Sunday, May 15, 2011

iReq - personal requirements engineering

Still waiting for delivery of my iPad 2... Not sure if I really wanted the email on May 12, confirming delivery for May 24. I guess the logistics people at Apple just like torturing their customers.

Solution seeking problem
While waiting for the delivery, I thought about potential use cases. As I didn't find too many, I decided to search the web. I came across a posting from a similar minded person called The iPad: An Elegant Solution in Search of a Problem. My favorite part was his reply to a comment praising the rather balanced posting: “Honestly, it was really hard to write this. I love everything about Apple. And the iPad is gorgeous. I just can't find a real use for it.” That was when I noticed the banner ad at the bottom of the screen. Now that fits.

It seems as if the iPad somehow changes the bottom-up approach of identifying the requirements first and then developing a solution. This is a case where a neat piece of IT inspires new solutions. More specifically: an IT platform that allows seamless integration of new solutions. One of the reasons for me buying an iPad was curiosity about these solutions - and being able to closely follow the evolving state of the art.

Business drives IT, right?
I felt reminded of some PLM discussions that go like this:
Q: What is the best PLM system?
A: That depends on your requirements.
Q: What can it do for me?
A: Everything you want it to do.
Q: What do I want?
A: Right.

Given the scope of today's PLM suites, it's hard to get a complete and consistent set of requirements including prioritization. Vendors keep adding innovative functionality such as compliance management and social product development, while the business is still digesting basic PDM and CAD data management. This is looking more like IT drives Business.

PLM at the crossroads
In this situation, I see two options: you can either continue with the slow but proven bottom-up process of analyzing the processes, specifying requirements, selecting a system, customizing it etc. - business drives IT. Or you could adopt a process of providing OOTB solutions from your PLM vendor of choice and finding a way to apply them in your business. This second option can only work, if the solutions are good - and if you have an IT platform that allows seamless integration of new solutions (hence the iPad). The major PLM suites might provide good solutions for all kinds of problems, but they struggle with the integration into an existing system. Each new module brings along a list of prerequisites and dependencies that still requires major efforts to implement that module.

A PLM platform that wants to support OOTB implementations needs sophisticated mechanisms to separate the customer-specific configuration and customizing from the underlying platform. This would not only ease the integration of new modules, but also the maintenance of the overall system through the release cycle.


  1. Hello Jens,

    Excellent article! I have been thinking a lot about how companies can use OOTB PLM solutions. All the systems I have seen at different companies are highly customized. At the same time PLM vendors praise their OOTB functionality. Some people tell me that american companies actually use this functionality, but in Germany this seems to be nearly impossible ... Is it a difference in culture that determines who drives innovation, IT or business?

    Viele Grüße,


  2. Hello Volker,
    thanks for your comment.
    Although I have noticed a more pragmatic approach in the USA a few times, I would think that a lot of PLM implementations are global. In that case, an OOTB standard can also be useful as a reference to overcome cultural differences.
    Best regards,

  3. THANKS JENS ! Wonderful written article. You wrote everything in very clear and easy language. It was so organized that I didn't get any difficulty in understanding it .
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