PLM SharePoint: Silver Bullet or Fierce Criticism?

It was a long time I didn’t talk about Microsoft SharePoint. I tried to recall and found that my previous significant thoughts about Microsoft SharePoint are going back almost one year ago to Microsoft SharePoint conference. Back that time, Microsoft presented their future SharePoint 2010. Few messages and publications yesterday made me think about what happens in PLM and SharePoint happy world. Aras announced Open Source PLM for SharePoint. You can read more about this in the interview with Aras CEO, Peter Shroer here. Use the following link to get directly to the solution. I’ve got a note from Jonathan Scott of Razorleaf about the same release. You can read Razorleafannouncement.

SharePoint – PLM Silver Bullet

Microsoft reported a tremendous success with SharePoint starting from version 2007. The reports presented numbers showing that SharePoint becomes “a new Windows” from the standpoint of the ability to change a current status quo in user’s mind and organizations. It caused a specific interest of PLM companies that started to see SharePoint as a vehicle that can diffuse PLM downstream in organizations. Siemens PLM reported that they have formed already long term relationships with SharePoint (i.e. TeamCenter) many years ago. On the other side, PTC introduced a complete vision of how to leverage SharePoint by introducing a whole new product line – Windchill ProductPoint. When I read PLM vendors announcement related to SharePoint and PLM, I always have been feeling of SharePoint representing a kind of “silver bullet” to solve all existing problems related to implementation and deployment of PLM. I specially liked the following passage from the blog post about recent Aras/Razorleaf SharePoint product development:

The solution enables product data assets normally contained within a Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) or Product Data Management (PDM) system to be shared throughout the enterprise, as well as with its customers, suppliers, and partners globally, improving collaboration and cycle times by fostering speed to decision – visually. The Collaborative Product Development solution combines the capabilities of Actify’s DesignShare, including a new Microsoft Silverlight-based 3D viewer, and Aras’ Innovator suite, by utilizing SharePoint Server 2010 Business Connectivity Services, PerformancePoint services, workflow, and search to form an end-to-end companion for PLM and PDM.

SharePoint Fierce Criticism?

The following article drove my attention yesterday – New survey reveals dissatisfaction with SharePoint. The original survey made by Global 360. Global 360 is a company making a lot of business with SharePoint. They published a survey “How is your company using Sharepoint?”. You can download the original survey navigating your browser on the following link. You can also see survey results presented in the following slideshare presentation. Take a look on these materials and make your opinion.

Fierce Content management article made their conclusion and presented them in the following way:

[…78 percent of respondents reported that SharePoint “user experience was inadequate,” while only 17.6 percent chose that SharePoint was “great and adequately met their needs.”…]

They also made an interesting conclusion:

[…It’s hard to draw firm conclusions from a survey like this one, but it clearly shows some underlying dissatisfaction with the product even among the most faithful users. It probably bodes well for consultants and partners, but it also shows Microsoft still has a bit of work ahead, to make the SharePoint product easier to use for its enterprise audience…]

I didn’t make the absolutely similar conclusions reading this survey. However, some numbers represent criticism and problems customers are facing during SharePoint deployment and implementation.

The following numbers seem to me dangerous. 30% of users are frustrated with default SharePoint user interface.In the presentation, this number presented in the context of so called “iGoogle Effect”. My hunch, authors are trying to compare SharePoint out-of-the-box user experience with iGoogle dashboard.

So, what is my conclusion? Microsoft is showing deep interest in additional diffusion of their products to enterprise IT. From this standpoint PLM is a good vehicle with some problems in transmission that probably can be fixed by using SharePoint stove and pipes. The PLM benefits are clear too. SharePoint is a good infrastructure that will provide IT seal on a company-wide PLM deployment. Nevertheless, I have one concern that I want to mention anyway. My hunch is that tremendous effort of consulting and service companies are required to make all this stuff work. Will customers pay these bills? A very good question. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

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2 Responses to PLM SharePoint: Silver Bullet or Fierce Criticism?

  1. Dave Opsahl says:

    Oleg,

    Interesting article. One point I want to mention that you didn’t highllight in your article. The project was accomplished by a team of three companies – Actify, Aras, and Razorleaf. Indeed, Actify was the prime contractor on the project, and in additional to the technical contributions, was responsible for overall project management and delivery.

    Actify has been a believer in the SharePoint platform for many years, and we have seen many examples of its implementation, including our own. From that experience, I can surmise that the “dissatisfaction” mentioned in the survery, where it exists, stems from several places.

    SharePoint has over the past three releases, lacked several key elements, but with the release of SharePoint 2010, those gaps have been addressed. In fact, without the SharePoint2010 release, this project would have been much harder to complete, and may not have been able to be completed at all. Office2010, when used with SharePoint2010, makes for a rich and seamless users experience, something that would be hard to claim previously.

    Another common observation is that companies attempt to implement Sharepoint without much upfront design work. In that respect, SharePoint is no different than any other enterprise system – one has to plan the implementation properly in order for it to achieve the objections established. Having Windows SharePoint Services (WSS) be a simple “download and install” to Windows Server, encouarged many organizations to just turn it on and use it. Bad idea.

    Lastly, that same simplicity re-inforced the fallacy that little to know SharePoint domain knowledge was needed to administer and support an installation. As a result, problems – both technical and with usability – that arose could not be addressed due to a lack of skills.

    Where these factors have been appropriately taken into account, you almost always will find very satisified SharePoint users.

    Dave

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