Unlock opportunity in your Windchill 11 upgrade

Matt Tognarelli January 20, 2017


The latest release of PTC’s flagship PLM Solution, Windchill 11 offers many new features and capabilities that enable manufacturers to apply PTC’s Internet of Things (IoT) technologies to the management and use of enterprise data and to key product lifecycle management operations. Customers are using Windchill 11 to drive innovation, reduce product complexity, improve product quality, and lower costs. Yet, many customers hesitate to upgrade because of concerns about scope and complexity, cost, and disruption to their businesses.

PTC Global Services addresses and mitigates these concerns through its processes and tools that contain the experience gained from leading hundreds of successful upgrades for customers. A Windchill 11 upgrade delivers ROI far beyond its costs. It offers opportunities to re-imagine processes and redesign IT infrastructures in ways that dramatically boost efficiency and reduce expenses. This paper details the substantial advances enabled by a Windchill 11 upgrade and the factors organizations must consider to fully realize that promise.

Despite advantages, hesitation to upgrade

Meeting customers’ demands for a greater choice of products at lower costs requires manufacturers to make better decisions, improve innovation, and enhance execution.

PTC customers have long used Windchill to manage and optimize their product development and lifecycle processes. As a major new release, Windchill 11 offers a PLM solution that bridges the digital world and the physical world. Leveraging PTC’s Internet of Things (IoT) technology, PTC Windchill 11 delivers new PLM functionality that is:

Smart–Enhances invention with smarter PLM access for all stakeholders.

Connected–Boosts quality with field performance data that supports all lifecycle processes.

Complete–Manages product complexity by providing a single source for all product data.

Flexible–Reduces costs with a modern cloud architecture supporting all deployments.

Notwithstanding Windchill 11’s new capabilities, many customers delay upgrades because of the negative perceptions organizations of all sizes often have around upgrades. Common fears include high project costs & length, potential disruptions, and fears of project expansion.


Customers keeping their eyes on the bottom line may be concerned about the risk of hidden costs for an upgrade. Having a strong plan at the outset perform the upgrade, developing adoption programs and training staff on the administration and use of the new solution are expenses many wish to avoid.


The upgrade process itself can involve several steps.

Planning–An upgrade demands both business and technical readiness. The business must evaluate how new capabilities can solve a problem or improve the business. Technical preparation requires companies to review their infrastructure, find and clean dirty data, develop and rehearse migration procedures, and gear up to transfer customizations.

Migration–While the migration process is straightforward, it can be risky. Any errors and the go-live will fail. The organization may need to regroup by fixing the issue, rehearsing the updated migration process, and reassembling the staff to redo the migration—all of which can impact the upgrade .

Testing–This can be a time-consuming aspect of any upgrade. Companies must test changes every step of the way—from testing data consistency and product functionality before the migration to making sure everything behaves as expected during go-live to ensuring that users can continue to use the system and run the business.

Managing risks

Risks can occur anywhere there is deviation from expected behavior. Multiple factors can interrupt the migration. Hardware limits. Human error. Differences between testing and production environments. All can cause the upgrade to stall and require rework. At a business level, the need for training on the new system can take engineers away from their day-to-day tasks and reduce efficiency for some time after go-live.

Keep the big picture in mind

Any major PLM upgrade can open the door to project scope expansion, such as the need to migrate customizations, optional upgrades, forced upgrades, and integration issues, that add time and cost. Thus, it is even more important to approach the project with a holistic view and a solid plan that considers the “full picture”.

Migrating customizations–Windchill often has a large footprint in organizations , and customers often make numerous customizations. Not all customizations may need to be migrated though. New functionality in the upgrade may make them redundant or require a potential redesign.

Optional enhancements–When performing a major system upgrade, customers may see an opportunity to add additional projects. Hardware upgrades, database upgrades, and process improvements all enhance value, but increase project length and expense. It’s important to identify and plan improvement like these in the scoping phase of the project.

Forced upgrades of related system components–Moving to Windchill 11 may mean that other integrated systems, such as Creo or third-party applications, may need upgrades to maintain compatibility. Again, this kind of impact can easily be identified and planned if the appropriate actions are taken in the early phase of project planning. The consultants or project leads would be able to approach this as part of the migration plan.

Managing integrations–If an integration between the PLM and another system breaks, other groups may be unable to access the data they need. The impact depends on the type of integration. The impact can severely affect business continuity and slow down or even stop production. ERP connections may need rewriting. API integration typically needs updates. Web services-based integrations tend to be more stable and better able to withstand the upgrade process.

Upgrade as opportunity

All the above points are not just myths. Companies of any size may have experienced one or the other pain before, and hardly any organization would jump on a new update just because it’s covered under a maintenance contract.

The real question is, how can you plan and evaluate the project in an organized way so the risk is minimized and the actual cost of the project (there will always be expenses involved!) will be outweighed by the benefits?

If you do it right, an upgrade can be a major opportunity to reduce complexity and introduce improvements to satisfy latest business needs.

Over time, a PLM system can become complex from customizations and modifications. An upgrade is the perfect time for an organization to do a holistic review of PLM operations, including workflows; customizations; skills; and infrastructure.

