PLM and Almost Enterprise Apps?

April 29, 2011

The cost of development enterprise apps was one of the topics discussed among the people on Aras ACE 2011 conference earlier this week in Detroit, MI. Where the future is taking us? The development and customization of full blown PLM suite can be long, expensive and not very cost-effective these days. During the Beyond PLM panel discussion, I raised the question about the future of agile business apps that can provide value and won’t take manufacturing companies to the hell of product suites. The approach I discussed was introduced by Dion Hinchcliffe in hisNext Gen Enterprise blog.

On my way back to Boston I read Deloitte’s report “Technology Trends 2011. The Natural Convergence of Business and IT". Download this report, read and make your opinion. On of the topics of the report is about so called "Almost enterprise Applications". The idea resonated with my thoughts about how manufacturing organization can develop applications to be used by design engineers, managers, manufacturing planners, quality planners without taking organization into the two-year cycle of PLM suite deployment. I found the following example of "almost enterprise app" interesting:

A chemical products manufacturer had been an early adopter of Google Enterprise Apps engine – focusing on building almost-enterprise applications anchored in the productivity and collaboration suites. One example was a series of Gmail plug-ins that read the subject of emails and automatically retrieve CRM and HR workfl ow documents from SAP, with embedded controls for taking action that, in turn, execute back-offi ce transactions. Another was the ability to automatically update call notes in their CRM system with chat or voice transcripts, removing what was historically 90 seconds of low-value activity at the end of each customer service call.

PLM: Platforms and Applications

The notion of a platform in product lifycle management becomes interesting, in my view. The context of business apps can provide a new angle in a company strategy to develop a platform to serve the needs of product development processes. The focus on the platform will be in product data management rather than in business processes. Information services provided by a platform can be used to develop apps (Almost Enterprise Apps) highly focused on a particular engineers and other user’s needs.

What is my conclusion? The idea of "amost enterprise apps" is fascinating. It is easy to follow the concept of development apps based on any available services in the company. In the past, it led companies to the "excel hell". However, combination of a platform provided information services and agile practices of small apps development have in chance to develop an efficient solution. What is your opinion about that?

Best, Oleg


PLM Think Tank – April Top 5

April 29, 2011

What do you think is the most hard thing in everything we do? This month for me was overloaded by conferences. It started from COFES 2011 in sunny Scottsdale, AZ and ended in rainy Detroit, MI. However, the one thing was common between these two events – an extremely energetic community discussing various topics related to engineering, manufacturing and Product Lifecycle Management. My blog posts this month were influenced significantly by everything I was listening and discussing with people. Nevertheless, I’d like to mention one statement – "redesign is not so much having a new idea as stopping having an old idea". When I’m thinking about what will be the next 10 years of engineering and manufacturing software, I give my vote to people and companies that thinking differently. This is the most complicated thing. Just my opinion, of course. Now, let’s move to my traditional PLM think tank "top 5".

Post COFES, Dropbox and PLM Made Simple

This post started from a very simple tweet – "Drop box is a model for PLM in the future…". Yes, people are looking for simple tools. This is what made DropBox successful. PLM is complex. PLM companies have similar functionality in their hands today. However, the simplicity wins. Security is another question. This is a matter of trust. Do you trust Google? DropBox? Dassault? PTC? Use the cloud you trust…

PDM. Pre-configured? Painless?

Another post about simplicity and thinking differently. Engineers normally dislike PDM functions. They are trying to avoid it as much as possible. Therefore, PDM systems are not as popular when it comes to implementations. It requires time, cost and affect CAD functionality. However, the industry perception is that you need to have PDM to control your data. CAD vendors are trying to embed PDM functions into CAD packages and improve vertical integration between CAD and PDM packages. Can it be completely pre-configured and painless? I’m not sure. I think, the best thing engineers can think about is the “invisible PDM”.

PLM and Comprehensive Search

Search is an important infrastructure. The demand for search in manufacturing is growing. After ten years, people finally got Google. So, they expect the same from enterprise software. To be competitive, software vendors in this space such as PLM, CAD and others are trying to bring new technology to solve old problems. This is a good sign, in my view. However, one of the biggest problems in PLM and enterprise software is the complexity of solutions. This is quite important. I think, effective search solution can make software simpler. What is your take?

Moving from PLM to PLMSocial?

