Not all clouds are created equal — a guide to the pros and cons of cloud-hosted vs cloud-based PLM.

Who doesn’t use some cloud application nowadays? Gmail, slack, salesforce, … according to a recent CIMdata survey, almost 80% of manufacturers already use cloud-based services. Although ERP and CRM are the most common cloud enterprises solutions, cloud PLM is starting to become more prevalent.

Today, most PLM vendors have now jumped the bandwagon, and are offering a cloud PLM. They have all recognised the undeniable advantages of cloud-based solutions — lower cost, scalability, simplifying implementation, cost savings by removing IT expenses, and providing a faster path to ROI.

So if you are considering adopting a cloud PLM solution, you should be aware of the different types of cloud terminologies that are out there.

Why is this important? Well, although all “cloud” solutions are available on the internet and offer a subscription model, there are important differences between them and understanding what are they, could help you make the best purchasing decision based on your business needs and budget.

There are two main differences in the cloud PLM landscape you need to understand: cloud-based PLM vs cloud-hosted PLM.

What is a cloud-hosted PLM?

Basically, a cloud-hosted PLM is a pre-existing software application that is hosted in a cloud data centre, managed by the vendor on behalf of the customer. The vendor provides its infrastructure as a service (IaaS).

This model of cloud follows a single tenancy architecture. This means that a single instance of the software and supporting infrastructure serve a single client. Each client has his or her own independent database and instance of the software.

What is a cloud-based PLM?

Cloud-based solution means that the vendors have built the PLM application directly in the cloud, starting from scratch, using a Software as a Service (SaaS) approach.  Model, servers, databases and code that are part of the software are also managed and hosted by the software vendors.

As per the cloud-hosted model, servers, databases and code that are part of the software are hosted by the software vendors. In this model, each client shares the software application, a single database and the servers. However, the data of each client is isolated and kept invisible to other clients.

An analogy often used to explain the difference between single and multi-tenant architecture is the one of renting your own house on a street that is shared by other private houses vs renting an apartment in a building where other apartments are rented by other people. In the latter, tenants can share maintenance cost, which makes it more affordable.

If you want to know more about the single vs multi-tenant difference, you can check this article.

So what does it all mean for your company? In the table below, we summarize how choosing one model over the other will impact your organization.

What’s important to you?

There are benefits and drawbacks to both single-tenant and multi-tenant systems. Ultimately, your company must decide what is most important to their business and what can be sacrificed.

Choosing your ideal cloud PLM solution will depend on a variety of factors: Is cost the primary driver? Is security critical for the type of data you are storing? Does your PLM solution need a lot of customization? Are you happy with using a one-size fit all system? Does your industry or country have unique regulatory constraints?

If you want to know which cloud PLM solution has a single or multi-tenancy architecture, stay tuned. We’ll soon publish an article to dive into cloud PLM solutions.

How to define your very own PLM Bible.

In my previous blog post, I shared with you why I believe that successful PLM implementations start with a PLM Bible: a blueprint that explains what PLM means to them and how they work with their products and data.

If you’re in the same boat, let’s get down to brass tacks and talk about how to define your PLM Bible.

1. Define your learning customers.

Getting a grip on who your learners or customers are is the first thing you need to do when you start working on your company’s PLM Bible.

Learning for a techy PLM system administrator isn’t quite the same as it is for an IT executive. Everybody processes information differently. An insightful presentation that captivates the executive’s attention might be confusing or utterly boring for the system administrator, even if the information is equally relevant to both of them.

Having a comprehensive understanding of your customers allows you to:

  • Keep focused on your customer’s learning needs;
  • Connect with their motivations and behaviours;
  • Enrich the impact of your content;
  • Personalize and tailor your training content; and
  • Look at (and solve) problems from your customer’s perspective.

To identify your customers, think about the people who need to learn PLM in your organization. Now go one step further and try to classify them in groups.

To show you what I mean, let’s pretend you’re a Cloud PLM software provider. Some of your potential customers – your leads – have never tried your application. They need to understand what they’d get if they purchased it. Your paying customers have already subscribed to your product. They need to help their users get up and running with the new system. And they also need to train their system administrators, the ones configuring and managing the application behind the scenes.

In this case, you can break your learning customers down into three groups:

By considering your learning customers, you’ll then be able to determine how to structure your PLM Bible and what content you need to create to keep your learners interested.

2. Detail your PLM Learning categories.

We’ll use learning categories to create our learning structure and to organize, sort and filter the learning content. If we tag every piece of content with categories such as roles, process, system, etc, we’ll later be able to locate all the relevant content easily.

To detail your learning categories, get your team together and brainstorm. Think about at least four categories to tag your content. For example, we could look at the information from a role perspective: R&D Engineers, Product Managers, Sales Managers etc. We could also define processes as categories. How about using PLM capabilities as a way to categorize our content? Another idea would be to tag our content according to the corporate systems involved.

If you want to come up with rich learning categories, make sure you get a diverse group of people involved in the discussion. If your team works on all of the same projects together, goes to team meetings together, and sits next to each other in the office … well, needless to say, the categories will likely start to get pretty homogenous.

