You Can Customize SaaS PLM

How moving to SaaS reinforces PLM best practices.

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Written by: Mindy Hayes, Content Specialist, PTC

(Image courtesy of PTC.)

(Image courtesy of PTC.)

Customizing your PLM implementation is expected—despite the amount of risk and added work it can introduce. Customizations often satisfy an immediate or critical need, but if poorly implemented they accumulate technical debt that can derail digital transformation efforts across your enterprise.

In a perfect world, manufacturers would get all the functionality and flexibility they need from their PLM solution out of the box (OOTB) and without the need to customize. While this is increasingly the case with the automatic deployments from software as a service (SaaS) PLM options, there will always be users with niche requirements that necessitate customization. In those edge cases, SaaS PLM can provide the best of both worlds: a robust PLM solution that accommodates and supports good customizations while maintaining best practices and reducing the introduction of technical debt.

PLM and Customization

When considering the role that customizations play in PLM solutions, it’s important to consider why they exist in the first place, and their cumulative effects over time. Historically, custom code was written to achieve a new functionality. Those customizations become legacy code (usually unsupported by the software vendor) that IT teams either work around or cautiously tinker with for each upgrade, begetting more and more technical debt. Some customizations are introduced through acquisitions, mergers or one-off projects, but all carry a little mystery regardless of their origin. How do they work? How often are they used? How robust are they within their environments?

Technical debt is not a minor concern—it represents a major hurdle for digital transformation and a big part of the PLM customization story. The accumulation of technical debt, paired with high-maintenance customizations, can ultimately derail best practices and digital transformation efforts. To avoid this, companies should use OOTB functionalities in place of customizations whenever possible, and follow the software’s best-practice guidelines when resorting to writing custom code.

Keeping Up with Best Practices

In PLM, processes are owned by different departments across the enterprise (engineering, quality assurance, production, etc.) and the creation of a digital thread requires these processes to work together. Typically, manufacturers have wanted to define their own processes, but they are finding that their customizations can lock in outdated practices and make it much more expensive to upgrade systems. Their technical debt comes due as they’re faced with de-customizing their processes so they can adopt modern practices and optimize their operations.

Through SaaS PLM options, such as Windchill+, users can modernize their processes with OOTB functionality and value-ready deployments. Existing functionalities can be duplicated in their current environment, and best practices can be adopted in place of custom processes that live in the minds of your engineers.

Coloring Within the Lines

SaaS offers a scalable solution that assures customers will have the latest upgrades and shortened time-to-value because it is extensible—meaning customers can add customizations that won’t break or interfere with system updates. Extensibility is critical for PLM solutions as digital transformation introduces more software, more digital processes and more integrations across systems and teams. This is all the more reason to go with an OOTB solution that will reduce the technical debt and fragility of traditional customization, while ensuring continued extensibility.

Part of the reason SaaS PLM options can support customizations within their solution is because of the guardrails installed to standardize customizations. These guardrails ensure customizations don’t compromise the benefits of SaaS (zero-downtime upgrades, always on the latest version, etc.). They also ensure that your customizations are aligned with PLM best practices. For example, in recognition of how vital customization can be, PTC built Windchill+ to be highly configurable—and with the intention of supporting more customization types as time goes on.

Customize with Confidence

With SaaS PLM, customers can quickly deploy a PLM solution with extensible, OOTB functionality that supports existing customizations. Users will have access to the latest and greatest functionalities without worrying about breaking customizations with every software update. And as SaaS PLM providers collect more feedback from their customers, they can widen the guardrails for customizations and focus on supporting the functionalities their customers need.

Visit PTC to see how SaaS PLM can be customized to suit your needs while reinforcing industry-wide best practices.

This article was originally published January 24, 2023 on the PTC blog.