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My Career Following the Evolution of PLM

Product Manager Michelle Stone has seen the earliest iterations of PLM—from EDM to on-prem to its platform-native form today. Here’s what she’s gathered from the journey.

A lot can change in 25 years, but some things remain the same. 

Companies have always been concerned about improving their product development processes. They look to enterprise technologies to help with the flow of information from one team to another and seek ways to remove bottlenecks and get their products to market quicker while maintaining high quality. 

In the 25 years I’ve worked in PLM, I’ve seen every chapter of PLM—but those priorities remained the same. 

Chapter I: It All Started with Data Management

While engineering programs currently teach the importance of data management in school, it certainly wasn’t the case for me. I came to PLM by way of studies in mathematics and physics then post-graduate work in computer science. 

I was hired into EDM (no, not electronic dance music, but Enterprise Data Management) because of my physics background, assuming I could gather requirements from engineers when customizing a PLM system for a large aerospace and defense company. 

This was back in the day when “customization” wasn’t a dirty word—prior to the “configuration not code” mantra of today.

At this stage of my career, I was working as a consultant. I had the opportunity to learn the ins and outs of manufacturing and the importance of integrations. I was responsible for full-lifecycle enterprise data management software customizations on multiple implementation projects. There was deep satisfaction in successfully deploying a highly customized, distributed PLM solution to over 6000 users. 

Chapter II: Enter Integrations

Mergers and acquisitions are a fact of life and the smaller PLM company where I got my start, Eigner, Inc., was acquired by Agile Software. Here I had the opportunity to learn another PLM system, already established in the high-tech and medical device space, and get exposure to more than just A&D. 

There were similarities across all industries but that same key focus always remained: how to get products to market with high quality.

Later, I took a role as a support engineer for xPLM Solution Inc., a leading provider of integrations for CAD, PLM, ERP, Office, and data exchange systems. There I was responsible for helping customers solve technical issues, answering questions about the capabilities of the software, and communicating customer needs and wishes to the development and engineering staff. 

As xPLM was both CAD and PLM agnostic, I again had the opportunity to learn about other PLM systems (namely Aras and Infor), in addition to supporting the two flavors of Agile—now owned by Oracle.  

Chapter III: Cloud on the Horizon

When Autodesk launched their multi-tenant cloud PLM solution, I was intrigued by the promise of the cloud—as well as the opportunity to work in an office (this was about a decade before the pandemic and I did not like working from home at that time). 

Leading the PLM support team, my focus was working with Product Development and Product Management organizations to drive the improvements that matter most to the customers. 

At this point, the debate of cloud versus on-premise was in its early stages. 

As a former consultant, I saw the value of moving from a hard-to-upgrade customization framework to what I liken to the apartment mentality—all customers live in the same infrastructure, decorating their own individual units using “configuration not code.”

Chapter IV: A PLM Platform for All

As a consultant for an on-premise solution, integrations often meant (expensive) custom code. With the advent of REST APIs, it became easier to connect systems. PLM moved from beyond just engineering to having multiple departments seeing the value of having all of their product development information in one place (quality management, tech pubs, project management).

One of the drivers for me joining Propel was the fact it was built on a solid existing platform. Previous cloud PLM companies that I worked with were saddled with playing catch up; basically, CAD companies scrambling to create their own platforms for enterprise systems. 

Having been through many false starts, trying to overcome technical debt from older technology stacks, and reevaluation of direction, I was excited to know I would be building on top of a premier platform, Salesforce. 

Salesforce, despite its ticker symbol of CRM, is much more than that; it’s the ultimate platform story. Apps built on top of the Salesforce platform leverage an access control model, UI elements, and a shared data model—making it easier to develop on top of. 

I like to say I’m a lazy PM—why build something when you can leverage existing technology? This frees up my development team to tackle more interesting and innovative solutions. 

Today: From PLM to PVM

I’d heard the platform story before, at both Autodesk and PTC (I worked as a PM at Arena before joining Propel). 

One of my mentors framed it as “subscribe to a company for all your design and make needs.” Why use disparate systems from multiple companies with integration challenges when you can subscribe to one platform for all product development needs?

The platform architecture Propel is built on has allowed us to not only achieve the original goals of PLM—faster time to market with a higher quality product—but distribute that value across entire organizations.

Because of this next-gen capability, Propel touts an entirely new category called product value management (PVM)—meaning we connect PLM directly with quality management (QMS) and product information management (PIM). 

PVM is both where the story of the platform reaches its ultimate conclusion, and simultaneously represents an unprecedented future for product companies.

Conclusion: The Next Chapter 

Over my 25-year journey in PLM, transitioning to product value management (PVM), I've witnessed and contributed to the evolution of managing and streamlining product development—from data management to enterprise integrations to the cloud.

Propel's platform, built on Salesforce, marks a pinnacle in both PLM’s journey and my own as a Product Manager. This shift to platform architecture not only encapsulates our enduring objectives—faster market readiness and superior product quality—but also sets the stage for an innovative future in product development, driven by future-ready solutions.

Intrigued by the exceptional capabilities of a platform-based PLM? Explore the Propel solution.

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Michelle Stone
Senior Product Manager, Propel

Michelle Stone is currently a Senior Product Manager at Propel Software, bringing experience from previous roles at PTC Arena and Autodesk. Michelle is based in Portland, OR and holds degrees in mathematics, physics, and web development. With a robust skill set including PLM product support, system enhancements, integration, data migration and more, Michelle has a far-ranging vantage of the industry that contributes valuable insights for the future.

Fun Fact: Michelle loves attending live classical music concerts and prepping ahead of time by listening to podcasts about the composers and works.

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Michelle Stone