Can Complex Product Development Teams use Cloud-Based PLM?
John Hayes posted on October 02, 2014 | 16346 views

Accenture’s global revenues in 2013 exceeded $28 billion.  The consulting powerhouse operates in 56 countries.  So when Accenture implements large-scale PLM, industry watchers take notice. 

PLM is more than a passing interest for Accenture; it’s a focus that has led them to their current position as the 2nd largest PLM services provider in the world behind IBM, according to CIM data.

So why did Accenture partner with Autodesk to implement their cloud-based PLM solution, PLM360? 

Kevin Prendeville is the leader of Accenture’s North American PLM practice. “A lot of the value that Accenture provides to our PLM clients is transforming the way they work – designing and deploying new processes, organization, metrics, data and reporting” he says. “Those new ways of working don’t always have to be based 100% on best-in-class technology tools.” 

Cloud solutions can have lower barriers to adoption

Prendeville notes that simple tools often have enough technology to provide value to large organizations: “Lightweight, cloud-based solutions that are easy to learn can quickly enhance the information flow, making new processes easy to implement. These solutions can break through the departmental silos that impede innovation.  Adoption is key because realized benefits are a function of both the improvement, and the client’s adoption; barriers to adoption of cloud solutions can often be lower”

This view is echoed by industry analyst Monica Schnitger.  She predicts that, “A lot of the future sales of cloud-based PLM will be to organizations that want to share data with departments outside of engineering such as marketing or services departments.” 

In fact, many organizations are happy to limit the use of PDM to their engineering teams while extending PLM elsewhere.  These companies recognize that, “engineering and design are critical and often represent a large percent of a tool’s capability, but they are only part of the product lifecycle process,” according to Prendeville.  “While Engineering and Design may use PDM, PLM can still provide value by giving access to data and visualization to advance the product through product management, marketing,  sourcing, supply chain, quality teams, BOM development and more.” 

Not all enterprises that need PLM require the same functionality as traditional manufacturers

Many large organizations can benefit from the workflow and product data management that lightweight PLM can provide.  For example, companies that make packaging need a system to control their use of images to support their rapid product introduction cycles.  They do not, however, need a full-scale PLM bundled with PDM. 

According to analyst Jim Brown of Tech-Clarity, “there are lots of use cases for PLM outside of traditional manufacturing.”  He predicts that many of those outside of traditional manufacturing can get more value more quickly from cloud-based applications, particularly for managing their supply chains.  Cloud-based solutions offer easy access for suppliers and freedom from a longer and more complex implementation. 

Cloud based solutions can be implemented without involving enterprise IT teams

CIOs of large enterprises are in a constant battle to maintain data integrity and security, and often that means seeking common infrastructure wherever possible.  Having common platforms across all of a company’s business units eases the support burden on the internal IT team and increases the company’s negotiating leverage with their vendors.  But “subscription-based cloud models change that paradigm,” according to analyst Chad Jackson of Lifecycle Insights. “If an organization has five very different business units, maybe IT should let them adopt five different PLM systems, provided that doesn’t run counter to a larger business objective.”

CIMdata’s Stan Przybylinski points out that the, “subscription-based business model of cloud services makes it very tough for an IT team to maintain control.  If a manager in a multi-national enterprise wants to set up a pilot project, they can do so with only a browser and a credit card.”  In those instances, small teams that are part of large organizations are finding the freedom to try cloud-based solutions.

We should expect to see more large enterprises using cloud-based PLM

In short, the opportunities for large enterprises to use cloud-based PLM stem from:

·         Ease of implementation

·         “Good enough” feature set

·         Ease of use for non-engineers and designers

·         Subscription based pricing model that avoids up-front costs

According to Prendeville, “the end-to-end process from idea to market for many large organizations may be 5% individual work time and 95% wait state – so optimizing the actual work is not as big of a potential benefit as reducing or eliminating wait states.”  In those scenarios, it makes sense to use tools that get information to the people who need to take action, and lightweight cloud-based PLM can do that.  

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