Deciding whether or not to upgrade can be a significant decision for the business, platform subject matter experts and functional managers; it makes sense to consider the need to upgrade from the perspective of added business value, as well as risk mitigation, cost avoidance and total cost of ownership reduction. Upgrade bring a balance of new and enhanced capabilities, potential performance and other “under the hood” improvements.
Postponing technical upgrades can have severe implications for the business: not only can doing so disrupt production operations, slow down in-flight product development, but can also have a significant negative impact on the company’s ability to scale, grow and adjust to market conditions.
In this post, I elaborate on the typical decision criteria when considering PLM platform upgrades, including responding to external requirement, considering high-level assumptions and dependencies to plan for such initiatives.
Deciding and planning the next PLM platform upgrade is critical to both short- and long-term business scalability and adaptability. Short-term benefits include access to recent enhancements and capabilities. Long-term benefits include ongoing learning, experimentation, stability and technical alignment. This includes opportunities to adopt latest industry best practices and also influence the content of future releases.
To upgrade or not to upgrade: typical decision criteria
Various business related and technical perspectives come into play when assessing the need and timing for PLM upgrades; most decision criteria includes the following considerations:
- What is the urgency and why should the business prioritize an upgrade over other improvement initiatives?
Juggling between multiple requirements, product development projects, internal and other externally facing improvement initiatives is a typical operational dilemma of any businesses. Keeping the enterprise aligned with effective and efficient processes and tools is part of the continuous improvement portfolio. With any of such initiatives, the key is always to balance business return of investment with the time to benefit and implementation complexity.
- Does the business have the relevant insight to assess and understand what value an upgrade would bring?
Different upgrades often bring different tangible benefits based on scope and scale of the change. Understanding how to such value will be delivered is critical to build the initial business case.
- Does the organization understand the risks and mitigations related to “doing nothing” versus prioritizing an upgrade?
Looking at business value includes considering risk mitigation, cost reduction and avoidance. Doing nothing or postponing an upgrade can surely also have a cost: from ongoing and potentially rising maintenance to extend the shelf-life of aging solution beyond a certain point.
- Based on a typical S-curve, is it advised to delay and wait for future obsolescence or scalability issues to emerge with the risk of production implications or losing competitive advantage?
Delaying upgrade can impact the ability to scale (to more with the same) or expand operations. Timely change can have different implication to how the organization learns and adjust to a new solution. Adopting change, and effectively adjusting to it, can bring a certain competitive edge over competition when rightly positioned.
- How to build the business case for an upgrade and get investment approvals?
The bigger the upgrade is, the more executive and financial justification is typically required. Build the case for such investment can be time consuming if not integrated as part of a continuous improvement roadmap.
- Are modern cloud-hosted / SaaS solutions providing new answers to upgrade and scalability requirements, and providing new commercial models to deal with change? Who controls such changes and their business implications?
Both infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) and software-as-a-service (SaaS) bring new opportunities for managed maintenance and associated commercial models. It is important to assess short- vs long-term value engagement with such models, including the practicality of transitioning and managing such operational models: controlling ongoing operational efficiency and potential disruption levels.
Responding to external disruption
External forces can bring either opportunities or treats to operations and across the extended enterprise: from adopting new technologies and operating models, to adapting to new legislation or responding to competitive change.
The most prominent example of unforeseen external disruption relates for instance to the Covid pandemic with the imposed requirement for the whole business to operate remotely.
Are organizations remaining effective in such context, and how does this situation affect their ability to collaborate, innovate, or simply “keep the lights on” with their existing product development operations? Is this situation, perhaps more than ever organizations should consider upgrading their digital platforms to prepare for the “next normal”; there are also opportunities to innovate and improve their operating model during uncertain times to emerge stronger on the other side of the crisis.
Planning the next PLM upgrade
Preparing and planning upgrades brings invaluable insight about how the business can leverage new capabilities and other operational improvements. This implies defining and validating a number of assumptions and dependencies:
- Planning assumptions link to business priorities, product development imperatives and other constraints to minimize business disruption, but also ensure that the required level of business involvement is estimated and approved.
- Planning dependencies include both business and technical dependencies: what needs to happen, in what sequence, and what are the implications (e.g., from a data cleansing requirement perspective, or in order to assess technical changes and their implication to existing processes and / or the underlying system build)
- Resource requirements must include internal and third-party resources, also including the existing support teams, understanding delivery and commercial models in onboarding the relevant partner to perform the upgrade.
- Commercia requirements link to the above considerations, how to maximize return-on-investment and delivery risks; based on the chosen commercial approach, the delivery plan needs to be adjusted as required to allow for the right level of due diligence and governance.