"Social" is trending. Do you think we are moving from PLM to PLS(Social)? I think, it is important to differentiate “technology” and “technological buzz”. Social has a power. People like to watch their friends’ pictures on Facebook and thinking about new Color startup supposing to change the way how people sharing photos in small communities. Do you think, the same technology will change the way people work with CAD drawing and Bill of Materials? The adoption of social networking (and associated technologies) is defined primarily by “social interests” in photo sharing and people belonging to the social net. User experience is important. That’s why Salesforce’s Chatter very similar to Facebook UI. Technology is secondary here.

ECO Management: What Matters?

ECO is a an important, but very complicated process. It involves many people from organizational departments to work on this and following ECO related activities from inside and outside organization. To have an appropriate tool is important. When you choose a tool, take into the consideration what are specific characteristics of your organization from the standpoint of mobility, complexity, need for visual and 3D before you make a right choice. In parallel, the simplicity of a tool is another important thing. To have a simpler can be a much bigger problem for manufacturers in coming years.

Best, Oleg


Beyond PLM Panel Discussion on ACE 2011

April 28, 2011

Earlier today, I was running Beyond PLM panel discussion on ACE 2011. I’d like to say my special thank you to Peter SchroerAras CEO; David Sherburne of Carestream Health and Vasco Drecun of Siemens IT Solutions. We had a great triumvirate of a vendor, customer and IT/service people. I hope video of this panel will be available soon. The context of the panel was around what will impact the next 10 years of PLM. You can see my slides with talking points and questions from the panel. Below is a quick recap of discussion about the following topics:

How PLM will manage data?

The topic of management will change the focus from the ability to control data to the ability to retrieve and share data. Data ultimately can live in multiple places. PLM as a platform needs to open to provide an access to data. Federation, Search and other technologies can help to share data.

What will be the ultimate PLM device?

The conclusion of panelists was that device will be less important compared to the capability of PLM platform to provide a ubiquitous access to the information. We probably are going to see 2010 iPad similar to wheel mouse nowadays. However, the usability of devices and interfaces is an absolutely critical factor these days.

How we will communicate?

The agreement of panelists was that “communication” is one of the most important factors that can change the future of PLM applications. Multiple aspects of the communication were discussed: synchronous vs. asynchronous, visual, messaging and emails. An interesting perspective on communication based on Gen-Y was discussed as well.

Will future belongs to Suites or Apps?

According to Peter Schroer, there is no PLM vendor that can provide 100% of products and functionality required for the company. Therefore, his vision of PLM is a combination of “platform capabilities” and  a diverse set of applications. According to David Sherburne, his preference will be obvious with “best of bread”. However, the focus needs to be on the openness, data sharing and optimization.

How we will sell PLM in 10 years?

We probably are not going to sell PLM products in 2020. The software will be free and vendors will be selling expertise and subscriptions. Value proposition will play much more important role in the future. The granularity of solution is another factor that will come to play. An analogy with Google Ads model is an appropriate comparison.

I’m looking forward to your comments, opinions and thoughts about these topics.

Best, Oleg


PLM, Enterprise Search and Aras Strategy

April 27, 2011

I’m attending Aras Community Event 2011 these days in The Henrly Hotel in Dearborn, MI. You can have more information about new coming from the conference following my tweets on ArasACE. One of the sessions yesterday caught my attention – Enterprise Search Panel. Search is driving more interest in the ecosystem of Product Lifecycle Management and Manufacturing. I posted about enterprise search several times in the past. Navigate your browser to the following links to read my previous posts – PLM and Comprehensive Search, PLM Interest To Enterprise Search, Search Based Application and PLM Innovation, PLM Lifelike Search Injection. In the past, PLM companies had OEM agreements with enterprise search vendors (i.e. Endeca and Autonomy) to develop advanced search solutions. Last year Dassault Systems made a significant move in this space by acquiring enterprise search companyExalead. Two companies presented their enterprise search solution in this space – NorthRide and Alcove9. NorthRidge is primarily focused on development of search solution based on Open Source Solr/Lucene. Alcove9 is a spin off vDR Group. After development made on top of Autonomy and Exalead, Alcove9 is also moving towards Solr/Lucene platform. You may also check out Inforbix, developing product data application.

Aras and Enterprise Search

Aras is following OSS strategy to solve their momentarily interest in search. Built on top of Microsoft technological stack, Aras made an experiment with Microsoft based Search solutions. Most of them are coming today from SharePoint space.

I found the SharePoint search story a bit controversial. The actual cost of SharePoint solution can grow significantly depends on the size data storage and system configuration. Navigate your browser to the following interesting blog article to read more about The Real Cost SharePoint Search. You can also learn more about SharePoint search using ArnoldIT Overflight Search system. Navigate to the following link to browse through information about SharePoint search.

