PLM and End-To-End Business Process Myth

March 31, 2010

I was reading Arcweb SAP Insider 2010 related to the manufacturing, sustainability and product lifecycle management domains. The tag line “End-to-End Business Process Management” came to my attention, so I decided to go inside and try to understand what SAP is up to in their new PLM deliveries.

The overall document is heavy loaded with general statements about SAP and their investment into PLM program, important customer needs and problems that can be solved by SAP PLM. In the area of new product development, I found three pieces of new release achievements: 1- SAP new user interface; 2- New Project and Portfolio Management; 3- Integrated Development Environment. The last one was related to the information about end-to-end business processes I was looking for.

SAP PLM’s offerings for the Integrated Development environment.  Following the theme of end-to-end business processes, SAP PLM has focused on the need for a comprehensive product development and innovation approach.  This would involve multiple components of their PLM solution portfolio including robust CAD integration, project and portfolio management, single repository for product and process data, and a collaborative development platform that manages role-based IP protection. One of the more interesting offerings in this area is an Integrated Product Development platform for discrete industries and a companion IPD for the process industries.  IPD for the process industries included specific solutions for area like recipe management, material and task sourcing, compliance, and document management.  This follows the trend among PLM providers today to focus on specific industries with tailored solutions sets.

I think, I succeeded to get an idea of End-to-End business processes SAP is talking about. If I will translate to simple words it will contain a single repository for product and process data as well as set of tools and application to work on this data such as Project and Portfolio Management and some others. I still have few important, but not answered questions with regards to End-To-End business processes:

1. How to capture existing business processes?
2. What is the process of “solution tailoring”?
3. How IPD will be integrated with non-SAP modules and tools?

End-to-end business process management is a nice marketing slogan. In the end, there is nothing more than pieces of product and process data that need to stick together. SAP Wizards assumes that they know how to put them together to get an organizational job done by providing a specific tailored solution. Maybe they are right. However, the process to do so will contain lots of small steps related to existing business processes analyzes, integration and customization. I turned me back to one of my previous posts: PLM Best Practices Torpedo. End-To-End Business Processes are set of best practices on top of the single product and process data repository.

What is my conclusion after all? End-to-End processes sound very profound and attractive. However, it seems to me SAP was focused last three years on how to gather all definitions and implementation practices to introduce the comprehensive product portfolio making best practices for customers. The implementation of such can be bumpy and requires lots of energy, skills and the most important – time. The last becomes the most critical for manufacturers today. I’d like to quote another pace from the same write-up: “… that the number one goal for manufacturing companies was to reduce “time-to-profit” for new or changed products...”. With long PLM End-To-End business processes implementation cycles this goal will not be achievable and can easily become Dead-End.

Just my thoughts…
Best, Oleg


PLM and The Future Of Files In Organizations

March 30, 2010

Thanks for one of my readers who sent me the link to Wrench Enterprise. Their presentation about project collaboration and file sharing, made me think about files in enterprise organization. I think, even after many years of web oriented applications and implementations, files remain a very important piece of every enterprise organization. The collaboration between different people in the organization with involvement of files is growing, in my view. I see few interesting trends in the future of files in the engineering and enterprise organizations.

First, let’s where all these files are coming from. The significant piece of files comes from CAD/CAE applications. They have been targeted by multiple PDM Applications for the last 15-20 years with variable success, in my view. Another significant chunk of files comes from Office applications – Emails, Word, PowerPoint and, of course, the King of the road – Excel (or an alternative spreadsheet application). The third big part of files is various outcomes / reports from multiple engineering and enterprise applications. So, what will happen with all these files in the future? What organizations will do with this huge amount of files?

Here is my take on this. I can see possible three trends related to the future of files in the engineering organization – (1) Dissolve in Web Apps; (2) Acquisition by Content Servers; (3) Migrate to Cloud Storage(s).

Dissolve in PLM Web Applications
This trend will present the future move to web type applications from desktop applications. In my view, it represents a strategic move, but at the same time it will be a relatively slow process. Enterprise and engineering organization is very conservative, and it will take a lot of time until the majority of web apps in the organization will be web based.

Acquisition by Enterprise Content Servers
This is an interesting one, in my view. Content Management can grow in enterprise organization. Content Management has a small presence in engineering compare to the traditional PLM folks. The growing amount of SharePoint-like solution, reminds me about the the future movement in this direction.

Migrate to Cloud Storage
The most un-realistic for the short term. Organization in general and engineering organization specifically wants to keep their data closely and this is directly related to IP protection. The security concerns are still high. However, I’d expect an interesting trend for small organizations to outsource and host their servers. And it means the solution will become a very practical soon.

