Everything in our life is seems to be a project. It can start from a very simple set of tasks that a designer needs to follow up and end with complex product development that needs to plan the work of hundreds of developers, suppliers, manufacturers etc. Project management is one of the most commonly adopted paradigm to use in engineering and manufacturing. Think about your design projects, contract projects. You can also think about manufacturing batch as a project too.

Because of such widespread adoption of project paradigm, project management capabilities of PLM software is often misunderstood and confused with traditional project management software – working breakdown structure, GANTT and other traditional functionality of project management.

So, what is so specific about management of project data in PLM?

Project and Portfolio Management Tools

Project and Portfolio Management tools are representing a diverse set of applications. It scales from small niche players towards big superstars like Microsoft, HP, Oracle and others. Generally speaking, all these tools are focused on how to gather data about project portfolio planning activities and make it available to people involved into this project. Now what happens if you are in an engineer involved into a product development project? You need to link somehow your engineering activities with project management. There is a certain disadvantage of most of these vendors in the inability to have deeper integration between project tools and engineering tools. On the other side, these independent vendors have a significant advantage in focusing on pure PPM functions.

Project Management software is a straightforward decision in many companies. If you think Microsoft Project is not good for you, many project management applications are available today. Your choice between free open and cloud application after you discovered that you cannot control your projects just by using the power of Microsoft Excel. However, when it comes to product development and manufacturing life becomes more complicated. With multi-discipline project management involvement you will prefer a software packages that integrated with product design and manufacturing information. You can see few examples of such a type of software coming from different PLM and ERP suppliers.

A real challenge is to choose between Integrated Products and separate Project Management Tools. In case you will pick up PLM Project Portfolio Management Tools, you are at the risk to stack with corporate wide deployment of this tool. In case of just picking up one of the available project management tools, you have a potential to stack in data integration between PDM/PLM modules and Project Management Tools. The decision is yours and probably very individual.

A specialized Project and Portfolio Management tools are available from most of PLM vendors today – Dassault Systemes, Siemens PLM, PTC, Aras, Autodesk PLM 360 and some others. Most of these tools are leveraging flexible data model to create representation of product connected with project milestones.

Why Project Management is Important for PLM?

A success of a project is built on the development of accurate cost estimates, in much the same way as in project-driven manufacturing companies, which in turn are based on a well-defined project scope and work schedule that are well managed and monitored, and are sensitive to changes and limitations of resources and other work items. It is very important to treat cost estimating, project scheduling, and project cost control as an integrated process rather than a disjointed set of activities. A key challenge is to develop an integrated process to manage product information and to associate project tasks with this information.

To develop an integrated process that able to have access and association with right information is the key capability and a need from project-oriented enterprises, whatever type they are – discrete manufacturing or construction. The following 3 steps  are very important for forward thinking PLM implementations and PLM vendors/providers.

1- PLM content and other related product information.

This is an important enabler from the side of PLM. Content needs to be available. To be able to re-use right design, engineering, manufacturing and supply chain content that controlled and managed from the life cycle standpoint by PLM systems.

2- Project Tools integration with with PLM content.

PLM and Project Management tools need to develop a capability to work with an extended set of information related to tasks and their optimization. Project Management tools need to become “project optimization engine” for every kind of content related to execution of a project.

3- Overall monitoring tools

This is very nice to have tools. People need to have one stream of information monitoring these days. Your decision, what is important, but I think vendors need to deliver one set of tools for users.

Project management is one of the key drivers to move execution in an organization of every type. However, they are not efficient when they cannot have right information in their hands to help people to use it efficiently. PLM can use project management tools and capabilities to deliver information to people doing execution as well as decision makers in an organization. To make this link is very important. I don’t believe PLM vendors have sufficient specialization in order to develop a full scope project management tool. Therefore, to find right balance and re-use project management infrastructure, is still a priority for many PLM vendors.

PLM and Project Management – Marriage vs Divorce?

In today’s product landscape I can see two orthogonal trends – the development of specialized project management tools deeply integrated with PLM (or even becoming part of PLM portfolio) on one side and general purpose project management tools on the other side. And when the time comes to make a decision – how companies and end users can decide what is the right choice? What are the benefits of each approach? Will they get married or divorced? Although the difference between these two approaches is obvious, is a clash already inevitable? Let me summarize short how I see both of these tools.

General purpose project management and collaboration tools are providing best practices of project management and their main focus is on product productivity, simplicity and general acceptance by customers. So, in their view, a product should be simple, with a sufficient set of features and excellent user experience. Product landscape in this category is heavily impacted by Microsoft Project. On top of the general purpose PM tools, there are a number of more specialized project management tools following specific industry and other best practices (i.e. project methodologies, regulation and other specific industry practices). For the last 5-10 years, many new project and collaboration tools were developed leveraging power of cloud and SaaS technologies.

