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Top 10 PLM Adoption Mistakes to Avoid

The allure of becoming digitally proficient has taken companies by storm, especially when it comes to product lifecycle management (PLM). Globally, there are approximately 103,332 companies that are currently using PLM, with 65,804 based in the U.S.1

A PLM solution manages your product’s lifecycle throughout every phase from ideation, development, and implementation to retirement. While PLM provides many benefits like real-time collaboration, increased productivity, faster time to market, and better process efficiency—what happens if you make a mistake during your prospecting, discovery, or implementation phase? Or, what if you have overlooked a set of smaller issues that can create roadblocks later down the road instantly devaluing your PLM investment or team trust within your organization?

PLM, like any major purchase whether for personal or business, requires time invested. You need to understand the technical as well as your business requirements along with the challenges your company must resolve.

Knowing the long-term vision to support innovation and growth within your company will also be helpful as you begin to gain more knowledge about features and functionality.

Your PLM Journey — Where Do You Start?

  • Research: Technology trends, costs, and solutions for your industry
  • Compare: With other solutions and read online reviews to get an insider POV
  • Get input/feedback: From others in your organization
  • Understand: Business objectives that need resolution and your requirements
  • Take inventory: Know what’s in your current technology stack
  • Get buy-in: Communicate across your organization to get support from your peers and leadership teams

As you begin your PLM selection, consider these 10 PLM adoption mistakes that organizations frequently make, along with suggestions from our PLM experts on how to prevent them.


1. Misaligned Expectations

Lack of alignment across the organization can result in ambiguous business outcomes, uncertain success metrics, fragmented project implementations, or resistance to change.

Ensure all teams and business units who will use the PLM solution, such as engineering, operations, quality, and even marketing, have provided input on expectations. This will help ensure everyone is on the same page and the implementation gets off to a good start.

Having a strategy that clearly defines what challenges and issues the PLM solution will address can help bolster support.

Advice From the Field

Once you bypass the challenge of getting buy-in, you’re able to bring all your processes together because each team interacts with PLM differently. Engineering brings its design; manufacturing brings its bill of materials (BOM); the quality team brings its SOPs, quality processes, work instructions, and manuals; marketing brings its marketing strategy. Once all that is defined it speeds up your product-to-market efficiency with more control and reliability,” said Jair Aldana, PTC Customer Success Coach.

2. Lack of Executive Buy-in

Whether you manage your budget or rely on providing leadership with a business case for funding, failure to get executive and organizational support could result in less cooperation from your teams. A clear, executive-backed business reason for the expenditure should help overcome naturally negative feelings about change during the implementation and go-live phase.

Have a written strategy or roadmap in place. Get PLM vendor proposals for cost comparisons. Be able to provide leadership with the issues and challenges that are hindering operations and scalability. Show evidence of what can be solved using PLM along with potential ROI that can be achieved. Consider getting endorsements from key stakeholders across your organization supporting the PLM efforts.

Advice From the Field

One of the key things we did to get buy-in at Cricut and Crocs was to get cross-functional support. We had many conversations across our team to understand our pain points. Using live demos, we were able to demonstrate to our executive team how to fix these pain points. We could show where we’re connecting all the data, here’s how we can maintain it ourselves, here’s what the output looks like, and we can quickly connect this out into meaningful analytics and pull it into BI tools. That was the thing that did the best for us when we were getting our executives to buy in,” said Dani Cordsen, PTC Principal Product Manager.

3. Implementing Too Fast

Instinctively, you may want to implement every aspect of your PLM solution at once, but you can run the risk of it being counter-productive. When implementing a PLM solution, consider a phased approach. It’s important to demonstrate success at each phase (particularly if you have any detractors) to help build momentum and gain buy-in and team trust. Start with core PLM capabilities like bill of materials (BOMs) management, change management, and document management.

Advice From the Field

I don’t think you can do a big bang and implement everything all at once. I think the logical way to do it is to start with your core PLM, which includes your change management. Then invite your suppliers and put in the supplier piece. And once you have that going, loop in your quality and look at that. It’s kind of like a big bang phased approach but that doesn’t mean it has to take years,” said Christine Pompa, PTC Customer Success Coach.

4. Lack of Integration

Depending on your products or business model, you may need to integrate with other solutions to keep your business competitive and profitable. One of the key mistakes you can make is not considering the integration approach of the PLM vendor. Should you use point-to-point, middleware, or application programming interfaces (APIs)? This can impact your ability to integrate with your upstream and downstream solutions (such as ERP, CRM, CAD, EDA). You can end up slowing down the development process and causing unnecessary risk into the development lifecycle.

As an example, if there is a problem in product development and it does not reach marketing in time, you could be launching a product that’s not ready yet. Make sure your new solution can receive data and information from your other systems within your organization. Moving data and information out of silos and giving access to all teams is imperative. A reliable integration results in better alignment of product information between engineering and production teams.

Advice From the Field

Connecting data across your systems ensures accuracy, standardization, and efficiency. You need proven methods to integrate systems fast if you want these benefits. Focus on platforms that provide low-code, scalable methods to meet your needs now and in the future. Modern solutions must include ways you can quickly and economically connect to the systems and tech stack you have today and what you will need in the future as technologies change and the nature of product manufacturing evolves,” stated Heatherly Bucher, PTC Director of Strategic Alliances.

5. Migrating Dirty Data or Information

Start your PLM migration with clean data and information. GIGO stands for garbage in, garbage out. It’s a computer science and mathematics concept that the quality of the input determines the quality of the output.2

Migrating dirty data and outdated information can devalue your PLM investment, preventing you from driving optimum results. Make room in your implementation strategy to audit your data and information. Be especially vigilant as you start to transition from paper-based processes. If the processes don’t work well in a manual setting, they likely won’t work in an automated system. Use this as an opportunity to improve your overall environment.

