PLM Interest Group













The Way Forward

PLM Industry Vision

Where is PLM Going?

The definition of 'Full PLM Maturity' has been known for almost a decade, but the PLM industry still has no idea of how to get there.

In the mid-2000s, the direction of PLM could be defined as: "Whatever the vendors are trying to sell".  That was sub-optimal even in those days, when all of the vendors were trying to sell their own particular flavours of PLM solution.

Now, in 2017, much of what the vendors are selling is moving outside the scope of PLM.  It has become much harder for user companies to plan ahead with any clarity, and to be sure that their PLM development is on course.

Not for the first time, fragmentation of ideas and lack of a cohesive viewpoint threatens to slow the progress with which the PLM industry as a whole moves forward.

The Way Forward


Why will an Industry Vision help?


The concept of an Industry Vision for PLM is that users and vendors agree what the future, fully-capable, fully-implemented state of PLM will be.



In business, as in many other areas, you tend to get what you aim for.  A PLM Industry Vision would describe the future 'Fully Mature' scenario so that everyone knows what they are working towards.

A PLM Industry Vision will be set at a particular time in the future, so that people can judge their rate of progress towards it.

And if the Industry Vision is widely agreed and published, then the "lost years" of treading water or not gaining ground can be avoided.


10 Years' Lack of Progress


It may be slightly contentious to suggest that PLM has made no significant progress over the past 10 years. PLM tools have become more capable, and there are more companies implementing PLM.

However, if the background advances in technology (such as connectivity and cloud computing) are set aside, then most of what is happening now is very similar to a decade ago.  One way to illustrate this is to look back at predictions that were made in the past, and see how well they have been fulfilled.


The Way Forward


2009: The Company PLM Vision


In 2009, in the 2PLM e-zine, John Stark set out the importance and parameters of a company PLM Vision.


A PLM Vision is a high-level description of a company's product lifecycle activities at some future time - often five years ahead. Nobody knows what the situation will be in the future, so a Vision is only a forecast of desired future activities, and, like weather forecasts and economist's forecasts, may not be 100% correct. Even so, it helps make good decisions about the resources, priorities, capabilities, budgets, and activities of PLM.

A PLM Vision is the starting point for developing a PLM Strategy, and for developing and implementing improvement plans. There has to be consensus about the Vision. A shared Vision helps everybody to move forward along the same road towards new and effective activities. In the absence of a shared Vision, people won't have a common picture of the future to work towards, so plans and activities are likely to be unconnected or even in conflict.

In practice, though, the world is full of companies that are several years into their PLM implementations, but have not yet defined their PLM Vision or Strategy. Without these, their PLM plans are incomplete and poorly focused, and it is not surprising that the PLM project makes little progress, going round in circles, wasting the company's time and money.


All of this is still true today.  The next logical step is to apply a similar approach to the PLM industry as a whole.

The Way Forward


2010: The PLM Industry Vision


A year later, in the same publication, the PLMIG put forward the idea of an industry-wide PLM Vision.


It is well understood that every PLM implementation should define a PLM Vision as part of its Planning and Company Strategy. It is a fundamental part of project management. It therefore seems reasonable to ask the PLM industry to do the same.

If the PLM industry itself is ever to become mature and deliver everything that users are currently looking for, the picture in 10 years' time is likely to be:-

  • a wide range of vendors and service providers are driving PLM capability forward
  • PLM capability is measured against a framework of industry-wide metrics and standards
  • PLM has become a professional activity so that everyone in business accepts it
  • project justifications are based on an internationally-agreed PLM Reference Model
  • ROI is based on precise metrics generated from real implementation successes
  • every PLM director can say "All of the elements of PLM are in place across the entire enterprise"
  • implementations are mature in this way across all of the industrialised world
  • adoption of PLM is equally complete in the USA, Europe, Asia and the southern hemisphere, enabling true global manufacturing.


This was published in full detail on the PLMIG web site as the PLM Industry Vision for 2020.

The Way Forward


2012: Problems for PLM Managers


Despite all of the forward thinking, the PLM industry has taken no steps towards professionalism, and PLM Managers are still managing their implementations "by the seat of their pants".

