Prostep | Newsletter
Dr. Bernd Pätzold

As Planning Security Declines, Agility Must Grow

By Bernd Pätzold

Major changes are occurring in all industries as a result of the digital transformation of business processes and models triggered by the Internet of Things (IoT) and Industry 4.0. It’s difficult to predict the scope of these changes, making it increasingly challenging for companies to plan. They must be capable of reacting to new requirements with agility. Agility demands more than just thinking differently; it also brings with it the need for more open IT infrastructure to provide optimum support for the digitization of business processes.

Small and medium-sized machine manufacturing companies like Hofmann Mess- und Auswuchttechnik aren’t the only ones confronted with the question of how to handle the challenges presented by IoT and Industry 4.0; major automobile manufacturers are also facing an uncertain future. Four global mega trends – trends that occasionally fuel one another – are reducing companies’ ability to plan reliably, and these trends demand more rapid responsiveness: digitization of vehicles, autonomous driving, alternative propulsion technologies, and new forms of mobility. The potential impact of these trends was discussed in detail during MB Connect, which was organized by Daimler during the International Motor Show (IAA). (Read more here).

The only thing that’s clear right now is that onnectivity in vehicles will continue to increase. But even the question of whether this will inevitably lead to the breakthrough of autonomous driving on a wide scale is no longer an easy one to answer. The same holds true for the third mega trend, alternative propulsion technologies: Is the electric car really the only solution, or do we need to simultaneously consider other propulsion concepts? Another unanswered question is exactly how the mobility concepts of the future will look, and what impact new services (Uber, Car2Go, etc.) will have on private auto sales. Additionally, the automobile industry is experiencing a crisis of confidence of its own making, triggered by the Dieselgate scandal.

Other industries are facing similar challenges. Many machinery and equipment manufacturers are unsure of the precise impact that the digital transformation process triggered by the Internet of Things (IoT) and Industry 4.0 will have on their business processes and models. Will they still sell machinery in the future, or will they merely offer it to customers as part of a service? And what will that mean for their organization, their employees, and their IT architecture?

Companies are finding it increasingly difficult to plan with any degree of certainty; plans made today might be obsolete by tomorrow. IT management and those responsible for development and production planning within companies must be able to react to this trend with flexibility. 

In that sense, agility is a decisive requirement not just for software development, but also when it comes to defining a PLM strategy, planning PLM architecture, and implementing the associated projects. Agility was the clincher in every major project that PROSTEP acquired in recent months.

The reason is obvious: The IT managers at these companies have to increase productivity in order to meet the expectations of their ‘customers’ in the company’s departments, who don’t want to wait months for new software. These expectations arise from customers’ familiarity with the role- and task-specific apps that we know from our mobile phones. This trend is also having a significant impact on the design of user interfaces, as Franz Koller from User Interface Design GmbH explains in an interview. (Read more here).

Admittedly, there is a balancing act involved here. Functionality cannot be provided quickly at the expense of reliability; these days, PLM solutions are mission-critical applications that have to meet high standards in terms of auditability and compliance. For this reason, companies need new, modular architecture concepts that facilitate reliable support for core processes while being easy to adapt to new business requirements. Architecture of this nature should allow for a dual-track approach, as laid out in Gartner’s bimodal IT concept: Classic and resilient on the one hand, agile and fault-tolerant on the other.

Openness in IT systems is a basic prerequisite for safeguarding this flexibility. No manufacturer will be able to provide equal support for the digitization of each business process, which is why modular IT architectures may need to be supplemented by software modules from third-party providers. Integrating these applications and accessing the information contained therein should no longer involve a great deal of effort in terms of programming and adapting interfaces. Consequently, the openness of systems as described in the Code of PLM Openness (CPO) is a strategic criterion in PLM selection projects. What’s more, we are one of the first PLM providers participating in a certification program for PLM openness; this program was launched by the prostep ivip Association with the active support of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs.

As part of its PLM strategy consulting, one of PROSTEP’s most important tasks is supporting companies as they digitize their business processes. (Read more here). We will help prepare you for the challenges of Industry 4.0. On our newly redesigned homepage, you can find all the information about our comprehensive range of solutions and consulting services in a clear, compact format. Visit us at