After I conduct a user research interview or field a vendor briefing, I usually like to offer the chance to answer any questions that folks may have for me as an industry analyst (time permitting, of course). Recently, it seems like 9 out of every 10 questions has been a close-variant on the theme, “given our tough economy, what do you see happening in the PLM space right now?” And while it’s easy to provide anecdotes or relay what I hear others saying about the state of PLM spending, I’ve candidly found it a bit hard to provide a really sound, fact-based answer. So…last month I started digging into Forrester’s latest Business Data Services (BDS) software survey responses (Q4 ’09) to try to get a better sense of where the PLM market is at. I’m happy to say, the results are in! We just published The State Of PLM 2010: A Tale Of Two Markets and I encourage you to check out the full report, featuring PLM investment trends across the established markets of North America and Europe as well as the emerging markets of Asia Pacific, Latin America, and the Middle East & Africa regions. Here are a few highlights from what I found:

–    Long-time customers are continuing their PLM programs. PLM represents a major, long-term IT investment for most companies, so despite major constraints on IT budgets, Forrester sees continued market activity for PLM application portfolios, with just under one-third (30%) of all software executives reported active investment in PLM software in Q4 2009, – whether than be piloting, implementing, or expanding or upgrading – compared with 28% a year ago.
–    More interest is emerging from non-traditional industries. Although active investments remain steady, Forrester also saw interest in PLM jump to 21% of all software executives in Q4 2009 compared with 16% in Q4 2008 due primarily from interest in sectors like utilities & telecom, financial services, and retail.
–    Buyers are seeking more vendor flexibility to help lower costs. With increased pressure to “do more with less” and be as efficient as possible, PLM buyers are taking advantage of the soft market conditions and exerting pressure on vendors for more pricing options, configurability, and OOTB integrations.
–    Customers in emerging regions are charting a different course for PLM. Compared to the more-established North American and European markets, PLM customers in Asia Pacific, Latin America, and the Middle East & Africa regions are not only pursuing more SaaS as a viable deployment option (despite the conventional barriers ) but also challenging the value of traditional maintenance and renewals.

Btw – the other question I get a lot is, “what’s hot in PLM?” That one is easy – I think social collaboration technologies (e.g. chat, presence detection, threaded discussions, blogs, wikis, social networking sites, etc.) and its potential to improve product development processes is red hot based on my PLM inquiries and other client discussions. Stay tuned for a full report on this, to be published in the April/May timeframe.