I’m interested to hear your comments and thoughts, as usual.
Best, Oleg


PLM and Supply Chain in Web 2.0 Era

March 29, 2010

I was thinking about supply chain issues during this weekend. When life of manufacturers becomes even more complicated than before, issues related to the supply chain or more, specifically to an ability to control and protect your brand from various supply chain issues raising their priorities. Supplier-related issues can significantly impact the whole product lifecycle starting from time-line and ending by serious quality and regulation issues.

I came across Cristian Verstraetet blog post – Protect Your Brand Through Controlling Your Supply Chain. He is mentioning some interesting ideas that from his standpoint can put a surge protector between supply chain and brands. As such, he mentioned growing need to monitor social activity around your brand in order to identify the possible problems earlier, establishing code of business conduct and dialog between OEMs and suppliers.

I think web and online monitoring are the essentials of the business these days. It is absolutely true for personal brands and for large international companies. When thinking about Web 2.0 trends, I definitely Supply Chain Management 2.0 capabilities to use the information on World Wide Web that can help to organize a more effective supply chain. However, last two issues made me think about some problems where I believe a solution can come from Product Lifecycle Management systems and implementations. I’d like to figure out two important issues related to supplier management: Product Data Integration and Supply Attention Economy.

Product Data Integration
In my view, the issue of data integration between OEMs and Suppliers will come to the emergent level of the attention very soon. The ugly truths of this issue is that nobody these days can provide a consistent product data landscape from OEM (or Tier 1) side on what is going on in the supply chains. The complexity of the system is so high that companies are mostly focused on procedures of data transfer between OEMs and Suppliers. However, the data quality will start alarming very soon. It stats from various regulation topics and need to provide up-to-date information related to product bill of materials and ends from the ability to optimize product behavior.

Attention Economy and Cost Control
This one is a bit more complicated. Nevertheless, I see it as an emergent trend in a couple of years. The supplier relationships G-forces are moving from centrally controlled OEM-Supplier model to somewhat I’d call Supplier-Focused. It means that we’ll see a growing number of suppliers and much more complicated supply chain network. Internet, online business, globalization will play an additional role in helping to create a more granular supply chain. However, how possible to optimize this network. Here what is called “Economy of Attention” will come. In simple words the relationships between OEM and Suppliers are going to change. It won’t be completely controlled by upper supplier level anymore. The suppliers will be pro-actively looking how to optimize their business by offering their business online. It will come in design, supply, manufacturing. However, it will also change upper OEM/Supplier level. Their systems will need to come to the higher level of optimization. Such structural changes will allow to optimize cost and improve the quality of products and services.
The PLM domain is the best candidate to think about such a type of system development. The obvious advantage of PLM is an ability to handle Product related data. However, PLM will need to learn a lot in order to move into this interesting journey.

Just my thoughts…
Best, Oleg


How To Fix PLM Industry Dissatisfaction?

March 26, 2010

COFES 2010 is just around the corner, and I had chance to discuss with Brad Holtz of Cyon Research the potential topics to think and discuss towards the event. We touched the issue of the top PLM industry problems and how it comes to the discussion on Daily PLM Think Tank. So, this morning, I made my first BLOG “Better listening on Google” research and shout “PLM dissatisfaction” search. The article with a complete match to my criteria came in the beginning – “Why is Industry Dissatisfied with PLM?” by Frank Lillehagen, and I decided to make a deep dive into this article and to compare it to my thoughts related to the current PLM industry problems.

The main introductory made by Frank is that PLM actually was too late to the “enterprise app dinner” and was built on top of either CAD, CRM, ERP or even PDM. It was interesting to me, since I have never seen PLM system built on top of CRM. However, I think the main point was clear – in the family of the enterprise engineering apps, PLM appears to be a guilty child who needs to explain his rights to exist and prove all the time his organizational and technological ROI. Later in the article divided into sections: 1- What is missed?, 2- PLM capabilities needed, 3- Towards Product Knowledge Architecture, 4- Where do we go from here? Each section presented from 10 to 20 bullets with lists of issues that need to be done or missed. Actually, in my view those are expected to be a single list of issues, but they were presented in different ways.  I made some write up based on the topics that got my special attention:

A PLM architecture should create visual collaborative scenes for proactive behavior and learning-by-doing, enhancing human capabilities and creativity, creating the real-time enterprise, and transforming industrial computing to practical services and work processes.

We need to combine the complementary strengths of computers and humans, in handling and managing data categories, object classes and product families, to provide methods for life-cycle management and reuse.

Huh… It is complex. I must admit, I personally failed to come to the conclusion about the topic after reading this article multiple times. I tried to analyze the list of 20 PLM requirements needs presented by author. However, issue presented there were either completely broad like “Transform IT systems development and industrial computing” or “Support holistic enterprise design of projects, products and work environments” or absolutely theoretical like “Redefine design theory to exploit role-oriented knowledge architectures and product families“.