Advice From the Field

Clean data is critical for PLM adoption. Build a schedule of how data will migrate, and why it’s needed, outline the team who is accountable for verifying data accuracy, and get leadership to support the effort. It is common to uncover discrepancies in existing production during this process, so be prepared to allow time for investigation and resolution cycles,” said Dani Cordsen, PTC Principal Product Manager.

6. Lack of Training

Take time to train all employees who will use the PLM system. Training helps ensure proper usage of the solution and recommended adoption practices.

Let employees know why the company is purchasing the PLM solution and how it’s going to solve “identified” challenges and issues. Everyone on your team and within the company who uses PLM needs training. Do not overlook training your external partners who will be using the system as well. Likewise, you might consider creating a training document with guidelines and best practices.

Advice From the Field

Training can be tricky, especially when teams are spread across the globe and have different levels of experience working with PLM systems. Establishing subject matter experts (SMEs) in different roles and offices who meet regularly to review common training requests or pain points is a very effective way to build a common language and remove barriers. Using screen recordings to capture key tasks and hosting Q&A sessions are two great ways to encourage engagement and provide users with the ability to jog their memory. Another great tool is a sandbox workspace. Setting up a mirrored workspace and asking teams to perform practice processes in that workspace is a safe way to test new processes and build confidence among users, SMEs, and admins,” said Dani Cordsen, PTC Principal Product Manager.

7. Weaning Your Teams Off Spreadsheets and Paper-Based Processes After Implementation

Change can be challenging for some employees. It can be difficult to adapt to new work habits, especially moving from familiar paper-based processes and spreadsheets to a completely new automated technology solution.

To help this transition, you should make a clear, concise case that demonstrates why the new PLM solution is a better fit for the organization. Teams need convincing: They need to see evidence where paper dependency failed, and how PLM delivers real-time results, collaboration, and a single source of truth that ties everything together.

Advice From the Field

Education is key when transitioning from spreadsheets and paper to an electronic system; everyone at different levels will have different sentiments and understanding, but keeping the message on the core values of increased collaboration, streamlined efficiency, quality data, single source of truth, and educating the team on how an electronic system provides all of this and more will resonate with everyone,” noted Jair Aldna, PTC Customer Success Coach.

8. Underestimating the Importance of a Purpose-Built Platform

One of the main advantages of a purpose-built platform is having true support in addition to the right functionality that aligns with your organization’s everyday operations. Instead of cobbling a variety of applications and software solutions together to perform specific tasks and functions, a purpose-built PLM platform is designed to provide everything you need to manage your product development processes.

For a purpose-built platform to truly succeed, you need to have a concise roadmap that includes strategy, execution, long-term flexibility, and scalability. Your roadmap should include evidence that shows the quantifiable and unquantifiable benefits that make the platform purchase a smarter approach than a custom-built platform. Establish well-defined goals and a strategic vision. The budget and project scope need to be carefully managed to avoid implementation roadblocks.

Advice From the Field

It’s not a one-size-fits-all approach.” A purpose-built platform requires the team to engage in conversation and bring stakeholders together to understand the business needs and assess opportunities for scale and improvement with the new PLM platform. This will allow the business to gather purposeful requirements which will translate into a purpose-built platform that aligns with business needs and scale,” said Jair Aldna, PTC Customer Success Coach.

9. Limited Focus on Just Product Features

Having a singular focus simplifies your end goal. As you develop your PLM implementation roadmap—what outcomes are you trying to achieve? What data and information do you have that suggest, the software features you want are going to align with company strategy? Your PLM success relies on more than software features. It’s the underlying architecture—is it scalable and secure? When it comes to your implementation methodology—is it proven and logical? You also need to consider the customer success organization—who is in these roles and what is their background? And finally, the PLM company itself—are they a good partner for you as you grow?

Advice From the Field

A lot of times we pick a tool based on the features, but how are we going to scale? Is there a support plan for it, right? Is there a team that’s going to help me? It’s going to be more like a partnership than just like we sold you a tool and then now you’re off on your own, and that’s one thing to evaluate,” stated Jair Aldana, PTC Customer Success Coach.

10. Improperly Scaling Your PLM Solution

Scaling your PLM solution should be approached strategically. It’s critical to understand the connection between scalability and product growth. Growth is about taking what works and scaling it up. Scaling your PLM solution may be necessary to support the product’s growth, especially if it’s gaining traction and attracting more sales enabling you to provide service to more customers.

Advice From the Field

The number one mistake to avoid when scaling is to bite off more than you can chew. We see the most success when companies use a phased approach for implementing new features. If you try to set up everything all at once, you’re more likely to run into issues. You may realize that you don’t have the resources to do everything at once and need to make critical decisions in the middle of the project instead of at the beginning, causing your project to lose momentum. Or your users may be overwhelmed with many new processes all at once and not be as efficient at the beginning. Three things to consider: Make sure you have a plan; make sure you have the resources to accomplish the plan; and make sure that training your users is part of the plan,” noted Chloe Stabler, PTC Customer Success Coach.

Path to Successful PLM Adoption

The allure of becoming digitally proficient is not a nice-to-have feature or capability anymore. Digital proficiency is a prerequisite, especially if your company wants to get to market faster, manage compliance, and develop innovative products that are next-generation in complexity.

Investing in a PLM solution that aligns with your company’s values will be critical. Studying PLM’s key capabilities and implementation know-how can help ensure your solution adoption goes smoother. Thorough research and investigation will provide the essential groundwork so you can scale and enable you to continuously improve as changes influence the market.

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