PLM, Enterprise Search and Open Source

Alcove9 and NorthRidge presented their solutions and vision of enterprise search related to Aras and PLM. Take a look on the following slides and make your conclusion.

Aras Enterprise Search Strategy

I found Aras’ strategy in the space of search interesting. I can expect customers are interested in search these days. PLM vendors experience challenging position in this place. We have seen OEM agreements and acquisitions made by other PLM vendors. Aras is taking an alternative way and playing with Lucene/Solr enterprise search platform to bundle it with Aras using community partnerships. Here is what Peter Schroer said about Aras Search Strategy.

What is my conclusion? The amount of information in manufacturing companies is growing. PLM vendors clearly see the need to solve this problem. The solutions seem to be beyond the level of databases. The information is located in multiple applications, systems, files, databases. Search is one of the possible options to help people to solve the information problem. Aras’ choice to follow “open source” path is complementary to Aras’ vision of Enterprise Open Source. It seems to me a good balance to Dassault/Exaled and OEM agreements made by other PLM vendors. I expect this space to become more active in the future. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


Beyond PLM Panel on ACE 2011

April 25, 2011

I’m on my way to Detroit today to take part in Aras Community Event – ACE 2011. On Wednesday, I will be running a discussion panel "Beyond PLM". In the ecosystem of Product Lifecycle Management vendors, Aras is an interesting company, which stands aside of main roads. The name behind that is – Open Source. This is also the main confusion point when people starting to talk about what Aras PLM is about. Few weeks ago, I wrote the following post – PLM Open Source: Strategic or Off-Road. There are way too many flavors of Open Sources these days. What flavor is Aras PLM? I’m going to learn it in details later this week.

I’m delighted to have 3 outstanding panelists in my session: Peter Schroer, Aras CEO; David Sherburne of Carestream Health and Vasco Drecun of Siemens IT Solutions. Having triumvirate of a vendor, customer and IT/service people is a good opportunity to have a comprehensive discussion. The context of my panel conversation will be focused on what will impact the next 10 years of PLM. To predict a future is not a very fruitful goal. Therefore, I’m planning to focus more on what PLM future we want to create.

I’m planning to ask 5 questions on my panel. One question is still open. As readers of my blog, you have an opportunity to influence this question. Please comment on what do you want me to ask my panelists and the best question will go live. I will be also publishing my presentation and conclusions of the panel.

Best, Oleg


PLM Definitions- Multiple Dimensions by Prof. Eigner

April 24, 2011

I’m continue to publish references on various definitions of PLM. A month ago I posted PLM Definition – Corporate vs. Consumer Style presenting a consumer oriented view by Dassault’s and PLM Definition – next round? from PTC. Another interesting definition of PLM comes from Prof. Martin Eigner of the University of Kaiserslautern. Prof. Eigner also known as a founder of Eigner PLM system. Take a look on the following video and make your opinion (video is courtesy of PTC).

Prof. Eigner is talking about three dimensions of PLM integration: Lifecycle, Discipline and Supply Chain.

What is my take? PLM is very often using the context of "integration" when defines what is PLM about. These are very relevant aspects. For me, another, very important aspect of integration is openness. In my view, this is a missing link in many PLM implementations. Later this week I’m going to attend Aras Community Event (ACE 2011) in Detroit. You can follow my twitter and #ArasACE hash tag for more information.

Best, Oleg


PLM, Microblogging and Communication

April 23, 2011

Communication is a vital part of everything we do. How do we communicate these days? Email is one of the most popular ways to communicate. Recently talking to many people I found that many young people these days have no email account. So, what is the next way to communicate? Social networks and microblogging software (like twitter) is a new way. However, manufacturing companies are still run by email systems. What will happen to these systems in a near future? What transformation required to make it more efficient?

I read CMS Wire article – IBM Says Merge Your Email into Activity Stream. IBM is under going transformation of their Lotus system to make it more efficient. Ed Brill, Director Messaging and Collaboration IBM Lotus Software is talking about future transformations into Activity Streams. No surprise these days, IBM is using "App" concept to present a new way to transform communication. Here is my favorite passage:

…But IBM doesn’t think we should live in our collaboration tools. The activity stream will be the app Brill told us — on the desktop, on the mobile, in the browser. Imagine getting up in the morning, opening Activity Stream app on the mobile and seeing what’s important to do that day/right now…

IBM roadmap is talking about big mix of tools coming out of Lotus and even Cognos to create meaningful information streams. IBM research team is working on this. IBM is not mentioned dates.