I almost gave up, nevertheless, the topic of industry dissatisfaction kept me in the focus. Actually, I felt my complete dissatisfaction by my inability to write the conclusion and decided to put my top 3 priority list that can improve the level of PLM Industry Satisfaction. Here we go:

Clean the PLM Language from buzzwords and broad statements. In my view, lack of clarity is absolutely needed as a first step. Customers and industry audience needs to get feeling of simplicity and clarity in definition and implementation.

Open Data Foundation. The main issue here is that currently I observe a huge amount of disruptive data trends in different PLM implementations. Combined with a large amount of legacy data, apps and home grown implementations it created the situation where a significant effort need to move PLM data implementation forward. The potential idea for this foundation is open source data foundation alliance supported by all PLM vendors.

Flexible Integration Capabilities. The integration topic in PLM is currently in the very bad shape. In my view, vendors gave up in their effort to invest into integration. Customers are mostly solving these problems by themselves or by 3rd party products.

An additional issue is social. PLM as an industry needs to come to the level of maturity in their ability to organize PLM events with involvement of multiple mindshare PLM vendors and related to PLM providers and supporters. The understanding of such need is very important. There are an absolute absence of PLM events these days with some small exclusion. The healthy industry needs to be able to consolidate around strong industry leaders and additional technological, vertical, service and other commercial companies.

Just my thoughts… I will continue my “thinking research” and hope to come with some conclusions towards COFES 2010.

Best, Oleg


PLM, Social Silos and Information Streams

March 25, 2010

I had chance to read the following blog post on IT Business Edge – Oh No, Social Medial Creates Even More Information Silos. . It made me think about process interaction into enterprise organization. What I like very much, is a definition of social channels. This is a short quote from the article:

Social channels are repositories of siloed information just as often as traditional enterprise applications, if not more so. At least with enterprise applications, companies recognize the need to integrate different data streams, have been cracking away on the problem for years and have enlisted support from vendors. (Sure, sometimes the “support” seems like little more than lip service, but vendors largely do try to offer integration when and where it makes sense.) IT Business Edge’s Loraine Lawson last week wrote about the growing need for companies to consolidate information from various social channels in one place, perhaps on their Web sites.

This fits my view on how processes will be organized in the future. The biggest problem of process organization, as I see them is their absolute inability for self organization. I see process management as somewhat half successful in the systems like CRM and ERP. However, it becomes an absolute failure when it comes to the engineering space. Why, I think, it happens. The main problem is the very informal way of communication during product development, engineering and manufacturing. In the CRM and even ERP domains I can always identify “push event” that can trigger a process. Opposite to that, in engineering, the type of the communication is more in the “pull” mode. The most popular collaboration and communication tool in the engineering enterprise is the email. However, information and communication overflow is the biggest problem of process communication in the enterprise manufacturing organization.

Organization of Social Information Stream is an interesting idea. I came to that looking on how multiple social tools successfully promote information flowing between their members. Think about Twitter lists, for example. If you’ll “twit” from the side of various actors in your engineering organization, you probably will be able to organize your communication in a better way. In addition to that, PLM organization is pretty much siloed. It prevents PLM from the efficient organization of process and data management. Maybe social information streams using social websites collaborative approaches, is the way to go in the enterprise? If I’ll take this idea forward, my next step will be probably to define “twitting actors” in my product development. Subscription to these “actors” will allow me to flow in my product development information streams.

What is my conclusion today? The communication in the enterprise organization is not a simple task. Today, email is still the king of the road. The real advantage of email is that you can consolidate your information streams in the single place. However, you easily can get to the point where your single email stream is overflowed and become inefficient. Email is a typical “push” process model. I think tomorrow’s PLM will be using the “information stream” concepts to better organization communication. The content and context of these streams will be very important to make it useful… The future talks!

Best, Oleg


How To Create A Good PLM Dashboard?

March 24, 2010

I came across to some interesting articles related to what in modern language called UX (User Experience). Articles are from UX Magazine. One of them catch specifically my interest with the topic of Dashboard Design. The another one is more generic – Rich Internet Application Screen Design.

I made some write ups reviewing Dashboard article.

Dashboard UI’s is designed to provide rapid contextual information regarding some higher task or goal, to which the majoritythe user’s attention is directed. This stands in high contrast with regular desktop applications, where the UI is (usually) designed to fulfill a specific task or goal in itself.

Navigation across multiple dashboard pages is a tough subject. There are lots of navigation controls available, but most of them are designed for desktop use. Tabs are an oft-used means of navigation, but they’re only useful if there are few of them. More specifically: any more than seven (plus or minus two) are too many. When the amount of tabs reaches that number, thetime needed to locate the desired tab takes too long for comfort.

