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Strategic Visions of the Major PLM Vendors 2014+


The PLM and engineering software market is as dynamic and innovative as ever. As 2013 draws to a close I want to share my perspective on what to expect from the major vendors in 2014 and beyond. Product innovation, product development, R&D, and engineering are top priorities in today’s manufacturers and each vendor has their unique take on how to best meet their customers’ needs. For anyone that thinks this is a boring or mature market, I challenge them to find two vendors who have the same solution footprint, or even two with the same definition of PLM beyond the surface level of “managing product lifecycles from cradle to grave” (which drives me mad because it doesn’t really mean anything).


Note: Please see the update to this post, Strategies of the Major PLM Vendors 2015+


The Source of my Perspective

I get the opportunity to attend a lot of conferences and speak with the leadership of most of the major vendors in the PLM and engineering software market. Whenever possible, I attend their user conferences so I can hear how manufacturers use the solutions alongside the vendor presentations on strategic vision. Many days I go from a keynote talking about the future to a user presentation on how a company met their struggle with a mundane (but critical) problem like configuration management. The vendors are painting the picture for the future and working on advanced topics like systems-level PLM and how collaboration changes in the age of the cloud and social media while their customers deal with the challenges of today. And as a recent discussion on LinkedIn (see comments for links to some interesting discussions) pointed out, many vendors are taking a fresh look at data access, search, and search based applications (SBA). How do you sort through it all? For me it’s about looking, listening, and asking the right questions.

As always, I don’t think being an analyst makes me any smarter than anybody else in the market, but I do think it offers me access and a unique vantage point to gain perspective of the market as a whole. I hope my observations help you shape your your views of the market, and I encourage you to share your insights.

Macro Level Thoughts on the PLM Market

So what do my conversations with manufacturers look like right now? I find companies in two major camps:

  • Trying to figure out how to get product data under control. Sometimes they have no PDM or PLM, more often than not they have a few (or more)
  • Working on advanced topics like how to manage product software development in the context of PLM or how to address conflict minerals regulations early in product design.

PLM is expanding in four dimensions:

  • To more people
  • Covering a richer view of the product
  • Enabling more processes
  • Supporting further up and down the product lifecycle.

But not everyone is taking advantage of the broadening capabilities. In short, manufacturers are all over the maturity map with PLM. I see what appears to be two clusters of companies on the “immature” and the “very mature” sides. What are vendors doing about that? Building in features and enhancing current products to meet the challenges of today, while keeping an eye on the future to make sure they have the solutions their leading customer need today and the rest will need in the future. It’s a tough balancing act. I will post a series of updates on the major vendors and some interesting alternatives. I hope you find them useful.

Companies I plan to cover in this series include:

  • The Current Big Four – in alphabetical order, not playing any favorites
  • The ERP Vendors – those that have a significant investment / footprint in PLM
  • Others – this is a vibrant market with lots of solutions, including some interesting new players. Here is a thumbnail of a few. Some you might argue are not really “PLM” vendors. I am sure I will miss some and won’t provide enough detail on any here, but here is a quick recap. Some of the names might surprise you. Stay tuned.
  • Categories not Planned in This Series – there is just too much to cover, I will try to cover them elsewhere.
    • Apparel / softgoods specialty players – there are quite a few specialists in this area in addition to the major vendors that serve these customers.
    • Process-specific PLM players
    • Product Portfolio Management (PPM) specialists
    • Design tool (CAD, CAM, etc.) specialists without PLM offerings
    • Simulation (CAE) specialists without PLM offerings
    • Requirements Management (RM) specialists
    • Configuration Management (CM) specialists
    • MRO / SLM specialists
    • Business that focus primarily on AEC (architecture, engineering, and construction) versus product engineering and manufacturing


OK, who did I miss? What do you think I have right? What do you think I have wrong? Let me know and I will go learn more. I don’t consider my job as being the expert on everything, but I am fortunate to have access to a lot of the leaders in our industry.

