Past experience shows us that the vast majority of enterprise technology evaluations run over time and budget, and once selected, the majority of the implementations fail to meet functional, return on investment (ROI) and total cost of ownership (TCO) expectations. Many companies have consequently been stuck with under-performing software products and dejected users, and are still unable to gauge their system to determine how far they are from the ideal solution for their business requirements
Enterprise technology selections for ERP, CRM, SCM, and other enterprise applications provide valuable lessons that can be applied to selecting PLM (Product Lifecycle Management) software, but there are some key differences that need to be recognized. In PLM, there is no single vendor that can meet all of the requirements, and the market is still immature, so almost every product can be the right solution provided a certain set of requirements. The Catch 22 for both buyers and vendors is to pinpoint the right opportunity in this ongoing "dating game".
Selecting a piece of enterprise application software has never been an exact science. Vendors' hype, consultants' potential conflict of interest and consequent bias, users' doubts, tediously long selection processes, and unclear decisions rationale are some of the unfortunate watchwords for the selection practice so far.
is daunting for corporate IT buyers to discern the true capabilities, strengths
and weaknesses of a given enterprise application suite, given the propaganda
that pervades vendors' endeavors to differentiate themselves (see Beware
of Vendors Bearing Solutions). When making strategic IT acquisitions, buyer's
project teams, inundated with an abundance of available products and technologies,
have a difficult time translating the content of glitzy marketing slides and
grandstanding presentations into the deliverable products. Given the relative
immaturity of the PLM movement, this problem can be compounded by user's lack
of understanding of their business needs and documentation of the associated
Part One of this article, we discussed
the lessons learned from previous enterprise software selections and how they
apply to PLM.
Part Two of this article, we reviewed
the problems in selecting PLM software from the viewpoint of the Buyers and
Part Three of this article, we reviewed
an effective RFI/RFP process that streamlines the selection process and avoids
the pitfalls of past selection processes.
Part Four of this article, we applied
the solution to a PLM evaluation analyzing 3 vendors who offer products to the
PLM market and discussed the results.
is Part Five of a five-part tutorial. In this last part of the article, we will
make recommendations to users and vendors on improving the process of selecting
One Lessons Learned from Previous Enterprise Software Selections
Two Overview of the Problems in Selecting PLM Software
Three Presents a Solution
Four Presents Examples of Applying the Solution
Five Makes User Recommendations
the most important take away from this analysis is the significance of buyers
researching technology vendors before determining the short list, while vendors
should research the viability of the opportunity beforehand. Issuing a comprehensive
Request For Information (RFI) to a number of vendors is an important first step
in the selection process. Once the RFIs have been returned, analyze each RFI
to determine the strengths and weaknesses of each vendor as well as the relative
importance of each item on the RFI. This, proverbially harrowing exercise need
not be that dreadful, as shown in Parts Three
and Four of this article.
has shown that more than the majority of functional and technical requirements
show up time and time again. These have been captured for the PLM field within
the PLM Evaluation Center. The remaining requirements may be
peculiar to your business and industry (e.g., specific integrations to your
existing applications), which need to be defined from scratch and prioritized
appropriately. But, these should only be a small fraction of the entire immense
RFI effort. Likewise, vendors' effort in filling the new RFIs should only be
limited to filling in the additional criteria in the "delta" document.
Given the large variations in the PLM suites of both major and less-known vendors, users might be better off by skipping the painstaking process of RFP preparation, staring confusedly at vendors' responses, and trying to figure out who has the most pluses regardless of the individual importance of the functionality criteria. It is better for organizations to focus on the handful of business objectives they need to achieve and the ways to measure their success. They may benefit from turning to an objective third party expert with a tool that has an ability of translating these strategic business objectives into tactical functional and technological requirements, and, in almost no time at all, recommend the two or three most suitable candidates that should proceed straight to a software demonstration phase.
TEC's PLM Knowledge Base
E-BestMatch PLM Knowledge Base (http://www.plmevaluation.com/)
includes a comprehensive set of 14 RFI responses combined with a decision support
tool to reduce the time and expense of examining vendors and determining the
short list, while vendors can check out how they stack up against the competition
and what the best course of action in every particular situation should be.
As a summary, the following are some of the main mutual benefits that all the parties would benefit from being on the same page':
Upfront identification of issues and negotiation perspectives, enabling more
efficient and productive negotiations
Enabling the solution implementers to be better aware of the challenges
Enabling vendors to be aware of product gaps with client needs
Manage expectations of the implementation results to be realistic
Enable better implementation planning
Enable future project discussions between the vendor and client to be processed
more effectively, since past data is intact and in a form that is reusable
and can be updated easily.
