Earlier this week, I heard that the best PLM innovation is just listening to the customers. The situation with the user experience of enterprise software was completely different 15-20 years ago. Most business software development brands didn’t care much about user experience and customer behavior. These days, the situation is completely different. I guess nobody will argue with me about the importance of listening to customers in the 2020s. Easy to say, but it is very hard to do. What can help? Here are some of my thoughts…
Traditional PDM/PLM Development Cycle
The majority of PLM systems in the market today are the continuation of brands that existed for the last 20-30+ years. Old client-server architecture, RDBM backbone, and long feature development cycle, which allows a release once in a year. I even know systems that made a release every second year. There was no so much need to make it more often. Customer adoption of these systems was taking years and once licensed were sold, the customer was stuck in the implementation for a long time.
Business Changes and The Need for Speed
The situation started to change in the last 10+ years. Businesses became more dynamic and the importance of PLM for smaller companies became obvious. Combined with mergers and acquisitions, joint ventures, and other new business practices, it created the demand for fast and agile implementations. It also urged the need to provide a reliable upgrade mechanism for customized PLM backbones.
PLM innovation Spiral
PLM customer development progress was cyclic, starting from toolboxes and fully custom deployments, moving to out of the box deployment, industrial packaging, and then coming back to full flexibility. At the same time, the technology of system delivery progressed from onsite, on-premise to hosted, and back to flexible backbones and back to SaaS platforms. Combined together it allowed creating high-level flexibility, combined with the power of new data management technology, available as SaaS platforms.
Customer Connection and Continues Improvement
The need to track what the system does was always important. But the technology to track customer activity, behavior, predicting customer actions and intelligently adapting to what customers made a huge leapfrog with online consumer applications and brands. Driven by advertising, the technologies are mature and available for SaaS PLM vendors. At the time, on-premise or hosted PLM brands will be forever locked in the existing technologies, SaaS vendors will be able to develop a unique approach to connect to their users and improve.
What is my conclusion?
We live at a time when the customer is a king. The last two decades of web development polished the system of creating a user experience, design, and performance of consumer systems. Advertising was behind the need to create high-performance systems capable of keeping users engaged, using the system, emotionally connecting, and coming back. While originally business systems never focused on how to keep customers coming back (business, after all, was forcing users to use them), the enterprise system landscape is changing. The same technique developed by consumer brands can be used to create a new generation of online systems capable of listening to customers, their needs, and develop a new customer experience. The technology is here, it is time to make it adopted by PLM vendors. SaaS PLM architecture makes it easy to adapt and bring new experiences to customers. Just my thoughts…
Disclaimer: I’m co-founder and CEO of OpenBOM developing a digital network platform that manages product data and connects manufacturers and their supply chain networks.