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PLM selection processes are failing: Here is why that is a major problem to the industry

For many years, I have seen the same pattern repeat itself when manufacturing companies, who are actively looking for a PLM solution, invite different vendors to participate in a software selection process.

Different PLM vendors are given the opportunity to present how their solution could solve the challenges for the company. But every time I read the list of requirements that the PLM system should live up to, I usually sense that something is not right.

It is like the list has been written to fit a certain vendor, or even worse, has been written by a vendor for the company.

I have seen this so many times that I am now convinced of the fact that PLM selection processes have become facades.

They are like theatrical performances where it seems to be a competition between software vendors and implementation partners, but where the winner has been chosen before the match has started. You are welcome to challenge me, but I stand firmly convinced of that fact.

Now, I am not stating that every PLM selection process is preconfigured to fit a certain vendor. But too many of them are, unfortunately. This has led me to believe that the structure behind selection processes are failing. Here is why I think that is a major problem in the industry.


Preconfigured selection processes lead to PLM failures

The biggest problem is that preconfigured selection processes lead to an increased amount of failed PLM implementation projects.

Companies who are looking for a PLM solution, are usually not aware of what they exactly want or need in a PLM system. Therefore, they are not fully equipped to validate the solutions a vendor will present to them.

And certain PLM software vendors are very good at guiding the customer into setting their PLM wants and needs while hiding their PLM systems behind clever marketing, fantastic videos, and big pre-sales teams.

In the end, the selection process becomes a political circus.

The lack of knowledge is disturbing

Historically, business managers and IT professionals have been the major cause of PLM failures. These individuals underestimate the complexity of the planning, development and training that is needed to prepare for a new PLM system that originally was designed to change their business processes and information systems.


  • Failure to involve affected employees in the planning and development phases and change management programs, or trying to do too much too fast in the conversion process
  • Insufficient training in the new work tasks required by the PLM system, and failure to do enough data conversion and testing

Above all of this, I believe the root cause for the implementation failure lies in the selection process. PLM failures are happening due to over-reliance by the company and its IT management on the claims of PLM software vendors – and sometimes also the assistance of prestigious consulting firms hired to lead the implementation.


My recommendation is:

Leaders within these companies should ask themselves the following questions before they do anything else.

  • Which strategic goals should the company achieve and which of those goals should be supported by a PLM software system?
  • Which business processes should be supported by the PLM system?

At first, do not focus heavily on the tool – the PLM system – but put your focus on what you want to do with it. Once you have figured that out, you are ready to choose the software.

But choose wisely. PLM software is not the main reason behind a PLM implementation failure, but it is certainly part of the failure. It does matter which PLM software you choose to go with.

Remain flexible and do not automatically settle for incumbent software if the products and plans do not match up well to your company’s strategic requirements.

About the author

Leon Lauritsen

Leon has worked with multiple IT systems from ERP to BI and PLM. His experience ranges all the way from programming to business consulting, project management and business development. Leon started his career in IT development and has further earned a diploma in IT and Economics at Copenhagen Business School and an Executive MBA at Henley Management College.  

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