The Q3 2012 PLM Journal identified a mild but widespread fatalism that things will never be quite as good as they should be:-

  • "The Board is never going to support PLM properly."
  • "We would like to do that, but we would never get support or approval for it within the company"
  • "We are a subsidiary, and the parent company doesn't listen to us."
  • "The company is much happier spending money on ERP."
  • "PLM is so complex that we will never get it finished."
  • "Other companies are better organised than we are, and don't have the same barriers."
  • "Vendors follow their own roadmaps, and we are forced to go along with them."
  • "Our customers and suppliers aren't adopting PLM nearly as well as they could do."

Many current PLM Managers will look at this list and think that nothing much has changed.

The Way Forward


2012: Industry Vision Revisited


There remained a general view amongst users that, although PLM offerings were evolving, with vendors expanding their range and moving into each other's areas, there was still too much emphasis on the tool and too little on the business concepts and ideas of PLM.

In fact, this showed a mismatch of perceptions, because most PLM vendors would have said that they focused on the business as well as the technical needs of PLM.  The vendor wish list at the time was very similar to that of the users:- agreed standards for PLM; industry-standard approaches to major issues; and a consistent articulation of what PLM is, and what its benefits are.

The overwhelming need for the future was for structure, to give shape to PLM and to quantify what it can do. There should be an agreed set of deliverables to be expected from PLM; key success rules at all levels from the top down; and an agreed definition of the components of PLM to enable a logical, staged implementation process.  Best practice should be quantified, with common metrics, case studies and regular publication of lessons learned.

The PLM Industry Vision was restated based on two simple targets:-

  • In 5 years' time, all of the problems and shortcomings with the current PLM environment have been fixed; and,
  • In 10 years' time, PLM as we know it should be fully implemented.

The Way Forward


PLM Industry Vision 2022


The factors affecting the development of PLM were set out in detail in the Q4 2012 PLM Journal, and the PLM Industry Vision for 2022 was updated.



By 2022, PLM has been publicised and developed as a professional activity so that everyone in business, in any capacity and in any industrialised country, is familiar with it.  PLM teams work in an atmosphere of understanding and acceptance.

Implementations are easily planned using PLM Maturity Model roadmaps and are carried out according to formal PLM Best Practice standards distilled from experienced user companies.

Individual implementations are fully mature, (as defined in Level 5 PLM), across all of the industrialised world.  In the USA, Europe, Asia and the southern hemisphere, the adoption of PLM is just as thorough and complete.  This has brought about some re-balancing of low-cost economies, and it has also transformed the world's productivity. SMEs have been brought into the PLM structure, for their own benefit and for that of the supply chains of larger companies.

PLM capability can be measured against a framework of industry-wide PLM knowledge, metrics and standards, so that user companies of all sizes can plan and implement PLM in a quantified way.  A structured benchmarking programme involving users and vendors has developed an increasing body of PLM metrics that have become formalised into reference models for implementation progress.

PLM has become a recognised profession, and the PLM industry has formed its own international, proactive, industry body.  This body develops new PLM standards, and also liaises with major companies and existing standards organisations to formalise new best practices.  It takes the PLM message to national industry bodies and media sources around the world to pass success stories from one country to another.

By bringing together leading PLM companies in a cooperative structure the industry body acts as a Steering Group for the industry, guiding the future development of PLM.




The Way Forward
  The State of PLM


Time moves on, but this Vision is just as distant as ever.  The goals are still valid, but progress toward them is minimal.

What this timeline shows is that, whenever you lift your head up from the detailed but localised successes of your own implementation, the PLM world outside has stayed pretty much the same.

Until now.  Because the PLM world is changing, as Industrie 4.0 and IoT build up steam.  There are new opportunities for PLM, but there is also a new hidden threat.  The PLM industry faces several years of distraction, while everyone experiments with "the new connected world", followed by several more years of re-learning the PLM skills and principles that have been developed up to this point.

That is why the State of PLM initiative is so important.  It will give PLM practitioners from around the world the chance to agree what PLM should be in the future, and how the new technologies will fit in.  If the initiative is successful, we might also establish a true PLM Industry Vision that everyone can work towards.

You can find more information at .

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