Related Posts

The Strategic Visions of CAD/CAE Vendors 2014+

Agile (Oracle) PLM Vision 2014+

Aras PLM Vision 2014+

Arena Solutions Vision 2014+

Autodesk PLM Vision 2014+

Dassault Systèmes PLM Vision 2014+

Infor PLM Vision 2014+

Oracle’s Vision for Agile 2014+

PTC PLM Vision 2014+

Siemens PLM Vision 2014+


  1. Interesting topic Jim and a worthy discussion! It’s time for the crystal (PLM) ball to come out of hibernation…..
    I’ll have a think on’t and add my penneth over the next few days.

  2. Jim, As we see Open Source hardware becoming more prevalent in the electronics market it will be good to hear what the big plm vendors are considering to be able to support their clients to manage “open” product data beside their own in-house product data.

    • That’s a great point. I am not aware of any changes that big (or small) vendors are making to support this. My guess is that they would suggest a separate instance outside the firewall with replication to share information openly. I will start digging around, let me know what you see. Thanks.

  3. Jim, Good luck! Big and important project. Looking on the list, I wonder why SolidWorks is separate while SolidEdge-based PDM/PLM solution is not on the list (assuming part of Siemens PLM).

  4. Jim, Good Luck with this, and, Thanks for doing it. I wounder if when you are reviewing and/or discussing this with the companies you have listed, if you could include perspective and/or plans for the Small Businesses. One of the things I find annoying when vendors discuss PLM is everything seems focused toward the large companies perspective and needs, but there is little to no mention of the struggles that Small Businesses have with adopting a “total” PLM solution.

    What I think is being missed by vendors is the lack of internal resources
    that the Small Businesses have compared to the large companies,
    especially when the Small Businesses have “bits and pieces” of a PLM
    solution pasted together. I think they are missing the time and cost it would have, and the resources, to consolidate to one total solution,

    Additionally, I think that vendors are missing a big opportunity by not providing a simple solution that is not overwhelming to the Small Businesses, and that also allows for a “staged” (module) approach to a total PLM solution. Sure that are vendors that currently have a “watered” version of there PLM product,
    but most of them when you dive down into what is there is just as
    complex/complicated/overwhelming as the full version.

    PLM does not need to be (or should not be) so complicated and overwhelming
    that it requires outside resources to install and/or maintain
    (especially at a high cost), and should not require so many internal
    resources dedicated to installation and maintaining.

    So, I would be interested in hearing perspectives/plans for these companies on supporting the Small Businesses, not just the large, And, I would be interested in hearing about it in a non-marketing/sales manner.

    • Joel,
      Thanks for your comments. I just had a similar discussion with Jos Voskuil on LinkedIn. It’s not that the vendors haven’t tried. Just this last year, in fact, Siemens PLM launched Solid Edge SP which is a SharePoint-based solution (now added to the list). Autodesk feels that PLM360 is more suited for midsize companies because it is a cloud solution and requires fewer technical resources to implement. Siemens and PTC also have offerings of their larger solutions that have been simplified for smaller companies, although you may view these as the “watered” versions. So I don’t think it’s from lack of effort.

      So what is the issue? Smaller vendors like Synergis software have had more success in smaller companies. Is it simply the fact that big PLM vendors can’t organizationally get out of their own way to sell to the midmarket and implement them effectively? Or is it really because of the solutions? I don’t know the answer, but I don’t think it’s all a product issue.


      • I have been genuinely trying to assist in developing a PLM mid-market solution with SmarTeam in the past. SmarTeam was
        already a mid-market product, but still considered being too much a toolkit instead of a system with standard functionalities.
        At that time, we said SmarTeam is insanely configurable, which was also its weakness. It became too often an individual driven tool, instead of a company strategy. In the land of blind people and Small and Medium Enterprises, the person who knew Visual Basic was king. Either with Excel macro’s or in my case SmarTeam implementations.

        What I learned is:

        1. that (large) PLM vendors will not scale down to the mid-market and reading Clayton Christensen’s book the Innovator’s Dilemma was a kind of confirmation.

