Monday, April 23, 2012

Guest Post: What to Consider when Looking for Cloud-Based PLM Software

As of 2012, the term ‘cloud computing’ has gone mainstream. People are no longer limited to their computers to store personal and business information; it makes sense that product lifecycle management (PLM) systems would be the next area to get the cloud facelift. If you’re considering PLM software in the cloud, you need to know the good, the bad, and the ultimate truth.

The Good
One of the big pluses of a cloud PLM solution is the savings you experience in the short term. Often cloud-based PLM is offered as a subscription service with monthly fees instead of the large lump sum payment needed to purchase on-premise alternatives. Also with the cloud you’ll reap the benefits involved: reduced hardware reliance, fewer expensive upgrades, and scalability. However, one of the greatest benefits your company will reap is accessibility.

‘Anywhere, anytime’ was once a catch phrase for only a handful of companies, but now this notion has spread to every cloud-based software solution available. Your team can access a cloud PLM system wherever there is an internet connection, which is great for your business, partners and suppliers. The ability to collaborate more effectively through cloud access leads to continuous improvement and greater efficiencies. The innovation in both product and processes reflects positively on your bottom line and gives your company a competitive advantage.

By allowing all facets of the manufacturing process to be easily accessed by everyone involved, companies can consolidate data, remove redundancies, and better manage new initiatives. Universal access for all parties involved also leads to a reduced time to market for you products. Real-time data input, knowledge syncing and forecasting capabilities allow you to remove complications before they arise. 

The Bad (but not really)
Critics of cloud PLM systems will cite issues with security and availability as reasons to avoid software in the cloud. With large virtual servers that store your confidential information there’s no doubt that this is a serious threat to consider. That being said, with proper research into the reputation of service providers this risk can be mitigated. Check company policies that address security so you know how your confidential data is stored and what would happen if it was compromised.

Another challenge that you will have to consider is downtime. The information stored in your PLM cloud solution is crucial to your day-to-day operations, so limited access will affect your productivity. Check with the provider to see what kinds of compensation they offer for any downtime experienced. Often times cloud service vendors will list an uptime of 99% or higher and have it in their contract agreements that clients will be reimbursed for any time the service goes down.

The Truth
The choice of a PLM solution, whether it’s in the cloud or on in-house servers, truly isn’t going to make or break your business. At its core your business needs a strategy for success that moves beyond technicalities and encompasses company culture, industry trends and customer needs. A cloud PLM solution could be a great tool to help you advance your business to the next level. Just remember, it is still in its infancy and feature offerings will likely be expanded as cloud-based PLM systems grow in popularity. Keep your eyes open to see what’s available and what’s in development so that you can find the best solution for your organization.

What do you think?

See my previous post for more on cloud PLM!


  1. Jim, great writeup! I think, the question of revenue models for cloud PLM is still questionable. Newcomers and "pure cloud" vendors are proposing radically new business models. Existing providers are looking how to rationalize the packages.

    It will be interesting how PLM will switch to ClouD PLM...

    Best, Oleg

  2. Oleg,

    Thanks for the comments. I think there will be some interesting options for PLM in the cloud. There may be a need for some understanding of unique PLM needs for these "pure cloud" providers, but there are certainly many potential options that could be successful.

    I think that PLM will always need some type of hybrid approach; what that is, may be hard to say today.



  3. Jim,

    As a user, I just want to "open" or “save” the file.

    I don’t care if the file is stored on my local hard disk, stored on a shared disk in a closet down the hall, or stored on the cloud in Washington.
    My IT groups job is to ensure that I have availability and security.

    Availability to me means that the file is available to me 99.99% of the time, and that if there is a hardware issue somewhere, they have backups of the data that can be restored quickly.
    Security means that I own the decryption key, and that only I can see the contents of the file.

    Jerry Sarfati
    These thoughts and opinions are my own, and not that of my employer.

  4. Jerry,

    Thanks for the comment!

    Yes, I agree with you. The bottom line is getting access to my data. I suppose we could store the files on the planet Mars, if that was feasible and safe.

    I think there are some advantages that users would notice with files that are stored on the cloud, such as enhanced collaboration, support for mobility, scalability for big data, and so forth.

    But, you are right: users don't care where the files are stored, as long as they can get them when they need them.



  5. PLM isn't just about files people! It's about business applications spanning the entire product lifecycles. Therefore, to Jim's point, a hybrid approach, where files can be dealt with appropriately, is where we've place our bets. As to Jerry's point, however, if we were for a moment to limit the conversation to files (rather than to PLM), I agree. It should be automatic. PDM just gets in the way!

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