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Advancing with Lifecycle Management
Christof Ebert, Managing Director, Vector Consulting Services
OCT 15, 2013 04:25 AM
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Rising cost pressure is forcing manufacturers and their suppliers to jointly and consistently master product development. Product and application life-cycle management (PLM and ALM) is the primary mechanism for integrating engineering processes, tools and people across the domains of system, software, hardware and mechanical engineering. This blog will provide some guidance and hints for successfully introducing PLM and ALM. Let me know of any further question or stimulus arising from this blog.

Product Life-Cycle Management (PLM) and its equivalent in software, namely Application life-cycle management (ALM), is the overall business process that governs a product or service from its inception to the end of its life in order to achieve the best possible value for the business of the enterprise and its customers and partners. PLM/ALM combines processes, people and tools for the effective engineering of products – from their inception until end of service. It involves tacit knowledge of experts and explicit knowledge, codified in procedures, process and tools. PLM/ALM stretches from know-how to know-what and know-why.

Unfortunately PLM and ALM often are not well introduced. Companies believe that with a tool and necessary IT-interfaces, all will be settled. This is not the case, and the high percentage of abandoned PLM/ALM projects shows the criticality of professional change management.

A brief example shows the significance. A supplier is introducing model-driven engineering (MDE) based on some methodology, processes and a modern tool environment that enable seamless collaboration across development centers and with partners and customers. In advance, cost-effectiveness was evident because the system was going to provide faster access to data and less defects and budget overruns due to improved change and configuration control. After the introduction phase however, a MDE tools environment was available, but did not deliver useful models. Engineers were still drawing their previous style pictures, without much modeling methodology. What happened? The tool was designed to support development and was integrated into the company-wide PDM system. Electronic developers but also product managers and project leaders could not work with it and created parallel systems for their documents, which they exchanged between one another using traditional methods. The solution would have been simple if it had been made clear, before introducing the new tool, which processes had to be supported and how these processes had to be first improved and then automated.

There are different ALM/PLM environments available today on the market, such as the gen-eral purpose solutions from Dassault, Siemens, and PTC which had evolved from mechanical engineering with design and product data management, and IBM and Vector with specific solutions having grown from software centric applications. These state of the practice PLM/ALM solutions provide a repository and editor of different models and ways to link models to reality. This allows both a process-oriented way of working (systematic) and a repository-based way of working (flexible, all engineers share a bunch of models of the product). Compared to the more traditional code generation oriented MDE no process consisting of planned model transformations is defined or required.

Based on a rich and extendable data model for features representing the logical and the physical system architecture and the software architecture, PLM/ALM systems provide highly integrated use cases. For instance in configuration and change control, issues are connected to system data objects, the related realization date is fixed in the release planning module, the implementation time and effort are planned in the project management module, the change of the related software parts are managed in the source code management module and finally the test are planned and executed in the test data module.

Lessons Learned: Utilizing a consistent product life-cycle and process repository is a nec-essary condition for reducing cycle time, as they reduce frictions of unclear interfaces and responsibilities as well as cutting rework because of inconsistent assumptions and cutting retrieval time for specific documents and work products. In implementing PLM/ALM and modeling support we found the following lessons learned:

•           Concept: First improve the process then the tools based on concrete improvement objectives that are set, measured and used to correct deviations. Ensure consistency of features and products with a strong systems engineering. Specifically in distributed collaborative environments we see huge benefits from a single data backbone for consistent requirements, specs and models across all changes

•           Development: Evaluate tools under realistic conditions. Agree specific requirements to the process and tools which are then used to drive changes. Support the interfaces to the various components and processes through traceability, automatic consistency checks and test automation.

•           Deployment: Manage the changes as they impact the entire organization. Pilot changes, coach and train engineers, highlight power users that will set the pace. Introduce model-based development intelligently and step by step, focus on critical components, continuity of requirements to code and test cases, and improving processes in parallel.

•           Operations: Support users and ensure continuous improvement. Measure the implementation, and try in each project ten to twenty percentage points improvement, at the spots where you want to put accents, for example 20% less cost variations, or 10% less cost in the test.

These lessons learned apply to various type of change during the introduction and roll-out of PLM/ALM. They can be generalized for PLM/ALM introduction, or they can be specifically adapted for a micro-level change, such as a change of a modeling methodology.


Our book "Global Software and IT" from IEEE / Wiley provides case studies on collaboration and life-cycle management. It has concrete productivity improvement proposals, many industry case studies, and benchmarks both for IT and engineering organizations.

Proceed to the book  

Read our free white papers on PLM and ALM technologies and their introduction:  


Dr. Christof Ebert is managing director at Vector Consulting Services.

He supports clients around the world to improve product strategy and product development and to manage organizational changes. Prior to that, he held global management positions for ten years at Alcatel-Lucent where he introduced a global PLM strategy. A trusted advisor for companies around the world, member of industry boards, and adjunct professor at the University of Stuttgart, he authored several books including his most recent book “Global Software and IT” published by Wiley. He received the IEEE distinguished visitor award and is member of the Alcatel Technical Academy.

Contact him at



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