Do I need BPM with PLM?

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I came across this white paper from IBM  – Realizing the Full Scope of PLM with Business Process Management.  This white paper seems to be a bit dated given the changes that have taken place in PLM (product life-cycle management). Pega has also laid down great points related to the advantages of using BPM for PLM in a whitepaper .  After going through an actual project of matching end-user needs with BPM (Business process management), I feel nothing much has changed about people’s perspective about BPM.  Given this background here is my analysis in the following few sentences that provides a practical comparison between BPM and PLM.

BPM has a very broad relevance across business areas as it primarily uses tecBPM Hammerhnology and generic workflow pattern to simplify business processes. By design, BPM packages need to be customized to fit any business needs. This inherent flexibility makes BPM a logical candidate for simplifying the business processes around product development and maintenance.  This in-turn makes BPM expensive, time consuming to implement and resource intensive to maintain. In comparison PLM is specifically directed towards product innovation, life-cycle management and it addresses all product-process based business processes. PLM vendors include functions in their vanilla packages that address the core product centric business processes.

I believe BPM is a great solution –  if you have a unique business process or a unique technology issue that none of commercially available PLM packages are unable to address. Just because you have bigger hammer let’s not universally assume everything is a nail.

What’s your BPM-PLM experience?

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What is PLM (Product Life-Cycle Management)?

Filed in BPM | Enterprise Software | PLM Leave a comment

For sticklers,  here is my attempt at the definition of PLM: –

“PLM is an enterprise software strategy that helps firms plan and achieve product-process innovation from their conceptualization to decommissioning, encompassing people or systems across the value chain”.

PLM has evolved from its origins in computer design, management of product development data, simulation and now taking root in advanced virtual reality. It can certainly be a topic of contention to define the boundaries of PLM.  I think the PLM concept becomes easily understandable if we concentrate on one word i.e. – “life-cycle”. Simplistically, PLM is the management of the entire life-cycle of a product. Lifecycle  is defined as a series of stages through which something (as an individual, culture, or manufactured product) passes during its lifetime.

This simplistic view of life-cycle makes PLM expansive and a bit confusing.  It is undeniable that PLM is an enterprise software strategy rather than just a business strategy. End-users (consumers of PLM) might have a business need that may or may not require end-to-end PLM suite. An end-user might choose more than one PLM software vendor to address their product’s life-cycle.

The question arises, if PLM manages life-cycle of a product or a process. Why can’t we use an ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) or BPM (Business Process Management) software? The answer is “INNOVATION”. PLM software helps in innovating new products and processes from existing ones. Please be assured I am not talking about Invention, the keyword is “innovation”. If your PLM software implementation has not helped you innovate, you could be better off with customized ERP or BPM software. My focus in this blog piece is not highlight difference between PLM and other enterprise software’s, but to draw some boundaries and provide an understanding in few words to both engineering as well as business audience as to what PLM is really all about ?

PLM What


This figure provides a representation of the areas or domains that PLM software covers; each domain is represented in the outer circle like Simulation, Idea Management, Design, Configuration etc. Many PLM vendors specialize in a single or multiple domains of PLM. It may also be noted that certain domains or areas of PLM represented in the figure such as PPM (Project & Portfolio Management)  have roots and applicability outside of PLM, but only their  product innovation based functions grant them to be part of PLM.

I hope this write-up  provides a starting point for a wholesome discussion about the definition and boundaries of PLM.

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