3. Build your Learning structure.

Now that you’ve pinned down your categories, it’s time to start thinking about the learning structure.

A typical learning structure starts with a learning path. A learning path is a group of courses that allows us to master a topic in small steps. Courses are made of several lessons, and the content often can be reused in several learning paths.

Learning paths work well for PLM, because they help people absorb a lot of information while providing flow and structure.

If you want to get inspired, head over to DropboxLynda, or Asana. It’s helpful to see a few examples of learning structures in action, and these companies all do a great job of it.

Using the learning categories you’ve previously identified, you’ll define the learning paths. The first step is to select a main category. We’ll focus on one main category first, because we want to keep things simple.

For example, we could select Roles as the main category to come up with our learning paths. In this case, we’ll have paths such as “Becoming a Product Manager”, “A day in a life of a Sales Manager” or “Customer Support Foundations”.

Alternatively, we could select Process as the main category. In this case, we’ll have learning paths such as “Product Development Fundamentals”, “Understanding the delivery process” or “A day in the life at Support”.

When working on your PLM learning structure, simplicity is a design principle worth following. While you want to deliver a highly personalized learning experience to your customers, having too many learning paths or courses leads to indecision, confusion, and lower satisfaction. That’s why I recommend that you keep your learning paths lean and focused.

4. Analyse and map Learning content.

Now that you’ve got your learning paths in place, it’s time to go one step further and define your courses. At this stage, you’ll take the learning paths and think of the courses needed to achieve the customer learning goals.

First of all, make an inventory of the existing documentation. Take each of the learning paths you’ve come up with and think about the courses you’ll need to achieve the learning goals you’ve set.

Content mapping can be tricky, because you have to work backwards.

Start by determining the logical pathway a learning customer would take when navigating through the path. What process do they follow? Which functionality will they use? In what order? Do they need any previous knowledge?

To give you an idea of how this works, let’s look at Outotec’s Equipment PLM Learning path:

In the picture, you can see a series of use cases following the process (on the left) that walk the user from product development to product delivery and services.

Behind each of the use cases, you’ll find the learning content required to complete each step.

At this point, your task is to define those use cases and think about the type of learning content you need for them. The content can be in video format, eLearning, PowerPoint presentations, manuals or even teacher-led trainings. And you don’t need to use the same content type for each path. I encourage you to mix up different content types to match your learners’ needs.

Great learning content must:

  • Combine theory and practice;
  • Be interdisciplinary;
  • Provide business context; and
  • Be practical.

For inspiration, check out some examples from the engaging eLearning courses we’ve created for our customers Konecranes, Aqseptance or Upchain. Nowadays the possibilities for eLearning are immense, and you can break down and present complex concepts (like the ones involved in PLM) in a very interactive and engaging way.

5. Getting a grip on what’s important.

Now that you’ve analysed the content you need to create, it’s time to prioritize what’s most important.

Start by determining which learning customer makes up the largest portion of your learners. If most of your learners are newbies, for example, you might decide not to work on the intermediate and expert learning paths just yet.

However, if you have roughly an equal number of learners from each group, you should consider what content is most relevant to them. Maybe some courses will be common for all your customers, or perhaps there’s a deployment coming up for an specific role that should take priority.

Sign up now and get started with your PLM training.

Sign up now and learn in detail how to define your very own PLM Learning strategy.

Sometimes it helps to survey a random sample of customers and ask them some questions to shape your plan. For example, if you’re working on a PLM course for newbies, you might want to ask your experienced users:

  • What are the 5 things a new PLM user absolutely needs to know to realize value?
  • What are the top 5 things you wanted to do when you first logged into the new PLM system?

You could then use the results to decide which content to prioritize.

6. Create a plan.

Once you’re clear on what content matters most, go ahead and create an action plan.

Think of your plan as your PLM Bible’s North Star. It will keep your sights set in the right direction and guide you as you move things forward.

Using a template or spreadsheet, determine which content you’ll work on a weekly/monthly basis. Rather than working on an overly long-term plan, break those long-term goals down and focus on multiple short-term “waves” to reach the goal.

The plan for these shorter-term waves lays out a clear course of action to review, create and test the learning content you need. This way, you’ll gain greater clarity on how long the work will actually take versus how long you thought it would take.

And what’s more, you’ll be able celebrate small successes, learn from the experience, and get buy-in.

7. Listen to your customers.

Finally, for your PLM Bible to really stay relevant, you need to talk to your customers. Whether it’s in person, online, or through surveys, take the time to check in with your customers and stay on top of what matters most to them. Customer feedback is one of the most powerful tools you can use to make your PLM Bible meaningful and relevant – and ultimately help your customers stick around to become PLM evangelists.

Over to You.

I know this is a lot of information, but the work has just begun! It takes time, organization, and creativity to create a successful PLM Bible.

But, as the book of Proverbs says, “The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom, and whatever you get, get insight.“ If you value education, PLM will bring a lot of value to you!

Sign up now and get started with your PLM training.

Sign up now and learn in detail how to define your very own PLM Learning strategy.