        Favorite quote: “What goes up, does not go down” about companies only moving to more complexity.
        I wrote about it in my blog post: http://virtualdutchman.com/2012/09/07/the-innovators-dilemma-and-plm/

        2. Is there a mid-market solution for PLM ?

        Looking forward I do not see PLM appear for the mid-market in the classical way of thinking. PLM is a mindset that is required when you work in a large organization. Smaller organizations tend to think issues are under control as everyone controls his/her own domain plus having visibility on others is enough to anticipate.

        As long as this mindset exists (and it will not disappear), companies will not switch to a more PLM-like approach.

        To simplify the issue: Email was a kind of communication breakthrough – everyone can send and store emails nowadays without disruption of their daily business.
        But can an organization manage their emails in such a way that information becomes shareable and visible ? I don’t think so and this is only simple email, not talking about all the possible PLM systems should share.

        I believe the breakthrough has to come through a powerful search and knowledge engine/algorithms, which assist the user to manipulate and retrieve information easily. And this
        is not only valid for an SME. Also large enterprises are dreaming about this.

        The best PLM system is invisible for the user
        (but how much can you charge for the invisible ?)

        • Jos, thanks for your views. I know this topic is near and dear to your heart. It has been a struggle for larger vendors to be successful in the midmarket, no doubt. What do you think of more simple design management solutions, or file storage solutions that are growing to incorporate revisions and other important features to manage CAD?

          I agree and disagree on the search side of things. I struggled with the question of whether you need to organize data at all if you can search effectively, and came to the conclusion that you have to do your best to structure information in a logical way but then also realize that it will be imperfect (you can never predict exactly how someone will want to retrieve a certain bit of knowledge) so have strong, context-sensitive, semantic search capabilities. I shared some of this in Product Data Accessibility – http://tech-clarity.com/accessibility/2103


        • Jos, your point with respect to innovator’s dilemma is exactly how I see it. Small companies have many of the same problems that big companies have, but their approach is more fluid and experimental. Most PLM tools are rigid. There’s a desire for simplicity, but with an organic flexibility. So the canned solutions are no good, and the full solutions have an insurmountable cost of ownership and again are too rigid.

          New solution approaches are needed and they will invariably rise from the bottom up.

    • Hello Joel, I agree with Jim.
      PLM software vendors are not keeping it complicated because they love to screw with SMBs. Packaged or easy software solutions are only possible in areas where the market has evolved standards. I’ve chosen the word “market” on purpose. A vendor has to find these standards, from an business object and process perspective and it has to find a critical mass on customers which fit to them. But this requires also customers who accept standards and do not insist on exclusive functionality.
      That’s also the reason why small vendors who develop their software more from customer to customer are able to provide software for a quicker implementation. They are able to find customers in the same industry or with similar requirements and adjust quicker than the big vendors who collect all requirements with a product management team, priorities them and develop more or less independent from customer projects.

    • Joel, bottom line is that PLM products are tailored to the larger companies that made such products possible, and they will continue to drift upmarket. Those vendors do not understand the small business space, nor does it make financial sense for them to do so. New solutions must rise from the bottom. Look at phenomenon like CloudWork for example. Jos’s comment below is exactly right.

      • Jim, that’s a good question.
        Part of it’s the product. Simplicity, easy of application (installation, applying it to the business), rapid time to value etc.
        The smaller business I believe would value a more (dare I say it) packaged solution offering. I like to think of the way they’d like to buy in the future is in a manner similar to apps – buy what you need when you need it and all at an affordable price-point. Not to say that many larger companies would want the same thing in reality. Oleg’s mentioned this recently in his blog and I posted a topic on the subject last year.
        The second part relates to go-to-market. One needs a totally different sales strategy, messaging and collaterals for large and small companies and so too different industries. One size does not fit all.
        As for channels, it doesn’t matter what they’re selling providing they’re competent and well prepared. For prepared read enabled by their supplier, have the sales and technological competence, the domain/market competence and psyche to suit. Bear in mind that sales people, channel or direct may be out of their comfort zones and that impacts the way they sell product (as well as the success of any implementations).
        In most cases the channel have a much better grasp on what their local SMB companies want/need. They also (often) have the closer relationships which enable them understand their customers situations, supply chains and workflows, making them ideally suitable to identify/challenge/offer new solutions.

