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PLM vs. ALM: Compare the differences

Company leaders must be aware of the critical distinctions between PLM and ALM. Learn each system's features and how they can potentially work together.

An end-to-end project management system can help employees complete important initiatives. Company leaders should evaluate whether their organization could benefit from using a product lifecycle management system, an application lifecycle management system or both.

Tracking project information is critical, as the data can help companies with product development, product revisions, marketing and customer support. PLM and ALM systems help companies with this important task. Each system specializes in certain areas, but using the two products together can also prove beneficial.

Here's what company leaders should understand about PLM vs. ALM.

What is PLM?

Companies use PLM systems to develop a manufactured product. The PLM system includes features for the design phase through the manufacturing process. It stores the project information, such as design documents and manufacturing requirements, from the entire lifecycle of a product in a central database.

The PLM system might also push data to other systems, such as an ERP. This capability can improve marketing and sales efforts since those teams can use the project data as well once the product is complete.

Using a PLM system can improve project management in various ways, including simplifying reporting.

What is ALM?

Companies that are developing software applications use an ALM system. It provides a centralized database in which users store all the files related to software application development, including design documents, software test information and product documentation.

Like a PLM, an ALM includes reporting tools. An ALM also offers the ability to control access to ALM data, audit capabilities and workflows for approving new or updated information.

Integrating PLM and ALM

While many companies use a PLM or an ALM, using the two systems together can provide benefits for certain projects. For example, a company creating a physical product that includes embedded software, which makes the item more customizable and provides better functionality, will likely find it useful to use a PLM system and an ALM system. Contemporary refrigerators, thermostats and vehicles are some common examples of that type of product.

Using both systems can potentially benefit companies in various ways. The PLM and ALM can interact without compromising functionality for end-users. Using both systems also helps the project manager and subproject managers track the status of their area of responsibility, giving all project members better visibility into the entire undertaking.

However, using both systems might present some challenges. For example, employees might be confused at first about where to store and find information. Also, using an interface from the ALM might lead to issues with the required data flowing from one system to the next on a consistent schedule.

In addition, using two systems can be expensive. Companies carrying out large-scale projects will likely find the benefits outweigh the costs of licensing and maintaining both systems, but companies with small-scale projects might find it challenging to justify the cost of using both.

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