The following considerations can help an organization determine how to take advantage of these opportunities:

How can the upgrade improve my processes and workflows?

Today’s best practices may only be second best tomorrow. Approach the upgrade as an opportunity to leverage out-of-the-box best practice processes and workflows. This ensures that not only do you see value quickly from the new features but you are also minimizing cost and risk from highly customized or outdated processes. In addition, outside consultant help provides access to experts who have seen how Windchill 11 capabilities benefit customers across multiple industries. In customer engagements, we’ve found that the new capabilities improve business efficiency by 10 to 20 percent.

How can we improve the skills within our organization?

During the time an organization uses a PLM, the business often changes. Because people cycle in and out, any organization loses core skills in operating the existing PLM solution. An upgrade is a time to explore where users face challenges, evaluate their skills and implement a training program to ensure that people have the appropriate knowledge to use the PLM as productivity and effectively as possible.

Can we reconsider our customizations?

Customizations have plusses and minuses. An upgrade is a good time to re-evaluate both. Some customizations provide a competitive advantage and should be migrated into the new version. Others were created to add necessary functionality to earlier versions of Windchill that potentially can now be replaced with new off-the-shelf capabilities in Windchill 11.

By strategically decustomizing Windchill, organizations can reduce TCO and risks for future upgrades. Customizations increase costs because customers may need to use professional services to resolve technical problems rather than being able to turn to tech support. Heavily customized systems can also be more difficult to upgrade if customizations must be rewritten for the new system.

Can we reduce infrastructure complexity by moving to the cloud?

An upgrade can be a good opportunity to reduce infrastructure complexity. Organizations may be able to use the expense of the upgrade to justify rehosting the PLM solution on the cloud, using either a hosted or Software as a Service (SaaS) solution.

Operating the PLM on the cloud allows organizations to offload the cost of purchasing hardware and the complexity of managing the infrastructure to PTC. Hosted PTC solutions also deliver high availability and guaranteed performance. Because PTC manages technical upgrades as part of the subscription, customers can focus on taking advantage of the new capabilities and business process improvements.

Navigate apps

Navigate technology offers role-based right-sized apps that can help make the transition to Windchill 11 much easier for large organizations. Large organizations with “light” users can now work with role-based apps without training them to adopt the entire system. To learn more, talk to us today.

Success factors

Once an organization has made the decision to upgrade, it should take a holistic approach to ensure success. Several factors are required to ensure the value of the upgrade. These include:

Focusing on the technology

An upgrade involves not only new technology, but also people and processes. Organizations need to elevate their staff’s PLM expertise and optimize their use of the tool as well as ensure that processes incorporate best practices.

Pay attention to adoption

When companies fail to pay adequate attention to adoption, employees may not be motivated to make the changes necessary to use the new version. Implementing an adoption program helps organizations motivate employees to use the new software by explaining why the change is necessary and detailing the business value of the solution as it relates to the company’s vision and strategy.

Budget for education

Customers often think that teams will learn the new solution by osmosis and don’t budget enough for user education. But if users don’t know how to take advantage of the new solution, they won’t be efficient using it. Developing an education strategy and allocating adequate budget ensures that users understand how to leverage new business processes for their particular role to become more efficient.

Upgrade tools and solutions

PTC offers a wide range of services to help organizations upgrade more efficiently and make the most get of the new Windchill capabilities. Our services can help:

Strategic services–Upgrade planning and ongoing alignment between PTC Windchill 11, your PLM strategy and your market-driven business initiatives.

Optimization services–People, process, and technology-focused continuous improvement programs to get the most value from your upgrade including improved working methods, de-customization planning and solution optimization to address your business initiatives.

Rehosting on PTC Cloud Services–Clear identification of the value for your business of moving to a new cloud-based deployment and management of the re-host of your current on-premise solution to our secure, high performance and available cloud environment.

Training & Adoption–End-user training, and role-based solution adoption at scale ensuring maximum value from your PTC Windchill 11 solution.


Although customers often approach upgrades with trepidation, they represent an opportunity to reimagine processes and add value. During an upgrade, organizations have a chance to evaluate and enhance workflows, enhance skills, decustomize the solution to reduce risk and cost, and eliminate infrastructure complexity—while gaining access to the IoT connected world.

Learn more about how PTC tools and service help your organization avoid the pitfalls of an upgrade and maximize the potential benefits.

© 2016, PTC Inc. All rights reserved. Information described herein is furnished for informational use only, is subject to change without notice, and should not be taken as a guarantee, commitment, condition or offer by PTC. PTC, the PTC logo, Product & Service Advantage, Creo, Elements/Direct, Windchill, Mathcad, Arbortext, PTC Integrity, Servigistics, ThingWorx, ProductCloud and all other PTC product names and logos are trademarks or registered trademarks of PTC and/or its subsidiaries in the United States and other countries. All other product or company names are property of their respective owners. J7237–UnlockOpportunityinYourNextPLMUpgrade–EN–0516

Topics Product Lifecycle Management