        • Alan hello, I also provided my thought on Joel’s point above. Having worked in the channel I believe the power of the channel is that it can often remove some business pains for a customer, but due to lack of experience and power, the channel partners will (almost) never achieve a business breakthrough with their customers. It will often remain an IT-focused function/feature support.
          Having worked also in sales enablement for the channel I learned that most channel partners like the short enablement but next continue in a mindset where the vendor is often considered as a burden instead of an assistance.
          As I learned from product sales, the more questions you ask the customer, the less favorable you are to sell your solution / services, so it is a kind of catch22.
          The smoothest PowerPoint can defeat the honest approach

          • Hi Jos, interesting viewpoint but I think it’d be wrong to put all partners in the same ‘bucket’. I’ve had the privilege to work with (and indeed help enable) many in the channel who’re much more consultative in their approach. IBM PLM of old were very keen to raise the bar in this regard.
            One of the challenges WRT channel enablement is that there must be an strategy that matches the business model and expected outcome – many CAD partners might focus on volume, short term deals whereas PLM is a longer term, strategic acquisition process. It’s up to software supplier and VAR management to define and deliver what’s most applicable. When I ran my business we had enablement to suit both target markets – tactical skills as well as more strategic/consultative.

          • Allan hi, I agree – generalizations are not 100 % accurate , and from working with IBM PLM I can confirm they had a much better consultative approach.

            I saw the challenge for software vendors to have revenue coming from their channel, where most of the time a business partner could be 99 % be occupied in a large project (and being profitable) and not having any capacity to sell and implement more. Which leads to a disappointed software vendor.

            In the ideal world, the two worlds strategic / consultative and tactical are connected. This is the ideal ……

          • Great discussion on channels. I believe the challenge is that many of the channels are designed to sell and install tools. PLM is not a tool, it is an enterprise application. It requires companies to look at their business, figure out how to improve it, and then apply the right technology (in the right way). Maybe PDM can be implemented as a tool, but PLM takes a more strategic, business-oriented approach.

            I don’t know if I am saying the same thing as you Jos with your “two worlds” but if so I would agree it would be the ideal to have both but it is not common.

            So should there be a separate VAR channel for CAD and CAE and another for PLM? Maybe with a bit of overlap?

          • In reality Jim there are a number of models evolving/have evolved. There are the focused resellers for that are ‘tactical’ through to those (that are usually larger) that do all – albeit some of those members are not as elegant in execution as their suppliers may want.

            Of course there are those where services form a more significant part of their business. To the latter I include CAE focused third parties and those that are focused on the PDM/PLM space. In fact some/many of these only provide services.

            Larger implementations of PLM are pretty well addressed by SI’s – TTS et al included, and of course, by vendor service teams directly. There are some interesting channel members in the market, often led by ex-employees from the likes of Siemens etc. that fulfil a valuable role in delivering pretty sizeable PLM implementations.

            FYI Aras is doing a pretty good job at developing a competent channel that can deliver services for their products to their customers.

        • Allan, thanks for suggesting DesignDataManager (DDM) and thanks Jim for your time reviewing our solution offering and including it.. DDM has been around since the mid 90’s and although we have large multinational customers our sweet spot and focus has always been delivering the benefits of PDM/PLM to the SMB space.

          Far to many engineering companies have been built on and are still running on MOSS & TOADS, millions of spreadsheets & thousands of access databases. In the absence of a good solution at the time it wasn’t a misuse of technology but it is now. SMB companies need looking after and they need a solution that’s simple, largely out of the box and built on the generic best practises of 20 years experience. Looking forward to more thoughts and insites, good luck with the blog and regards to all!

