Is your PLM a uni-tasker? Hope not …

Feb 20, 2016 | Hot Topics

When you buy something, what are your criteria? I look at whether it does what I need it to do, if it’s a good value for the money, and if it leaves me room to grow or adapt as my needs evolve. Like Alton Brown of Good Eats fame ( – worth a look, if you don’t know who he is), I abhor a uni-tasker. I want the things I spend money on to do many things and not just clutter up my physical or digital landscape.

What does this have to do with PLM, you ask? Everything. When you look at any enterprise software, you want to implement something that meets your needs today (and as quickly and economically as possible — the whole value equation) and offers you room to grow. You can’t know what your business will need in 5 years or in 10 years, or if you expand into a new region or acquire a new line of business or … or … or …

Late last year, I took a look at how software ecosystems help boost and protect your investment in whatever your initial foray may be. The term “software ecosystem” was first coined, I think, by Messerschmitt and  Szyperski, who defined it as “a set of businesses functioning as a unit and interacting with a shared market for software and services … These relationships are frequently underpinned by a common technological platform and operate through the exchange of information, resources, and artifacts.” [Source:  David G. Messerschmitt and Clemens Szyperski (2003). Software Ecosystem: Understanding an Indispensable Technology and Industry. ]

A lot of words, but a few stand out. Independent businesses, that work together on a common technology platformexchanging information and resources. This means each business contributes what it knows best (an app for virtualization, a la Rescale, or CAD re-purposing as offered by Lattice, perhaps) to an overall offering that easily exchanges information. The whole succeeds because each part does. That’s not to say that you can’t have an absolutely rockin’ PLM implementation that solves one specific problem and, today, consists of a single app. You need to track materials compliance — start there. Supplier collaboration a problem — another great step to getting your business under control. The point is that you implement a PLM that can grow and adapt as your needs change.

Software ecosystems offer huge benefits for consumers, essentially because they offer scope to grow as the consumer’s business evolves. But the ecosystem itself needs to be open to growth and change, since tech is advancing so quickly. What to look out for? How to think about this? How do you avoid winding up with a uni-tasker?

Read the original research here, including vignettes about how platform partners like Rescale, Lattice Technology and others add significant value. A strong and vibrant PLM ecosystem helps protect your technology investment dollars by letting you add on as needed, rather than ripping it out to start all over again. Ecosystems maximize flexibility and create the opportunity to grow without restriction as your business evolves. Best of all, ecosystems can change quickly to adapt to new technologies and market needs or conditions, because they can call upon a vast set of domain experts — much more than any uni-tasking environment could offer. A win-win.