Mustard, Microscope, __? Submit the Best PLM Metaphor and Win a Prize


The inaugural Dassault Systèmes Customer Conference (lovingly referred to here and on Twitter as #DSCC09) spent quite a bit of time illuminating just “What is PLM?”

You’d think a 600 person conference on PLM by the leader in the space (yes, contradictory claims/flames to derek.lane[at], please) wouldn’t need to focus on just what is PLM. Everybody there already knows what it is, otherwise they wouldn’t be there, right?

Well, yes. But there’s still a reason for the focus.

Day Two of DSCC opened with a Jaywalking-style Man on the Street video asking Orlandonians “Do you know what PLM is?” As Fabien Fedida, director of global offer strategy, stated in the video below, each and every attendee is part of (perhaps) the best kept secret in the world (except for that whole Da Vinci Code thing, of course!).

While the passers-by didn’t realize it, PLM impacts nearly everything in their lives, from their cars, to their phones, to the shirts and shoes they wear. As part of the communications team, I’m constantly wondering, how can I best explain PLM not only to such passers-by, but also to more savvy individuals?

Is it the spicy mustard of collaboration that holds the ham & cheese sandwich of product development together, as Josh Mings of SolidSmack put it?

Josh spicy mustard on Twitter

Or is it the strategic electron microscope that brings the complex, interlocking molecules of product development into focus?

348px-Ernst_Ruska_Electron_Microscope_-_Deutsches_Museum_-_Munich-editSuch analogies are useful explanatory techniques, but they are reflective of something much more important. How we describe things (dare I say, “visualize” things?) determines how we think about them.

Analogizing PLM and describing it goes straight to the heart of an executive’s own mental processes, or a company’s own philosophical and strategic perspectives on product development.

How a company thinks about PLM determines how they implement it, what they expect from it, and how it changes their company’s innovation processes. This is the Observer Effect in action.

As a customer was overheard saying to a senior DS executive at DSCC,

I don’t care if my V6 project works perfectly or not. What I care about is how [PLM 2.0] will alter my guys’ thinking about creating, innovating, and collaborating. It will shift an engineering mindset to a broader innovation mindset.

Let’s keep asking ourselves, “What is PLM?” Let’s talk about how we perceive PLM, how we describe it. In the long run, it will shape how PLM works.

© BrokenSphere / Wikimedia Commons

For the record, if we have to go with a food metaphor, I don’t think it’s spicy mustard. Too limiting.

PLM is the entire chicken sandwich of product development, with a dash of collaborative (spicy) mustard and mayo slathered all over the CAD chicken, digital manufacturing tomatoes and FEA lettuce, plus the all important consumer-experience wheat bread.

So, spicy mustard? Electron microscope? Chicken sandwich? Take our poll below and then submit your own PLM metaphors in the comments section. In addition to PLM fame, the winning metaphor gets you a personalized t-shirt boasting the metaphor. Be sure to wear it to the next DSCC! (Spicy mustard and electron microscope ideas excluded. Sorry, Josh!)



P.S. Don’t forget to submit your metaphors in the comments section below!

Derek Lane is PR manager for Dassault Systèmes Americas. Derek Lane