  5. p.s. Jim…:-)

    Just a thought. IFS and INFOR PLM should probably be included? Especially if you’ve SAP in there…

    Also (arguably as you’ve SolidWorks data management etc), CIM DATABASE from Contact Software, DDM from CSI and probably BLUESTAR PLM (a MSFT Dynamix AX plugin). I’m sure I’ve missed some here but these sprang first to mind.

    (I’ll not mention the likes of Trubiquity, Theorem, ProSTEP etc. who have collaboration/file-sharing solutions that one could argue may sit in a similar domain space as GrabCAD etc. Before anyone says anything, I accept that these are all very different).

    (EDA I assume is not included. Zuken (DS-2) and Cadence (Allegro PCB Design Workbench) are effectively PDM for EDA; as to some extent is the former DMS product from Mentor Graphics (now called Xpedition), and not forgetting SOS products from ClioSoft.)

    I naturally assume that ALM isn’t in your current remit?

    • That’s quite the list Allan! Thanks for the suggestions. I am trying to limit scope a bit but you make some very good points. I don’t hear much from Infor outside of process and not much from IFS at all. GrabCad has made some interesting moves recently, so caught my attention. You mention some that I am not in contact with, I will have to do some research before including them. Do you see it differently in Europe?

    • Thanks Klaus, I wasn’t thinking it would be quite so much work given that I am updated by the vendors on a regular basis. It is already turning into a bit more than I expected and I have just begun! 🙂

  6. Jim, Thanks for this series so far. Curious on possibly including CMPro in your others listing if you intend to move past the Big 4 still. Or if not your thoughts/insights into how they fit in that beyond the Big 4 group.

  7. Jim, while I fully understand a discussion needs boundaries, there is a significant and strategic push by, at least some of the “big boys” PLM vendors and definitely the ERP vendors, to move into Service Lifecycle Management #SLM.

    PTC is definitely the most advanced PLM vendor in the SLM domain, as you very eloquently profiled in your write up and explanation of their “adjacency” strategy.

    Having considerable experience with Servigistics and witnessing Marlin Equity Partner’s roll up of the Service Parts Optimization (SPO) companies (Click Commerce/Xelus, Servigistics and MCA Solutions) – as well as their strategy and branding wizard Mark Vigiroso, I content that neither Servigistics nor PTC fulfilled the full definition of SLM which Marc McClusky (then at AMR Research) nor I (then at Accenture) defined in 2004.

    But PTC and the SLM division are headed down that track – again, as you point out – to continue to add adjacent customer focused problem solving capabilities (either organically or by acquisition). That is their long term strategy.

    Arbortext for Content Lifecycle Management, 4CS for Contract & Warranty Management, Servigistics MCA for Performance Based Contract Management, Servigistics & Xelus for Service Parts Management, MKS Integrity (primarily for ALM but also for complex hardware/software in-service configuration management, …ThingWorx for the Internet of Things which also works for both ALM and SLM.

    I’ll add that, PTC may have made another excellent strategic decision in their organizational structure by placing ALM and SLM on organizational parallels to PLM – to prevent what some might say has happened in the past – the PLM guys killed the best parts of non-CAx & PLM acquisitions.

    One could argue that some of DS’ 3DExperience falls over into “simulation” of SLM, I don’t see that DS has a SLM strategy per se. From some conversations, they have definitely taken notice of PTC’s SLM strategy, it doesn’t appear they are actively moving in this direction – thus conceding the territory to PTC.

    I don’t believe anyone would argue that Siemens PLM has any penetration in or focus on SLM. Again, as your excellent profile of Siemens points out, they are the beast of M&A and owners who are more focused on manufacturing than software. I jokingly said at the time of the Siemens acquisition of UGS the motivation was simple – it was cheaper to buy the company than to buy the software.