Now I want to turn from "research" space to the software that available today and can be used inside of the organization. Rawn Shah Forbes blog article – Corporate Microblogging Helps Employees Migrate Work Conversation Online. There are two examples of software mentioned in the article – Yammer and Socialcast. Both are microblogging platform for enterprise. When started few years ago, Yammer presented as Twitter for enterprise. I found quite many people in my eco-system mentioned that their companies are implementing Yammer and successfully use it for communication.

Enterprise microblogging systems have a different and significant role in conducting business than what you may find in public systems like Facebook or Twitter. They provide insight to what is actually going on within the company, and allow employees to breakthrough the often thick glass walls of organizational silos. They are going to be a vital component of social business. By starting with simple conversations they help employees transition to conversations in an online mode, beyond phone calls and face to face meetings, lifting the whole organization to new levels of social business maturity.

Information Streams

The biggest criticism I’ve heard about social communication is related to the definition of "noise". Do you really want "everybody following everybody" noise coming to you via new social tools? No, I don’t think so. However, the problem of email nowadays is exactly the same. Email is a single overloaded stream of information. Opposite to Facebook and Twitter, we consider everything in our email box need to be read. This is a source of so called "email overload". The new way to handle communication is to use "information streams". I have them in my twitter account as "lists". Similar organization can be applied to other communication tools. Yammer has three possible way to group communication between people – networks, groups and community.

PLM and Microblogging

The term "collaboration" is one of probably most confusing. PDM and PLM vendors presented multiple concepts and products that supposed to help people to collaborate. None of them was able to shift the way people communicate and email was king of the road all the time. Microblogging tools may create a new way to communicate also inside organizations. Is it possible to use the same tools like Yammer to communicate between people in product development organization? I think positive about that option. One of the key elements to succeed in this transformation is to connect information to this communication. This is a tricky part of this transformation game.

What is my conclusion? The internet and mobile tools created new ways to communicate. Tools like Yammer and Sociacast can transform communication paradigms. Manufacturing organizations and product development can use these tools to make communication easier. PLM tools will integrate towards mainstream communication platforms to leverage the power of microblogging and social networking.

Just my thoughts.
Best, Oleg


PLM, Supply Chain and Cloud Adoption

April 22, 2011

Cloud is one of the most discussable topics in the industry. In the consumer web, cloud seems to be a proven option. I think, people are feeling very comfortable in the cloud these days. Days when people afraid to put their credit cards on the website for e-commerce gone forever. Earlier with Google and lately with Facebook, cloud becomes an obvious thing. However, when people talk about cloud adoption in the enterprise and manufacturing industry, things are not always as simple as Facebook climb towards 700 million users. I readDriving Automotive Industry to the cloud article by Ronald Teijken of IBM/Sterling Commerce. Ronald is speaking about the cloud opportunity in the Automotive supply chains. Here is my favorite passage:

Many manufacturers are wary of moving particular processes to the cloud, due to questions around trust and visibility. However, as manufacturers increasingly rely on IT to ensure the smooth running of their supply chains, the question of whether or not to move to the cloud is unavoidable. It provides some much needed elasticity both in terms of cost and more importantly the agility needed in the supply chain to support future growth.

This article made me think about some aspects of cloud implementation that can make the supply chain a low hanging fruit for cloud adoption.

Collaboration Space

When it comes to the communication between suppliers, the ultimate need is to have a space where both sides can collaborate easily and exchange information. In most of the industries (automotive is not exclusion), companies are not allowing a complete transparency between their internal data spaces. Therefore, to have a separate cloud-based environment can be a solution to improve communication between OEM and various suppliers.

Security

This is another big question on the "cloud roadmap". It is always presented as a case why manufacturing companies won’t be interested to go alongside with the cloud. Put aside companies internal stories. To communicate with suppliers, data needs to go out anyway. This is a chance to public or near-private cloud to show up and establish a trustful position. Cost, reliability and availability can be factors to lead manufacturing to adopt it.

What is my conclusion?

Cloud is an interesting space these days. Leverage huge consumer market adoption, it will inspire people in the enterprise to adopt some of the best cloud examples. Will automotive manufacturing supply change be a "low hanging fruit"? I can see it possible… Just my thoughts, of course.

Best, Oleg


PLM: How to Fix Technologies and Stop Fixing People?