Dashboard UIs are an interesting subset of interfaces, and there are some considerable differences between dashboards anddesktops. The examples mentioned in this article show that principles that work in regular desktop interfaces don’t necessarily apply to all types of dashboards. As usual, knowledge of your user, her motivations, and her environment is vitalwhen designing helpful dashboard interfaces. of

I think everybody like Dashboards. In my view, an idea of a dashboard came to the software in general and to the PLM specifically as the way to resolve the complexity of user interaction. However, the idea that in the beginning was clean and bright passed through several conversions and a result is not a good as expected.

Multiple PLM Dashboards I’ve in PLM applications are often becoming a place where a huge amount of information is concentrating. Lots of them actually running so after the goal to bring as much as possible information to the display, and it makes Dashboard absolutely un-usable.

My conclusion- in order to make a successful dashboard, you need to know your user. Dashboards cannot be created for multiple types of users and several goals. The single goal and user-oriented scenario is absolutely needed to create a successful one. The general purpose dashboard has no chance to get their original goal – simplicity. Absence of focus on the specific goal does not allow to show only needed information and in the comfort way for understanding (graph, map, gauge, etc.).

I’m very interesting to hear what is your experience in dashboard creation. What are the successful ones and what are those dashboards that failed? I’m looking forward to our discussion.

Best, Oleg


The “New Normal” Wake Up Call for Enterprise PLM

March 23, 2010

I came across the interesting blog article in CIO online “Why the New Normal Could Kill IT?” by Thomas Weilgum earlier this month. The article filled some of my niches related to thinking about future disruption of PLM I had with Jim Brown. If you had no chance to read my previous posts related to my and Jim’s discussion you can take a look on the following links – Will Google App Disrupt PLM? and  Is PLM Customization a Data Management Titanic?

I made some write up when reading CIO article.

Look at ERP systems, for instance. These are the financial, administrative and procurement backbone of every organization. ERP spend gobbles up huge chunks of the corporate allocation pie. So how are ERP software suites viewed today? With about as much love as Toyota execs have for “unintended acceleration.” In a recent survey, 214 business executives stated the inability to easily modify their ERP system deployments is disrupting their businesses by delaying product launches, slowing decision making, and delaying acquisitions and other activities that ultimately cost some up to $500 million in lost opportunities.

Complexity Hinders Software Success. “Two-thirds of survey respondents say the enterprise IT environment is more complex than it was five years ago,” notes the survey report. “The proliferation of technology combined with intricate organizational dynamics has raised the level of business IT complexity to the point of holding back software success.”

Just before he left Sun Microsystems (JAVA), Tim Bray, the former director of Web technologies, had this to say (in a blog post) about the current state of enterprise systems: “Doing it wrong. Enterprise systems, I mean. And not just a little bit, either. Orders of magnitude wrong. Billions and billions of dollars worth of wrong. Hang-our-heads-in-shame wrong. It’s time to stop the madness.”

With regards to the last one made by Tim Bray, remember Tim’s move from Oracle to Google and his intro notes here.

It made me think about some of PLM problems, their position inside of the overall enterprise apps forest and potential future steps. There are two fundamental problems in enterprise software that fits very well Thomas’ analyzes – absence of flexibility and huge cost of change. Actually, I see them very complementary. The overall enterprise PLM strategies moved into the direction to expand PLM in the additional domains for PLM by focusing on multiple business processes. However, enterprise PLM stacks in my view with implementation of the technological platform they made. Moving between multiple legacy apps, changing data models, adapting new features and apps to the latest releases of the software – this is my short list of the most common PLM problems in the enterprise.

So, what is next? What is the chance that the enterprise PLM apps will be covered by volcanic lava of existing enterprise problems. What will be enterprise PLM silver bullet on the way to become “new normal” and not “old legacy?”.  My take on this in the following three areas:

1. Invest into flexibility of PLM platforms.
This is probably sounding crazy for enterprise PLM techies. PLM vendors invested  a lot in the platform work during the last 3-5 years. However, I think, life around moves much faster than re-engineering of enterprise PLM platforms. New enterprise and cloud platform players are coming with very disruptive proposals about how to provide a new type of the apps for enterprise organization. And, the top on the list is cost of change in the existing enterprise PLM/PDM data backbones.

2. Focus on Games and 3D.
Think about cool. 3D and Games are cool, and we are experiencing it in our everyday life in consumer space. Why it should be different in product development, design and manufacturing?. So, move to the new apps and technologies in this domain.

3. Validate new business models.
The current enterprise licensing models need to change. Companies are dissatisfied with high upfront license cost and value, they are getting from enterprise apps. Investment into subscription and other busienss models (like freemium) can be an interesting turn for enterprise PLM.

Just my thoughts…
Best, Oleg



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