Product Lifecycle Management

Integration and Security Concerns Dog Cloud-Based PLM, CIMdata Finds

27 May, 2017 By: Cyrena Respini-Irwin

Adoption of product lifecycle management (PLM) software is lagging behind other cloud-based solutions in the enterprise space, but that may change as established providers bring their offerings to market.


CIMdata, a product lifecycle management (PLM) consulting and research firm, has been working with several PLM solution providers to research the adoption and use of cloud-based PLM in industrial companies. Earlier this month, CIMdata published the first product of these efforts: an ebook titled, Making the Connection: The Path to Cloud PLM. The ebook, which is based on survey and interview data from current and prospective cloud PLM customers, is free to site visitors who register. 

One of the primary goals of this research initiative is to understand why adoption of cloud-based PLM lags behind that of cloud-based solutions in many other enterprise software domains. “If you look at cloud-based SaaS [software as a service] adoption, it’s about 15 to 20%, depending on who you talk to,” said Stan Przybylinski, CIMdata's vice-president of research. Cloud-based PLM adoption, however, is “nowhere near that,” Przybylinski explained; the figure is likely closer to 10% (with some variation depending on whether or not hosted cloud services are counted as “private cloud”).

Limited Choices, Immature Products, and Performance Problems

One reason for this low number is many big players — such as Autodesk, Dassault Systèmes, Siemens PLM, and Oracle — have been slow in fleshing out their cloud PLM solutions, or are still in the process of bringing them to market, Przybylinski noted. “You can’t adopt what you can’t buy … [and the solutions] you can buy that are suitable are just ramping up,” he said.

Some would-be customers haven’t found a solution that’s different enough from their current solution to justify adoption. However, “There are some compelling solutions out there,” Przybylinski believes. He is keeping an eye on PropelPLM, which is built on top of the Salesforce platform, and FusePLM, which is built directly on Amazon Web Services, without an intermediary layer.

About a quarter of the survey respondents indicated a lack of confidence in cloud-based solution performance. That’s a primary concern for Przybylinski as well, who pointed out that the multicomponent chain of hardware, software, and Internet service has many potential failure points, even if the PLM solution itself is working perfectly. “Is every link between that cloud and your desk at the same level of reliability?” he asked.

Persistent Security Concerns

Another reason for hesitation is the fear of having intellectual property (IP) stolen; security risks came in at second place on the list of cloud concerns reported by survey participants. Security is a common concern, but an illogical one, according to Przybylinski. “I think it’s a false argument,” he said, using the example of a company that is afraid to put a pump design online, but thinks nothing of keeping its very valuable customer data in Salesforce (a cloud-based customer relationship management tool). Most of the companies involved in the research project are using “something” on the cloud, he said; about a third are using Salesforce.

Przybylinski also noted that a cloud-based solution, which offers multiple layers of security, is actually safer than an on-premise version (where employees have physical access to data and can transport a design on thumb drive, for example). But for the time being, concerns about security will continue to affect decision making, with every news story about a credit card data breach being “a setback for PLM on the cloud,” Przybylinski predicted.

Integration and Customization

The number-one concern, reported by more than 40% of participants, was integration between cloud offerings and existing IT infrastructure and applications. “Integration has always been an issue with PLM … and integration on the cloud is an unknown,” Przybylinski observed.

The customers that will have the greatest concern in this area are those who rely on heavily customized solutions. “That’s going to have to change in a cloud environment, because the ability to customize is going to be circumscribed,” Przybylinski said. He believes that anything that can help companies with their “addiction” to customization is a benefit.

Buzz Wears Off; Survey Goes On

CIMdata found that one potential obstacle to understanding and adoption — marketing language — isn’t tripping up potential customers in this case. For example, some vendors are squabbling over terms such as “true cloud” and “native cloud” in an effort to distinguish themselves, Przybylinski said, but buzzwords came in at the bottom of the list when survey respondents reported their concerns. “People are caring about the right things, [and they are] able to cut through some of the hype,” he noted.

The global cloud PLM survey is still open; CIMdata hope to close it next month, and will share more results in the future. In addition, CIMdata’s blog features interviews conducted with research sponsors and their customers as part of the project. 


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