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Questions to Ask Yourself Before Investing in a PLM System

QuestionsFor 15 years, Customer Solution Manager Kraig Clark has developed innovative consumer products across industries, such as automotive, medical, high tech, and consumer products.

He helped develop the original Microsoft Xbox, cell phones for Motorola, washing machines for Whirlpool, and medical devices for several medical companies.

He also worked at many successful startups that grew into a sustainable mature business. One such company quickly had to decide whether to spend millions of dollars, take years to define processes, and hire a team of consultants to help learn an on-premise product lifecycle management (PLM) system or look into a cloud PLM system so as to get it done in a much more timely manner.

In part two of our interview with Clark, Customer Success Manager at Arena, he talks about the matrix of requirements each company must consider when investing in a PLM system.

Arena: What are some considerations that are often forgotten about when companies decide whether to invest in on-premise versus a cloud PLM system?

Clark: How easy is it to add and deploy new users? Can the system be globally accessible anywhere — quickly? Are there security practices in place that may prevent breaches? Those are just a few considerations.

Arena: Some companies forget about the cost of deploying a solution. What advice do you have for companies to ensure all considerations are well accounted for and analyzed in advance of investing in a solution?

Clark: I tell companies they should create a matrix of requirements with a handful of buckets: licenses, implementation services, etc. The most important and often overlooked facet is the need for ongoing administration. For your system to stick, it needs to continuously evolve and constantly add value to the team that relies on it. Otherwise, it’s all for naught.

Arena: How should a company rank the capabilities of PLM solutions? Any guidelines?

Clark: This really gets into what are your business’s unique requirements. Some may prioritize features like change control, user provisioning, or compliance management above advanced features like Quality or Analytics. At past companies we considered thirty-plus core PLM capabilities, but focused our evaluation on the ten things that were critically important for our business.

Arena: Let me play the role of devil’s advocate. If you are an established company, an on-premise solution gives you 100 percent flexibility to build a system that supports the processes and teams ingrained in your business. With Arena PLM, you have configuration flexibility, but you don’t have access to the code base to customize it into exactly what you want. Is that bad?

Clark: In my view, configuration is what makes Arena so powerful because it is architected from the ground up around best practices. Arena handles items, bill of materials (BOM), change control and workflows right out of the box, and the entire system works seamlessly together. That alone works for the vast majority of the companies I talk to.

Arena: With a cloud solution, there may be one or two caveats that customers don’t like or they wish were slightly different, correct?

Clark: Of course, but overall they’re going to get 90 percent of the value they’re looking for with 10 percent of the effort. When you go to an on-premise solution you have to build a lot of the basics from scratch, then connect them together in a meaningful way.

Arena: With on-premise, the tool kits and the code are there to make it what you want, but it can create a burden to establish a tool that works the way you expect because you have to build everything from scratch.

Clark: The cloud solution is a tool that’s giving you best practices that work across a variety of industries. Arena works in high tech, medical device, consumer electronics products — it works for pretty much every industry that which is interested in complex electronics, because it’s built on best practices that people understand and are expecting to see in a PLM system.

Arena: Why is a cloud-based PLM system especially imperative to resource-strapped emerging product development companies?

Clark: The challenges for emerging companies are unique, because they’re building the airplane while flying it. To make matters worse, PLM and/or enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems are often implemented at the same time to help support the growth. Companies in that situation are often looking to us to guide them on what’s worked well for other companies that look like theirs.

Craig ClarkMost product companies want a solution that they can get up and running in weeks or months, without IT support. Users need to see value quickly. In my experience, Arena has been the only PLM solution that could provide just that.

To learn more how Arena has helped other startups succeed, check out these case studies.