Integrating Your PLM System With The Rest Of Your Business

No PLM software can operate in isolation, in a silo. While a PLM system is perhaps the keystone of a product company, the other pillars — enterprise resource planning (ERP), customer relationship management (CRM), computer-aided design (CAD), supply chain, communications, and storage infrastructure — need to be tightly integrated with the PLM system to make it a globally optimal system. 

To take a simple example, even if your PLM system is top-notch, if it is not integrated with your suppliers and ERP, it will be hard to get the product to market on time.

Likewise, without a solid CRM system in place, it will be hard to provide the kind of service levels that get customers to recommend your product. Bad word-of-mouth can deep-six a product faster than you can say customer relationship management.

The details of how to integrate multiple complex systems like PLM, ERP, and CRM requires several books worth of content so we will only discuss an overview:

SCENARIO 1: You already own systems like ERP and CRM from different vendors with different platforms like Windows or Linux. Even if you’re happy with each system, getting them together can sometimes be like trying to herd cats. Your best bet here is to get a good systems integrator to get all these systems to talk to each other. 

SCENARIO 2: You’re a successful start-up growing rapidly and have a green field in front of you. There is an opportunity to start on the right foot and save a ton of headache down the line by ensuring that the parts you set up fit well like a jigsaw puzzle. Typically market-leading products (ERP, CRM, etc.) in each category will be from different vendors so there are difficult decisions and trade-offs to be considered. Is interoperability more important than functionality?

The long and the short of it is that integrating these large, complex, and diverse software systems is difficult and there is no “one-size-fits-all” approach or solution. Even the best industry standards may not be a good fit for your specific organizational scenario. Keep your eyes open and ask a lot of tough questions.