April 20, 2011

During the last week at COFES, I had a chance to listen to John Gage keynote -But Can It Slice a Pineapple? Gage talked about innovation, computers, changes, language and culture. One of his phrases resonated – “Technology is easy. People are hard“. It made me think about PLM concepts, technologies and implementations.

PLM and Product Development Process

In my view, product lifecycle management is about products development processes first. It originally started as PDM, it was very focused on data management. CAD models, Drawings, Revisions, Parts, Bill of Materials. It took almost 15 years to produce a reliable data management system that can handle all these things. However, the problem happened in between. Organizations became very complex. Many additional systems grew up to solve other business and development problems. Significant presence of ECAD and later software development introduce a new set of problems. So, product development process becomes more and more complicated. PLM companies eventually reflected the complexity in the taxonomies of their data and processes.

PLM Methodology

The question people often ask me – “what is the right PLM methodology?” It isn’t a new one. Since the complexity introduced in product developmnet continues to grow, PDM and PLM companies are trying to solve it by using various methods. One of them is to come with a clear methodology of work and system implementations. It started as “best practices” and then moved to the different colors and flavors of “how to” be related to PLM implementations. The biggest problem I have with this approach is that it actually requires a significant non-software influence in an organization. Which goes back to “people”.

PLM Technology

I think the question what is PLM technology is actually very confusing one. Nevertheless, I clarify it as a technology to manage data, processes and collaborate in a scope of product data development. So, what happens on this side? I don’t see any revolutionary changes since early 2000s. The massive amount acquisitions put vendors on a pathway of integrating acquisitions and converging technologies. The latest spark of PDM/PLM technologies happened in the last 1990s and early 2000s. Back that time, the concept of a flexible data model was invented. Finally, companies could create configurable applications. However, the outcome was an increased amount of service implementations and lots of methodology developments.

What is my conclusion? People are hard. I agree completely. To change them is near to impossible. By creating products that dependent on change of how people work, we are exposed to very long adoption cycle, expensive marketing and complicated implementations. Is it PLM fault? Yes, partially. People were exposed to a complicated stuff. However, fixing some technological issues can be a good idea to make products more friendly to people. I see a problem when PLM implementations are focused on how to change people’s work habits. The challenge is how to bring intelligent products that can handle the change for people. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


Post COFES, Dropbox and PLM Made Simple?

April 19, 2011

As you know, I spent end of my last week, including the weekend at COFES (The Congress of the Future of Engineering Software). It was my 6th COFES. It was probably the biggest COFES ever. The social media activity was significantly stronger this year than before. I had a chance to meet people Mark Burhop, Dora Smith, Josh Mings, Deelip and many others after long time of tweeting and blogging together.

The following tweet message by @dorasmith drove my attention #cofes2011 @vuuch notes Dropbox is the model for PLM in the future, more discussion on complexity of PLM for majority of users


This tweet resonated with the following news I’ve heard the same day – DropBox hits 25 millions users and 200 million files per day. This is a really impressive number, in my view. The scope of DropBox usage is very wide. The quote from the same TechCrunch article: People use dropbox for personal storage, file syncing between machines, and group collaboration on projects. They have desktop software for the usual OSs, and mobile access, that makes things run smoothly.

What is DropBox and why I like it?

If you are not familiar with DropBox, this is your time to take a look on this. The following video is short and nice explanation about how you can share everything using dropbox folder.

Dropbox is my favorite (after Google App) tool to sync files between laptop and other devices. You may ask me why after Google App? Since Google App is already synchronized. However, not everything fits Google Apps and this is specially important if you think about your CAD files and PLM Excels..

DropBox and PLM model

So, let me take you back to the Dora Smith’s tweet. Is it a model for PLM future? I think, this is kinda of simplification. Dropbox is a good example of virtual storage. Files are on cloud – you shouldn’t worry. Wait a sec… what about security? If you feel comfortable with DropBox security, you can synchronize your CAD files between people and teams using DropBox virtual folder. Microsoft has similar ideas in SharePoint and some other tools and apps. The idea of drop box is not original. What is DropBox magic sauce?. My take on this is simple: usability and simplicity. It works and requires zero time to learn.

What is my conclusion? People are looking for simple tools. This is what made DropBox successful. PLM is complex. PLM companies have similar functionality in their hands today. However, the simplicity wins. Security is another question. This is a matter of trust. Do you trust Google? DropBox? Dassault? PTC? Use the cloud you trust… Just my opinion.

Best, Oleg


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