As technology advances, businesses must be able to upgrade their software and platforms in order to remain competitive. Historically, PLM tools have not been able to keep up with the times, leading to frustrating and costly upgrades. One of the very typical situations for many companies was so-called “release lock” – the situation when the customized PLM platform was stuck because the level customization prevented the platform from future upgrades.
In this blog post, we will discuss why modern PLM platforms need to learn how to upgrade seamlessly. We will also explore some of the challenges associated with upgrading PLM software and offer ways to overcome these hurdles. Finally, we will provide actionable tips for ensuring a successful PLM upgrade.
My attention was caught by Aras PLM blog article – Disrupting PLM industry again. Aras is proud to announce the introduction of Aras new release every 5 weeks. Here is the passage by Aras VP strategy Marc Lind.
Marc Lind, SVP of Strategy at Aras, said it best in his blog, Digital Transformation Drives New Enterprise Software Criteria: Flexibility,
“Flexibility is your key to being able to handle whatever comes next. To support those new digital processes, you need to quickly change your enterprise software application’s data models, business rules, forms/screens, workflows and more. You need to do all this without the complex programming & compiling that’s required with conventional enterprise systems; it takes too long, is unsustainable and creates instant legacy because you can’t take updates/upgrade.”
In my view, Marc nailed the point of upgrades – businesses must move forward and PLM technologies must adapt by providing a flexible environment capable to be upgraded often without disrupting a business.
In my earlier article – What can be better than a free upgrade? I touched on the point of PLM upgrades and how SaaS technologies are capable to support seamless upgrades without disrupting businesses and their operations. Cloud and SaaS products like Autodesk Fusion360, Onshape, OpenBOM, and some other PLM systems, providing upgrades of their SaaS environment continuously with a high frequency. The updates are seamless and do not impact customers’ operations.
What about large PLM vendors? I checked the website of Siemens PLM and was looking for information on how often their leading Teamcenter application is upgraded. I was not able to confirm that Teamcenter is using the same new methodology such as NX Continuous Upgrade. The same continuous upgrade was introduced as an ability NX system always upgraded. Here is an interesting article about NX’s continued release.
Dassault Systemes 3D EXPERIENCE differentiates upgrades and updates. Check their website for more information here. According to the website, the 3DEXPEREINCE PLM system makes the upgrade annually. An upgrade is “a new version of the platform that offers a significant change or improvement over your current version“. An update that has a purpose to “correct small bugs to make the platform more efficient” is done 4 times a year. You will be notified 21 days prior to the update. To me, it is more like a traditional annual release with 4 Service Packs over the year.
What in other businesses outside of PLM space. One of the largest SaaS ERPs, NetSuite, provides 2 major releases each year and also provides as many fixes and updates. I found interesting information about NetSuite updates here. In a nutshell, NetSuite is updated often but provides notifications and requests users to opt-in for the upgrade. Another large SaaS vendor, Salesforce.com is offering 3 releases a year and advanced Sandbox functionality. Check more here and, especially read about advanced Admin capabilities allowing customers to validate release before the environment is going to update. Another business platform, HubSpot is updated very often as you can learn from the HubSpot update blog.
Outside of the enterprise world, updates are more seamless and happening continuously. You can see the Google Workspace update blog The article gives you a weekly indication about what is updated, but the updates are going all the time.
To me, one of the most fascinating platforms from the update standpoint is Facebook. It pushes updates multiple times a day. Actually, I didn’t find precise information on how often Facebook does it. However, various technologists analyzing Facebook updates can tell you that Facebook is making even very small tweaks in user experience and a huge amount of A/B testing to validate what is the best user experience – all towards the goal of maximizing application usage and making users stay with the platform longer.
Here are some of my thoughts about PLM platform upgrades and trends..
Future PLM platforms need to learn how to upgrade seamlessly
The demand for business processes is to be agile and improve fast over time. An entire product lifecycle support must be agile and flexible. Customers set the key performance indicators for their organization and continuous improvement is an important factor. You cannot run a modern business using old tools. Cloud-based solutions can give a competitive edge to manufacturing organizations. This is why future PLM platforms need to learn how to upgrade seamlessly. The interest of the customers to control the upgrades is in reverse dependency on IT power and complexity of business functions. One size doesn’t fit all. What is needed for Fortune 500 enterprise, at the same time, is very annoying for SMB manufacturing companies and individual contractors. SaaS PLM and CAD systems are expected to provide seamless upgrade and validate data, customization functions, and everything else transparently and seamlessly. A larger enterprise with a heavily customized environment and a large number of integrations will demand sandboxes and IT vetting.
The future of product lifecycle management is in the cloud. Actually Different Clouds…
Cloud is here to stay. It might have different flavors, but it is undoubtedly will provide a new modern infrastructure environment for modern applications. PLM solutions need to be compliant with this environment and modus operandi. But the expectations will be very different between SaaS PLM applications service broad community of engineers and SMB industrial companies and larger enterprises. The most interesting thing will be to see an interplay between these two different worlds and how modern SaaS platforms will handle it. Historically, large PLM providers had a very difficult time downsizing their product offerings and lost the SMB market completely. The SaaS world introduces the next level of challenges to have seamless integration between large OEMs and multiple suppliers. The demand to have different experiences and seamless integration can be an interesting development to watch. The PLM vendor who will provide both worlds will be a winner over time.
Upgrading your old system will save you time and money
If you’re still running your 20 years PDM/PLM environment, it is a good time to think outside and check the “PLM cloud weather”. Your business deserves a better service and your users deserve a better experience. SaaS PLM offers much easier ways to integrate. The jump towards cloud PLM might be painful as a visit to a doctor, but if you don’t do it, the problem will grow and surgery will be inevitable.
It’s just not worth it to stay on an old, outdated platform any longer
I know, that thinking about upgrading from legacy PLM systems, Excel spreadsheets, and your homegrown environment can be terrifying. It is important to have a business and not an emotional decision. Unless you hope to hide behind the bushes for the next few years until your retirement, it is just not worth staying on existing systems. Instead, you need to plan strategically and set up a phased approach to introducing SaaS PLM services to your organization, to grow their value over time and retire old applications gradually.
There are plenty of ways for companies with legacy systems to make the transition successfully
Here are a few ideas on how to plan the transition for your success. The plan can be vary for large and small organizations, but the idea is the same.
- Identify the biggest organizational pains and prioritize them
- Find PLM services capable to solve the problem
- Evaluate potential service providers. Use trial approach and isolated services to validate features, functions, and user experience
- Plan integrations between existing business workflows and new services. Modern SaaS PLM systems offer REST APIs and other easy ways to integrate.
- Plan small steps and recognize the value and ROI for the company. Then repeat.
What is my conclusion?
Cloud and SaaS are here to stay. Modern PLM systems provide new data management, modern user experience, better integrations, and growing functionality seamlessly. The upgrade is one of the most fascinating challenges in the old-fashion PLM world, but SaaS platforms are going to eliminate it completely. When you check for your next product data management or PLM system, the upgrade function must be in your focus, because it will unlock your path forward to seamless PLM innovation. Just my thoughts…
Disclaimer: I’m co-founder and CEO of OpenBOM developing a digital network-based platform that manages product data and connects manufacturers, construction companies, and their supply chain networks. My opinion can be unintentionally biased.