Guiding the PDM Conversation Requires a Steely-Eyed Gaze

get-chekclistThe decision to invest in a modern engineering document management system is a big deal. A variety of questions arise, from the financial (What’s the budget?) to the logistical (How do we deploy and not fall behind in our work?) and the practical (Who is in charge of random issues?). Sometimes the answer comes from within the organization, and sometimes the answer is more like, “We’ll solve that with the software vendor.”

When the answers require a joint venture, it is important to enter into the conversation with the software vendor as an equal partner. Every vendor of product data management (PDM) and/or engineering document management (EDM) software wants a happy customer—but they prefer happy and compliant. If you let the vendor drive the conversation, you may not get what you really need from your new software.

It becomes important to establish ground rules before you start the process of selecting a vendor. “Know thyself” was the motto inscribed above the door at the Temple of Apollo for a reason. When seeking guidance, the first step is to have a specific destination in mind. The more time you take to pull together internal resources and establish common goals, the better off you will be when you start talking to vendors.

There are three broad categories to explore when you decide to shop for a new PDM system: technology, people, and logistics. From these broad categories, you can dig deep into expectations, attitudes, and issues. Once you have done your “know thyself” homework, then you are ready to talk to vendors.

Recently the consulting engineers at Synergis Software combed through a variety of online forums where the users of document management gather to talk and solve issues. From their research, they put together a list of 25 questions that a prospective engineering document management buyer should ask a vendor during the evaluation process.

25 Questions for Selecting a Vendor” has become one of the top five documents downloaded from the Synergis Software site. The document gets right to the point; and serves as a great checklist. Here are four of the 25 questions  to direct to any potential solutions vendor.

  • How long has your company been in business selling and supporting engineering document management?
  • Who is responsible for your support; what kind of infrastructure do you have and where is your support team located?
  • What is your relationship with the CAD vendors whose software you integrate with?
  • What kind of visualization solution do you provide?

Asking the same questions of every vendor is a great way to keep a steely-eyed gaze on the goal.

Randall S. Newton is the principal analyst and managing director at Consilia Vektor, a consulting firm serving the engineering software industry. He has been directly involved in engineering software in a number of roles since 1985. More information is available at

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