The following article in E-Commerce Times written by Paul Doscher of Exalead USA caught my attention this morning. Navigate your browser to the following link and read Search Based Applications: Smoke and Mirrors or Real Innovation. Exalead is an enterprise search outfit snatched by Dassault Systems in 2010. DS paid €135 million for Exalead technology and the concept of Search Based Applications (SBA). I had a chance to put some of my initial thoughts related to the DS-Exalead last year in my post – PLM Lifelike Search Injection. The E-Commerce article made me think again about how Search Based Applications (SBA) can change current PLM trajectories.
Search Based Apps: The Next Step in Enterprise Search
Mr. Doscher quote IDC’s Sue Feldman definition of what is Search Based Applications from IDC 2010 report: "They (SBA) deliver a purpose-designed user interface tailored to support a particular task or workflow. Examples of such search-based applications include e-discovery applications, search marketing/advertising dashboards, government intelligence analysts’ workstations, specialized life sciences research software, e-commerce merchandising workbenches, and premium publishing subscriber portals in financial services or healthcare." Later in the article, Mr. Doscher analyzes different aspects of SBAs and why they will case a shift in enterprise information processes. He defines SBA as a right tool and specifically focuses on semantic processing of data.
I found these analyzes reasonable. The traditional enterprise search results presented as a "laundry-list" became obsolete in my eyes already 3-5 years ago. Tailored SBA will provide a clear differentiation. Amount of data in enterprise organization coming from multiple systems is a reality of every manufacturing company.
If you are interested to learn more about Search Based Apps, I can recommend you to read the following book- Search Based Application by Greg Grefenstette published earlier this year.
In my view, all PLM vendors are facing a significant need to introduce the next innovative shift for their customers. The competition between PLM mind share vendors becomes stronger. Introducing of new platforms (Dassault V6, Siemens PLM TeamCenter, Creo), last announcements made by PLM companies in automotive sector and others – all evidence of strong competition in this domain. I can imagine information processing technologies can provide a significant interest of PLM vendors. All of them already tried to crack an enterprise search box by partnering or OEMing technologies from vendors like Endeca, Autonomy or Microsoft SharePoint. The interesting turn in adopting search technologies is in ability to provide new ways to analyze information.
Does SBA Solves PLM Problems?
I can identify two major problems in Product Lifecycle Management: absolute complexity of application and extremely high cost of change. What SBA and search technologies can bring to PLM in order to solve these problems. I can see some positive elements here- search can make information available. Search technologies can bring more efficient data processing techniques. From this side, search technologies are an absolute advantage, and I’m sure DS will leverage it in their future applications. However, I’m doubting SBA can solve the problem of PLM complexity. If I follow Sue Feldman, SBAs are tailored applications – "a purpose-designed user interface tailored to support a particular task or workflow". From this standpoint SBAs will open a next round of PLM customization and implementation. Each customer will potentially introduce a new set of requirements. From the demos presented on Exalead website, I learned that each SBA was actually developed to satisfy needs of a specific customer.
What is my conclusion? Search technologies are providing a clear advantage in future development of product lifecycle management. I can see a good chance for DS to improve their V6 platform by injecting Exalead stuff inside. At the same time, I don’t see SBA solving key problems of PLM such as complexity and implementation cost. Ownership of these technologies can provide some competitive advantages to Dassault. Other vendors can move to expanding partnership with other search vendors or using open source search technologies such as Lucene/Solr. Manufacturing companies of all sizes will be still interested in how to simplify products and make their next implementation for lower cost. Just my thoughts…