PLM and QMS Software Vendor Reference Checks: Key Questions You Should Ask
A recent Gartner study revealed that 73% of companies that bought an enterprise system regretted their purchase1. In many instances, they reported that the offering failed to meet their expectations. This buyer’s remorse could have been avoided with more extensive technology and vendor evaluations.
Software vendor reference checks can reveal how well the solution lives up to the vision marketed and sold. Naturally, salespeople only supply satisfied customers as references. Yet, with the right questions, you can figure out whether the solution is the best fit for your business.
ENSURING THE PLM/QMS SOLUTION ALIGNS WITH YOUR PRODUCT INNOVATION GOALS
As a product company focused on innovations that change the world, you don’t want to be blindsided by your product lifecycle management (PLM) or quality management system (QMS) solution’s hidden weaknesses. Here, we will help you nail down the right references and provide pointed questions that help determine whether the software vendor is:
- Proven capable of supporting your business model
- Dependable and pleasant to work with over time
- Committed to customers’ success now and in the future
GETTING THE RIGHT REFERENCES
A critical step in your discovery process is obtaining references that share a similar business model. Ask the software vendor’s salesperson for two or three customers that resemble your company. This could include delivering a product similar in complexity (preferably same industry) or leveraging a supply chain strategy like yours. Also obtain some details around what type of software the customer purchased (i.e., PLM vs. QMS).
It is also important to consider the role of the reference in implementing and using the technology. For instance, a C-level executive may not have hands-on experience with the system and thus may not be aware of any shortcomings. The optimal contact is a power user who was part of the selection committee, relies on the system to streamline their job functions, and understands the processes the solution(s) should support.
Does the contact offer both pros and cons or is their feedback simply one-sided? Credible references will share the good as well as areas of improvement.
ASKING THE RIGHT QUESTIONS
Company Profile/Product Development Activities
- How big is your company?
- Does your product have similar components and complexity as our product (i.e., electronics, mechanical, software, firmware, custom parts, IoT elements)?
- Medical device companies: What FDA/EU MDR classification is assigned to your product?
- Aerospace and defense companies: What are your PLM requirements for ITAR (International Traffic in Arms Regulations) and EAR (Export Administration Regulations) export controls?
- Where is your product in the new product development process (i.e., development, prototype, or production)?
- Are you outsourcing production? How many partners do you use? Are your partners international or domestic?
- How often do you personally use the PLM/QMS solution? Have you used similar systems in the past?
- Were you part of the software selection committee?
- What drove your company to invest in a PLM/QMS solution?
- Why did you choose this solution over the others?
- Did you have to acquire additional solutions, services, and/or training after the initial purchase?
- Did you have to justify the purchase to stakeholders? If so, how did you build a financial case?
- Did the vendor provide implementation services or was it handled by a third party?
- Was the implementation a fixed price or was it billed according to time and material?
- What were the resource and time investments needed to implement the solution?
- What modules (e.g., Items, Bills of Materials [BOMs], Change Management) did you implement? Are there any modules included in the purchase that are not being used? If so, why not?
- Did you integrate the PLM/QMS solution with any computer-aided design (CAD), enterprise resource planning (ERP), customer relationship management (CRM), manufacturing execution system (MES), or electronic component database systems? If so, how would you describe the integration process?
- How did the software vendor handle any hiccups or surprises that occurred along the way?
- Did you use any of the vendor’s training courses or materials as part of the implementation? If so, how would you rate these offerings?
- Did the implementation live up to expectations set in the sales process?
Enterprise Product Lifecycle Management/Quality Management System Solution
- What do you like most about the PLM/QMS solution?
- Describe user adoption at your company.
- How does the system’s security model support your needs?
- Do you feel confident the system will easily scale with your business as it evolves?
Education and Support
- What has been your experience with the vendor’s handling of software issues, questions, or concerns?
- How are upgrades performed? What IT resources (if any) are needed?
- What level of communication do you have with the vendor regarding product roadmap, product enhancements, or upcoming releases?
- Do you have access to training materials or educational resources (best practices, tech sessions, webinars, etc.)?
- How many employees, suppliers, and partners are currently using the system? What was the level of effort to onboard them?
- Have you observed any KPI improvements since implementing the system (e.g., reduced engineering change order [ECO] cycle times, corrective and preventive action [CAPA] resolution)?
- Does the solution meet or exceed your expectations?
- Is there anything else I should know?
- Do you have any advice?
CHOOSING THE RIGHT SOLUTION
These questions, plus others derived from your own circumstances, will spark interesting conversation and help you decide whether the references’ choice is the best choice for your company.
For additional insights, read our software buyer’s guide.
- Gartner. Pushing Beyond Enterprise Tech Buyer Regret. 2022.