A step-by-step guide for performing a PLM upgrade

Product Lifecycle Management benefits are immense. That’s all the more reason to take a systematic approach to upgrading your system.
By Rakesh Pandey December 20, 2013

The turbulent economy of the last few years has yielded a significant impact on how organizations conduct business. Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) helps businesses to create products that reduce the time-to-market and responding to dynamic supply chain conditions such as volatile currency markets, omni-channel consumer demands, and political chaos, according to Rakesh Pandey of Xchanging.

Michigan-based research firm CIMdata estimates reveal that the mainstream PLM market grew 12.6 percent in 2012 to $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 sustained growth last year. The research firm further predicts the PLM market will have a compound annual growth rate of 8.7 percent to reach $50.7 billion in 2017.

First, let’s consider why there’s a need for such a process. Keeping the PLM system aligned with the latest system patches, software updates, and business process improvements is critical, but it is often neglected. The common reasons for a PLM upgrade are to resolve issues in the existing PLM deployment, leverage additional capabilities in the next generation platforms, address platform incompatibilities as the underlying software, and evolve hardware platforms.

There are also many challenges that businesses face in the process of a PLM upgrade. Buyers of the solutions are often faced with the challenge of how to best optimize their investments.

With that in mind, let’s dive into the step-by-step process for a PLM upgrade through which organizations can minimize the risk involved and derive the maximum value from their investment.

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 identify common document model and data migration issues, create upgrade plan and estimates and validate quality assurance test plans.

Step two is the upgrade assessment and proposal phase. Before embarking on the implementation process, businesses must first decide their upgrade strategy. This requires a detailed assessment of their existing PLM system from a technical and functional standpoint. 

The upgrade strategies include a comprehensive upgrade, which addresses issues in the existing system, thus making it more robust, or a hybrid approach, which is followed for specific PLM applications (done under comprehensive upgrade). For the remaining, a plain upgrade can be done. 

Once the best approach is determined, the business then selects 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.

Step three is the upgrade implementation and validation process. The key challenges in the rollout phase include implementation within scheduled timelines and creating minimum disruption to the users. Establishing certain contingency measures to handle unforeseen issues is also essential. 

The completion of a PLM upgrade is different from a software development project, mainly due to multiple projects running simultaneously. In an upgrade project, organizations must ensure that code merging has been done so that none of the current functionalities, from the existing system or from the new release, get inadvertently overridden. 

In step four, we address the process of keeping customers informed, as this is a crucial component for a smooth transition. The early involvement of the users will ensure a seamless transition even though a PLM upgrade may or may not involve a significant change in the user experience. To achieve this, companies can prepare the training material highlighting what’s new in terms of user experience between the two versions. This should include updating the current user guides and related content, giving a demonstration of the upgraded platform  prior to release, preparing a list of common issues to help address queries on new platform, and organizing a help desk team to handle user requests. 

The final step for a smooth PLM upgrade transition is post-deployment support. This final phase is an ongoing effort and is equally as crucial in the process as the four prior steps. Post-deployment support includes steps such as a customer acceptance test, production go-live, and ongoing post-production support. 

The need for Product Lifecycle Management is clear, and just as important is the need to ensure that your PLM upgrades go smoothly. Following a set process like the one I’ve outlined here is helpful in minimizing the many hiccups that can be encountered during the process. From the initial pre-upgrade analysis to determining how it will impact the overall system architecture, and the ongoing post-deployment support, each step of the process should be closely reviewed before the upgrade begins.

Rakesh Pandey is the global business unit head, Manufacturing for Xchanging.

Edited by Jessica DuBois-Maahs, Associate Content Manager