Oracle Agile Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) is a comprehensive solution designed to help organizations manage their product development processes. While it offers many strengths, like any software, it also has weaknesses, which create hidden costs.
Here are four:
- System Maintenance
Because Oracle Agile PLM is an on-prem application, as opposed to cloud-based, regular system upgrades are necessary to keep it efficient and secure. These upgrades can be costly, especially if they require downtime or additional resources to implement.
Production down events are subject to hardware issues such as running out of disk space. If this were to occur, likely it would cause a disk crash, resulting in a system outage and idle users. Seconds without access to your PLM software means losing enterprise visibility of product data.
Additionally, networking updates such as DNS changes can cause client-server communication problems, rendering the system unusable until the root problem is identified and resolved. Also, Java version upgrades can block access to Agile Admin or Agile Java Client and can break essential PX (process extension) code. Worth noting, that in many cases, external partners might be used to develop PXs. They may even own the source code, making troubleshooting issues that much more problematic because it requires the customer to resolve issues not with Oracle, but with a third party.
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To perform basic maintenance, Agile requires dedicated resources such as an Oracle DBA. Example tasks may include, for example, running Oracle Averify scripts or implementing and verifying fixes at the database level. It’s also important to note that Oracle's Critical Patch Updates are available quarterly only for the latest/supported Agile versions.
And, when it comes to deploying later versions of Agile, besides the long and expensive testing cycles, production upgrades require downtime. In Agile, exporting and importing the database can take days. Furthermore, for a valid DB export, the Agile service is recommended to be stopped, making the DB export even more challenging. Thus customers may have, in their non-production environments, old versions of the production database, making troubleshooting and testing incredibly complex.
The lack of adaptability of Oracle Agile poses significant concerns for many organizations, especially those with unique or rapidly changing business processes.
While Agile is a robust system, it is often criticized for its limited configuration options. The system is designed with a certain set of processes and workflows in mind, and deviating from these can be challenging. For example, Agile has a limited number of fields for “Page two” and “Page three” objects. These limitations can be particularly problematic for companies that have unique business needs and processes that aren’t accommodated by Agile’s data model.
In today's fast-paced business environment, organizations need to quickly adapt to market and supply chain changes, regulatory requirements, or internal process improvements, while maintaining high quality and rigorous product governance. However, Agile’s rigid nature and code-heavy customization approach can make it difficult for companies to modify the system in response to these changes.
Some customers might maintain their Agile environment under the belief that it’s a sound risk mitigation strategy, as if switching PLM systems will impose undesired process and organizational unease. However, the opposite is true.
Standing pat with a system that’s been devoid of innovation for years inherently constrains a business’ ability to pivot, thereby increasing its risk of being unprepared to brave market changes. As a result, businesses may find themselves working around the system rather than with it, leading to inefficiencies, and subjecting it to increased opportunity costs.
Performance issues in Oracle Agile can significantly affect the efficiency and user experience of those who rely on the system. These issues are often related to how the system handles product information and data, processes requests, and integrates with other tools.
Workflow processes in Agile, especially when they involve multiple steps or approvals, can sometimes create performance bottlenecks, affecting time to market and thus profitability. These gaps can slow down critical new product development activities impacting product innovation—such as product quality management, bills of material, and change management. The Agile PLM solution may take longer to process workflow transitions across the product value chain, including notifications, or updates, impacting the overall time it takes stakeholders to complete product lifecycle processes.
As businesses grow and the number of users increases, Agile might not scale as efficiently as needed. This can lead to performance degradation, where the system becomes slower as more users access it simultaneously, or as the volume of data and transactions increases.
Customizations and integrations with other enterprise systems like an ERP (such as from SAP, Netsuite, or Oracle themselves), QMS, or PIM can also affect performance. Every new customization, or Process Extension (PX, the framework used to extend Agile functionality through custom actions invoked on the Agile Application Server) that is not optimally designed or implemented can lead to increased system load, slower response times, and potential conflicts with Agile’s core functionality. Manual builds like these typically can’t be upgraded easily and won’t be able to automate activities, thus slowing down response times and significantly impacting time to market.
The underlying database performance is crucial for Agile. Issues like database fragmentation, inefficient queries, or inadequate indexing can severely impact the system's responsiveness. Regular database maintenance and optimization (again, requiring a dedicated Oracle DBA) are essential to mitigate these issues.
The performance of Agile is also dependent on the hardware and infrastructure it runs on. Inadequate server capacity, network issues, or outdated hardware can all contribute to slower system performance. Ensuring that the system is hosted on appropriately scaled and maintained infrastructure is key to avoiding these issues.
This means that Agile customers no longer need to hold out for 9.3.7; it will not be happening. It also means that any business still on a legacy version of Agile (9.3.5 and earlier) will need to update to 9.3.6 in order to get the maximum benefit from the system. With 9.3.6 as the last base version of Agile, premier support has been extended to December 2027.
Clearly, this is a blow to the customer base. While some customers may be in less dynamic environments that allow them to remain on old versions, many will need to finally make a move off of Agile due to the opportunity cost of seeing no future innovation or bug fixes. The inability to evolve is out of sync with what the market requires today, which is a methodology of continuous improvement, nothing less.
A future where Agile moves to the cloud has been promised for a while, but it’s not compatible with their product roadmap. Though they’ve been touting hopes of an Oracle Cloud PLM, these promises never came to fruition. The bottom line is that cloud-native product collaboration, wherein communication and processes happen in real-time, is out of step with what can be accomplished using Agile product collaboration.
In summary, it’s important to note that the impact of these hidden costs of Agile can vary greatly depending on the specific context and requirements of the organization using the software.
Companies that use Agile should strongly weigh the merits of continuing with the solution versus a strategic approach of switching to more effective and viable alternatives.
Explore the natural cloud-native alternative to Agile, Propel PLM. Try a familiar user interface with more functionality and upgrades at least three times annually.