It is no secret that large companies have been slow to move their PLM systems to the cloud. While these same companies were aggressively adopting new cloud strategies for other enterprise systems, PLM systems remained on-premise—keeping their valuable IP safe and secure in their organization’s own data centers. There were several reasons for the slow adoption, ranging from security concerns to doubts about cloud performance when moving high levels of data across PLM ecosystems around the globe, but the success of cloud technologies across other sectors has recently led to slow but consistent growth for PLM software vendors.

Among industry professionals, there has always been a sense that the PLM move to the cloud was not a matter of if, but a matter of when. Early on, insiders realized the benefits the cloud offers would align well with what PLM systems are designed to accomplish. As other types of enterprise applications, like Salesforce in the CRM space, showed excellent outcomes using the cloud, earlier concerns about PLM in the cloud were being mitigated. At the same time, the benefits of moving to the cloud, as demonstrated through these applications, were quickly validated and industry analysts comfortably predicted a mass migration was imminent. But when?

The years of unpredictability

While many aspects of business may be predictable, the past two years were a case study in unpredictability. No need to go into detail here since so much has been written about the events of 2020 and 2021, but, suffice it to say, the events of the pandemic years changed how organizations operate and how employees and other contributors interact with technology and each other. These events compelled companies to aggressively pursue new digital transformation strategies to ensure their technology was robust enough to quickly adapt to changing supply chains and manufacturing processes. To enable high expectations of resiliency, new strategies like digital threads are being utilized, connecting critical data from diverse systems throughout a company’s development process. The digital thread delivers better traceability, improved compliance, complex simulations, and design improvements, and supports many other use cases.

Companies moving their PLM forward 

As companies focus on new, resilient strategies, it has become clear that the cloud offers many technical advantages. For example:

  • Ubiquitous access to the cloud allows users anywhere in the world easy access to environments
  • Use of cloud services to help connect data from different systems and locations
  • Virtually unlimited capacity removes the need for hardware management and procurement and significantly improves performance
  • Access to state-of-the-art data centers from major cloud providers

Beyond technological advancements, solution providers have also created new SaaS offerings for their software so businesses can remove themselves from the day-to-day responsibilities of managing their production and development environments. The big question for organizations as they implement their digital transformation is: “Can a SaaS solution meet their specific requirements?” Since many SaaS solutions strictly limit the ability to customize an environment, will a SaaS solution provide the flexibility to deliver exactly what they need?

The question of using an out-of-the-box (OOTB) PLM solution versus building customizations was being asked before the cloud was an option. The difference between today’s decision-makers and those of years past is the decision-makers of today have lived with their existing PLM system for many years and have a much better sense of what it’s like to be limited by an OOTB solution.  They realize the value of using a customizable, resilient platform that meets their specific requirements and is easily upgraded is essential to their ongoing success.

While many companies are now ready to move their PLM to the cloud and utilize a powerful SaaS offering, they are also reevaluating their current PLM platform to see if it can support their future vision and adapt to unforeseen changes. It’s not just about the software any longer. Moving to the cloud creates opportunities to leverage new types of service offerings that have major impacts on the way their PLM environment will be built, managed, and supported. These factors will determine the success of their new digital transformation strategies.

Moving forward 

The events of 2020 and 2021 have caused many companies to reevaluate their PLM systems and environment, understanding that these systems will serve as their digital transformation backbone for years to come. Questions on the flexibility of the PLM platform, the use of the cloud, and even who manages the environments should all be considered as PLM leaders leverage their experience to determine the right solution.

To learn more about the configurability of SaaS solutions for PLM, listen to a recent discussion between Peter Bilello, president and CEO of CIMdata and Mark Reisig, Aras VP on why SaaS for PLM is quickly becoming a critical enabler for today’s business transformation efforts.