The processes espoused with a preconfigured PLM system likely involve some changes that would be highly beneficial to any organization. However, few companies are truly prepared for the level of change required to follow a pure out-of-the-box PLM implementation approach. Moreover, there are some aspects of every company’s processes or business model that are highly unique and are their primary drivers of competitive advantage. As a result, for most companies, some further configuration and/or customization of the PLM system is needed and appropriate.
Yet too much customization can lead to a lengthier and more costly project, and it can inhibit future upgrades as well. Therefore, any project should incorporate a strict governance model to evaluate the projected ROI of each customization being considered. A delicate balance must be achieved: on one hand, companies cannot compromise their “secret sauce” for the sake of a cheaper and faster software implementation, but on the other hand, too much customization increases the maintenance burden and may limit the ability to benefit from future software enhancements.
Established companies with rigid processes or legacy systems in need of replacement will tend more towards the customization side of the PLM implementation spectrum. This approach enables them to maintain the key differentiating aspects of their business model and reduces the change management requirements of the initiative. Additionally, the longer implementation time can be more easily tolerated as there are already methods and tools in place that have enabled the company to be successful.
A PLM initiative should begin by fully assessing the OOTB system and identifying areas where processes can be changed to align with the OOTB functionality. Even successful, established companies can benefit from a process review and insight into the best practices of others within the industry. For the areas that are highly unique and cannot be met with the OOTB system, configuration approaches should be pursued before customizing. Customization is expensive, can inhibit or make future upgrades much more painful, and should only be pursued when necessary to maintain competitive advantage.