O'Hern is an industrial designer, designing products ranging from laptops to power tools, classroom toys to bathroom fixtures, and pro audio gear to guitar tuners. In 2008 he founded, and in 2010 co-founded EvD Media with Josh Mings of, and the two collaborate on the podcast.