Make no mistake TEC does not expect anybody to acquire a crucial and costly piece of technology based only on online research, however thorough it may be. Users are therefore advised to conduct a thorough analysis of vendor strengths and weaknesses in the following major areas: product functionality, product technology, product TCO, corporate strategy, corporate viability, and corporate service & support.
preceding analysis constitutes a high level evaluation on certain parts of product
functionality and technology that should be replicated and expanded upon for
the remaining key criteria areas. Only by a diligent process of evaluation that
includes a number of other factors influencing the decision such as scripted
scenario demonstrations, site reference visits/calls outcomes, product flexibility
(e.g., customizability, interconnectivity, data conversion, etc.) can users
hope to select an enterprise business system that will serve their organizations
and deliver expected benefits. These are, however, more of a soft', subjective
nature, and require an actual encounter with the software; this is where the
human side will get the right of way over machine in the above-mentioned human-machine
combination. For more information, see An
Overview of the Knowledge Based Selection Process
Research is a Start
one has to start from somewhere, and there is no better place to start researching
enterprise software than from their functional and technical capabilities. Despite
the allegations that these capabilities have been converging across the range
of products, and that their importance in selecting enterprise software has
been diminishing by the day, that is not exactly the case, as shown in the examples
with three vendors in Parts Three and
in a hypothetical case of two vendors differing by only a few percentage points
of required functionality, it is very likely that these the differences will
carry a significant weight and could signal a requirement for an extensive modification
effort and expense. Do you really need a sexy piece of technology that has missing
functionality and will not cater to your business needs without significant
modifications and system tweaking? The ramifications of this kind of selection
are well known (see Should
You Modify an Application Product?).
the other hand, basing a decision only on product functionality may result in
buying a system that will soon become obsolete. Advanced technology bolsters
product flexibility, and often can provide tools that can circumvent the need
for expensive modification (see Great
Product: Too Bad The Architecture Doesn't Fit).
The Next Step After Research
At the end of the day, there is some similarity between the intricacies of sourcing enterprise software and seeking a personal partner. While no one sane (or emancipated) enough will get married based on questionnaires' outcomes and/or friends/family recommendations sight unseen, there is however, the better chance that two people with similar interests and compatibilities will connect personally and emotionally as well.
On the other hand, these initial promising signs will easily fizzle out in a personal interaction if, e.g., someone is too rigid, rough mannered, there is cultural or language barrier, or if, e.g., someone's picture posted on the web site has turned out to be several years old and several dozen pounds lighter than today (the same holds for the truthfulness of the questionnaire answers). Sometimes, the person is nice and beyond reproach, but he/she simply does not do much for you (similar to someone's users being indifferent towards the software that seemingly does what is wanted from it). Nonetheless, it is very unlikely that, an avid opera-lover and artistic person will be a good fit with a couch-potato hooked on incessantly guzzling beer and watching sitcoms or the WWF. If a personal relationship is to work, there needs to be a chemistry that cannot be captured by a questionnaire, but the questionnaire does narrow the field.
that end, the scripted scenario demonstration phase of a PLM selection process
is the perfect opportunity to put candidate packages through their paces, and
TEC urges users to exercise this blind date' prerogative. However, instead
of letting vendors take charge of the demo and show you their dog and pony'
shows, insist on vendors unequivocally showing you how their system will help
you achieve the desired objectives (see Demonstration
Post-Mortem: Why Vendors Lose Deals).
Accessing TEC's ERP Knowledge Base
list of vendors currently present in TEC's PLM Knowledge Base can be found in
Figure 19. More responses are being received every week; please check http://www.plmevaluation.com/
for the most current status.
||IBM PLM Portfolio
concludes the fifth and final part of a five-part tutorial on how to effectively
streamline the PLM selection process. For more information on using the PLM
Knowledge Base please visit the PLM
Evaluation Center for a free trial.
For questions on the PLM RFI, please contact the TEC PLM Specialist,
Jim Brown, at email@example.com.
Brown has over 15 years of experience in management consulting and
application software focused on the manufacturing industries. Jim
is a recognized expert in software solutions for manufacturing and has broad
knowledge of applying Product Lifecycle Management, Supply Chain Planning, ERP,
Supply Chain Execution, and e-business applications to improve business performance.
Jim served as an executive for software companies specializing
in manufacturing solutions before starting his consulting firm, Tech-Clarity
Associates. He holds a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering from the
University of Maryland, College Park.
can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jakovljevic is a research director with TechnologyEvaluation.com
(TEC), with a focus on the enterprise applications market. He has over 15 years
of manufacturing industry experience, including several years as a power user
of IT/ERP, as well as being a consultant/implementer and market analyst. He
holds a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Belgrade,
Yugoslavia, and he has also been certified in production and inventory management
(CPIM) and in integrated resources management (CIRM) by APICS.