Specialized PLM project and program management. By recognizing project development needs during product development, more dedicated Project Management tools were developed by PLM providers (i.e. DS ENOVIA MatrixOne Program Central,TeamCenter Portfolio Program Project Management). The main point of these tools was to merge Product Lifecycle Management capabilities with product development. By doing that users have a much more dedicated environment focused on the specific needs and characteristics such as product information, automated tasks etc.

Both approaches have advantages and disadvantages, in my view. General Project Management tools are targeting a wider customer audience, and can provide higher feature level, usability and lower prices. On contrary, these tools are sometimes too generic, disconnected from ability to work together with PLM tools and inside of PLM environment. PLM PPM (Program and Project Management) is heavily focused on specific tasks related to product development, better connected to rest of PLM design and engineering tools. At the same time, these tools are more complex and sometime lack behind of modern user experience, look and feel compare to mainstream general purpose tools. These special tools normally have higher price tag and higher value for end users.

So, where is the silver bullet for manufacturing companies? When specialized PPM tools can definitely provide value, given the current economical situation, my prediction is that customers will try to follow a less expensive offering and will try to integrate general purpose project management tools within the product development environment. This trend will be clearer for smaller manufacturers compared to SMB companies. With this landscape, I think that PLM vendors need to focus on content integration between general purpose project management tools and PLM content. This combination will allow vendors to reduce the cost of PPM (Program Project Management) tools and improve the integration between enterprise systems in the companies.

The intersection of PLM and Project Management tools is a representation of product information that used in both tools. This is an important element of any project collaboration strategy.


PLM and Integrated Project Management Tools

How do you run your company? Regardless of size, scale and nature, the answer is simple in my view – processes and projects. It won’t surprise you if I say sometimes projects go out of schedule, and processes are stuck. Every company requires a solution to manage processes and projects these days. Do you think you can solve these problems by emails and spreadsheets? The project or process management solution are needed.What is the bottleneck in your company processes? Integrated PLM with project management capabilities can be a good tool to solve the problem. It is mainly because it will merge data about your product and process together. The key aspect in this functionality to me is the ability to integrate process and project tasks with relevant “data”. Integrated PLM Project Management provides you with a live view of where all the individual tasks\items within the project are up to, as they are moved along their process by the people managing that part of the project, the top level project automatically updates accordingly. You can also quickly and easily link through to view any of the data that is being tracked and managed within each of the project tasks (assuming you have the permissions to do so).

Why PLM should reinvent NPI Project

A special type of projects you can face in manufacturing companies is so called New Product Introduction (NPI). One of the challenges most of manufacturing companies are facing these days is related to ability to introduce new product to the market. Think about manufacturers of electronic gadgets that can miss holidays sales or supplier that misses deliveries on new components for OEM manufacturer. The cost of missed timeline sometimes is so high that it cannot be recovered when you development is going off schedule. Therefore, New Product Introduction (NPI) is one of the important elements of PLM strategies for many companies. These type of solutions are provided by most of PLM vendors and usually part of their Program and Project Management portfolio.

All NPI / NPDI products and methodologies are focusing on organizing of waterfall stage-gate process to follow up in order to achieve product development goals. Typically you can see it as a sequence of Concept, Development, Testing, Launch. The details can vary as you can see in few pictures below, but the essence of NPI process is the same.



Traditional PLM NPI can felt outdated in a modern world of lean and agile product development methods. Agile product development is focusing on a series of short development cycles (sprints) and it became hugely popular and successful in software development of the past decade. It goes opposite to something that we familiar as waterfall process. You can read more by learning about Scrum, Kanban, XP. The ideas of agile and lean are coming to manufacturing too.

All PLM products are focusing on NPI and project management implementation actually thinking about traditional NPI model. They are mostly focused on a workflow and waterfall process. Waterfall processes are dying in a modern development world. At the same it is a mainstream organization large companies are using for product development. But… for how long? Large companies are looking how to innovate and to work differently. At the same time, they are providing very little support for teams that want to follow agile methodologies.

So, what is wrong with waterfall NPI process? Below, I put some of ideas why waterfall NPI process can give you very little help in development of innovative product together with customers.

1- I know what customer wants.

2- I know what features to build.

3- Too much focus on launch date and stage gates.

4- No trial, no errors process.

Customer agile development can be a new way for PLM to support manufacturing companies. It is can be more efficient to innovate in small teams. It can bring new agile methods and change product development process. It can replace existing NPI with complexity of waterfall processes.

Introducing of special agile NPI product development models can become a future differentiation for PLM vendors with the ability to develop a special support for data management in project collaboration in new manufacturing companies.

picture credit – (c) Can Stock Photo

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