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The 5-Step Process For A Seamless PLM Upgrade

As PLM vendors introduce next-generation platforms to address the dynamic business requirements involved in product strategy formulation and implementation, companies too must optimize their investments in PLM upgrades.

As Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) vendors introduce next-generation platforms to address the dynamic business requirements involved in product strategy formulation and implementation, companies too must optimize their investments in PLM upgrades.

The global economic turmoil of the past several years has had major impact on the way companies do business. Product lifecycle management helps businesses to create innovative products, reduce the time-to-market, and respond to dynamic supply chain conditions. Based on CIMdata estimates, the mainstream PLM market grew 12.6% in 2012 to US$21.1 billion. Aided by an increase in demand for improved efficiency and productivity, and a growing need for collaboration across the global manufacturing lifecycle, PLM saw a sustained growth in 2012. In addition to adoption in traditional industries such as automotive, aerospace and defense, the solution also found wide acceptance in non-traditional verticals like consumer packaged goods, medical devices, retail, energy, architecture, engineering and construction, and shipbuilding.  

The Need for PLM Upgrades

Keeping the PLM system aligned with the latest system patches, software updates and business process improvements is critical, but often neglected. Some of the typical reasons for a PLM upgrade include:

  • Leveraging additional capabilities in the next generation platforms;
  • Resolving issues (in terms of performance, sustainability, maintainability and stability) in the existing PLM deployment;
  • Addressing platform incompatibilities as the underlying software and hardware platforms keep evolving. 

Challenges Involved

PLM companies are coming up with next-generation platforms to address these dynamic business needs. However, buyers of the solutions are often faced with the challenge of how to optimize their investments, in addition to managing the risks on their IT investments and data assets.

Some of the other key issues include changing the business process/system, ensuring operational continuity, dealing with non-scalable PLM deployment, rolling out upgrade in heterogeneous enterprise systems, non-traceable configuration management and addressing the integration complexities. On the user front, resistance to change and insufficient training are also notable challenges.   


Best Practices for a PLM Upgrade

By adhering to these best practices, organizations can minimize the risk involved in the upgrade and derive the maximum value from their investment.

1. Pre-upgrade exhaustive technical fit analysis: The first step in a PLM upgrade implementation is to assess the impact on the overall system architecture and fitment of the new functionalities, infrastructure components and changes in user experience. The technical fit analysis process is critical, as it will determine the overall success of the upgrade.  During this process, organizations can achieve the following:

    • Identify common document model and data migration issues;
    • Create upgrade plan and estimates;
    • Validate quality assurance test plans.

2. Upgrade assessment & proposal: Before embarking on the implementation process, organizations need to decide their upgrade strategy, which requires a detailed assessment of their existing PLM system from a technical and functional standpoint. The upgrade strategies include:

    • Comprehensive upgrade: Addresses issues in the existing system, thus making it more robust;
    • Hybrid approach: Followed for specific PLM applications (done under comprehensive upgrade) and for the remaining, a plain upgrade is done.

Once the organization decides the approach best suited to meet its requirements, it needs to select the right upgrade implementation partner. That is, one who has a strong cross-functional experience in order to help make the transition seamless and hassle-free. 

3. Upgrade implementation & validation: Some of the key challenges in rollout include implementation within scheduled timelines, minimum disruption to the users; and establishing certain contingency measures to handle unforeseen issues.

The completion of a PLM upgrade is different from a software development project mainly due to multiple projects running simultaneously and significant impact on data due to the scope and upgrade strategy followed. In an upgrade project, organizations need to make sure that code merging has been done to ensure that none of the current functionalities from the existing system or from the new release get inadvertently overridden. A typical PLM implementation includes the following code elements—custom source code, out of the box (OOTB) source code, custom configurations, and OOTB configurations.

Data handling is another key challenge in PLM upgrade implementation. As data is the most important asset for the deployed PLM system, companies need to be sure that data integrity is not impacted. On the other hand, many companies would also be looking to address the data corrections and schema optimizations during the upgrade.

4. Packaged delivery: Even though a PLM upgrade may or may not involve a significant change in the user experience, their early involvement will ensure seamless transition. To achieve this, companies can prepare the training material highlighting ‘what’s new’ in terms of user experience between the two versions; update the current user guides and related content; give a demonstration of the upgraded platform; prior to release, prepare a list of common issues to help address queries on new platform; and organize a help desk team at multiple locations to handle user requests. Keeping customers informed is a crucial component to a smooth transition.

5. Post-deployment support: This is a very critical part of a PLM upgrade implementation process, and is an ongoing process, even after the project completion. Post-deployment support includes steps like:

    • Customer acceptance test
    • Production go-live
    • Post-production support

What to Walk Away With

With today’s demands for businesses to create innovative products, reduce the time-to-market, and respond to dynamic supply chain conditions, a defined set of processes must be put in place to ensure that development teams experience a seamless PLM upgrade. Those organizations that follow a several-step approach, similar to the one outlined above, will experience less risk and difficulty when upgrading solutions. There will also be a greater sense of consistency to the process and support available to see it through.

Alok Sinha President, Global Application & Engineering Services, at Xchanging, the $1B business process, procurement and technology services provider. To learn more, please visit or follow Xchanging on Twitter, @XchangingGroup.

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