    Same comment on Autodesk, no aspirations in the SLM domain, as they play catch up on PLM. I did run into Autodesk at a rail conference in Dubai last month where they were talking about Raildex (the S1000D Content Lifecycle Management specification for the rail industry).

    In the Aerospace industry the move to SLM and CLM has been driven by performance based contracts (Performance Based Logistics, Power by the Hour, …). A&D OEMs make over 50% of their revenue and 80% of their profits in the “in service” domain.

    For other industries, what may force the PLM vendors to into taking SLM and CLM to hart as a core strategic need may be the pending ASD S5000F standard and IoT.
    Until then, PTC is the PLM leader in SLM with some CLM capabilities but minimal operator / maintainer penetration.

    Side note – if you’ve been following the Malaysia Airline MH370 mystery – there’s an underlying tweetisphere discussion thread on #IoT relative to engine condition monitoring / aircraft health management and ACARS transmissions (covered more openly by two Wall Street Journal writers Andy Pasztor & Jon Ostrower).

    • Michael,
      Thank you for sharing, much appreciated. I would agree that PTC is the clear leader in moving toward SLM as far as PLM vendors are concerned. Nobody has made such bold moves in that area. Siemens does have some MRO-focused capabilities (primarily for long lifecycle items like aircraft) but nothing that address the scope that Servigistics addresses.

      The funny thing is that I worked with Mark Vigoroso at Aberdeen Group (he covered Service, I covered Product Innovation and Engineering) and we were planning to write about the “real” product lifecycle that included service – but realized that we were ahead of what most companies were ready to adopt and clearly ahead of what vendors were able to deliver.

      I will have to check out the #IoT thread related to the missing airliner. Have you drawn any conclusions from it related to this? I am curious on your take. I was surprised that anybody could switch off transponders manually (my naivety perhaps) and even more surprised to hear they could switch off ACARS (which I now believe was falsely reported). It had me thinking about the IoT implications. The world is certainly much more “sensored” these days and there is more data on everything. It gets you thinking on everything from the business value of the data when mined properly to the privacy and other concerns if accessed improperly.

      Thanks again for your comment

      • Because of the need to potentially isolate any and all electrical input to a fire – pretty much everything on an aircraft can be isolated = fuses pulled and shut down.

        Aviation is going through significant changes / advancements in complex configuration management due to trends such as increased software (embedded and loadable) and hardware/software compatibility rules, more tightly integrated diagnostics / prognostics / health management (a necessity to optimize Performance Based Contracts (PBH/PBL), PMA parts, additive manufactured parts, and regulatory oversight (such as the need for more real time downloading of performance data – recommendations from AF447 and MH370).

        My most recent opining in the AircraftIT MRO eJournal ask the question, “In the age of Netflix & GoGo, why isn’t Aircraft Data Real?” http://www.linkedin.com/in/michaelwdenis/
        At least in aerospace / aviation / defense – we see convergence of closing what I call the PLM-SLM-IoT gap via Content Lifecycle Management (CLM) capabilities and the ASD data standards (S1000D, S2000M, S4000M, S5000F and S6000T) and the simultaneous human and technology consumption of content / data from authoritative sources.
        Small world … Mark … haven’t seen him since the PTC acquisition but it looks like he’s revolutionizing NCR’s SLM strategy, business and revenue.

        • ICAO forges consensus on flight tracking

          The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) has struck an agreement with member states and the international air transport industry on the near-term priority to track airline flights regardless of the location or destination. The body also established a framework for tracking in the medium and long-term. Contributions by the industry through an Aircraft Tracking Task Force (ATTF), coordinated by the International Air Transport Association (IATA), will help address the near-term
          needs for flight tracking. In parallel with IATA’s work, ICAO will develop a flight tracking concept covering how the new tracking data gets shared, with whom, and under what circumstances. The UN aviation organisation will consider performance-based international standards to ensure the broader adoption of airline flight tracking. Satellite communications firm, Inmarsat recently offered a free aircraft tracking service to airlines in the wake of the disappearance of MH370.


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