For quite some time all was quiet. So long as ERP managed enterprise data and PLM software was, for all intents and purposes, about managing CAD, everyone was content. However, over the past several years, there has been a deliberate growth in both camps. PLM vendors are going upstream to manage non-CAD activities and data such as suppliers data, compliance information and technical publications. ERP companies, most notably Oracle, claim a position at the center of the PLM, or, more import
It's too tempting to be lured into the trap of innovation management: Is innovation a process? An engineering discipline? An art form? Can it be managed? Should it? I spoke and wrote about companies that are reckless innovators vs. those that practice deliberate, efficient and lean innovation. But independent of the question what the innovation process is, I think it incorrect to define an IT architecture for innovation. Furthermore, it's not about innovation as an orthogonal activity; it’s about making better and more effective portfolio and product-related decisions.
Therefore, I view PLM (the practice, not the software) as a strategy and a practice to making effective decisions throughout the product lifecycle. These involve all activities, from, yes, innovation, to design & engineering and manufacturing, and continuing downstream to sustainment and support to end of life.
Many of these decisions are best made early in the product lifecycle, where, admittedly, PLM software tools dominate the activity. However, better decisions are those that are informed by experience, insight and data from all lifecycle phases and from other products: manufacturing, quality, supplier performance, customer experience, and so forth; data that in most instances is managed by the ERP system, but often involves other software as well.
Another key decision activity pertains to portfolio-level decisions. For example, organizations must consider how the development and anticipated success of new innovation might impact other products still in development or already on the market. And what about optimizing engineering and manufacturing resources allocation for multiple projects? Surely this is ERP and not PLM, although in many organizations those decisions are more likely driven by an unwieldy collection of Microsoft Excel spreadsheets and Project files.
Going forward, I do not see the need for debating or defining the role and jurisdiction of PLM vs. ERP software. An effective integrated decision-making framework must be inclusive of multiple business and engineering disciplines and the associated software tools. Organizations will come to terms with the need to maintain heterogonous CAD and possibly even PLM software tools, to optimize product lifecycle decision-making.