As you probably know, I spent the beginning of the week in Las-Vegas attending Planet PTC Live 2011. Those of my readers who follow me on Twitter already paid attention on the overflow of tweets and absence of posts. Yesterday night catching my red-eye flight to Boston, I started to put some of my initial thoughts about what I’ve seen at PTC Live.
Thinking About Apps
One of the fundamental changes I can observe within PTC move to Creo is establishing of Apps sitting on top of the configurable platform and sharing common working environment. The original idea is probably not unique. The idea of workbenches, desktops, suites and many others was before in enterprise software. However, the initial set of apps and future plans shows good understanding of customer needs and easy flow. The devil is in details, and I can see next months of working with a broader set of customers interesting.
Windchill 10 and Usability
The problem is usability is an important one. Among the use communities, PLM is often associated with the complexity of user experience, cumbersome user interface, long and complicated learning curve. PTC definitely recognized the problem and presented some ideas in Windchill. The Windchill 10 UI looks much better compared to what I had a chance to see before. However, at the same the overall Windows UI looks complicated.
Mobile and Cloud
These two topics are trending these days. I see them as very important things. I liked Windchill Mobile application presented by Brian Shepherd iPad. My favorite feature was the way to work with assembly decomposition on parts. It is pretty cool. The interest to mobile is very high these days, and it is a good sign to see PTC jumping to the PLM mobile race.
Cloud is another thing that I’m discussing a lot on my blog. I’ve heard PTC talking about the cloud as a "deployment option". You can deploy to Amazon, Azure, etc. I think, the cloud topic is broader than just deployment and includes other aspects such as multi-tenancy, parallelism and some others.
PTC introduced Windchill Social Link earlier last year. The trend for social application is strong. I can see almost all enterprise vendors are working on social apps these days. Salesforce.com Chatter, SAP StreamWork and others. What is the differentiation between SAP social app and PTC social app for a specific customer? How they work together? How many social applications do we need in a single manufacturing enterprise? All these valid questions and need to be answered.
I had a chance to speak with people at PTC working on the partnership with Microsoft. PTC is strong Microsoft’s customer, and I’ve seen multiple examples of common Microsoft / PTC technologies working together. At the same time, it will be interesting how PTC customers will be moving to the "post-PC" era. Life was simple with regards to platform supports last 10-15 years. Similar to "a fashion world", we are moving to multi-platform world now again. This is an interesting time to watch.
PTC is presenting strong support related to SharePoint technologies. At the same time, the information about discontinuation of Windchill ProductPoint shows that something is wrong here. PTC retiring ProductPoint. According to the plan, ProductPoint was providing a support for smaller manufacturing companies. The ubiquitous access to information, well know user experience (shared with Windows) was a foundation for success. Navigate to the following link to learn what is my opinion about that. After few conversations with PTC people, my conclusion about ProductPoint retiring is positive. There is nothing wrong is trying the water and pushing back. SharePoint still remains the platform many companies are relying on. At the same time, customers need to asses carefully their spending before going to SharePoint journey.
One Size Does Fit All
There is something that related to the PLM vendors work with smaller manufacturing companies. Very often, vendors are calling it SMB. Without neccarily going to clarify what actually SMB means, my concern is in the way PLM solutions can scale between all companies. I’m personally not a supporter of ‘one size fits all’ approach. In my view, it doesn’t work in other places, and it shouldn’t work for PLM as well. However, to balance between multiple solutions is somewhat that always was hard to PLM vendors. Maybe the idea of Apps can be a good here. So, today I can see some holes in the PTC solutions targeting smaller manufacturing companies.
Unfortunately, PLM has a strong association with a word "complex". PLM companies are doing well in this space, as I can see that. The complication of core functionality multiplies with complexity of customer environments, need to provide tailored solution and smooth deployment create the feeling of "messy PLM projects" nobody wants to be involved in. I think, this is still a painful topic, and it is not much addressed by PTC specifically and PLM industry in general.
We are not living in a world of a single software vendor. Companies are using lots of application and software suites these days. Design, Engineering, Manufacturing, Supply chain, etc. The number is huge and every company is using dozens and hundred applications to get job done. It is a very important goal for PLM product to be connected and interplay with these products. Unfortunately, the dominant idea of "master data" is what used by PTC (and other vendors here). I’ve been attending a session related to PLM-ERP integration during the event and found topics that remain open for the last 10-15 years. The solution proposed here has strong reliance on "workshops" and "people agreement" in a company. Remember – technology is simple, but people are hard. Pushing a solution towards people agreement about how to integrate systems makes it very complicated, in my eyes.
Single Point of Truth
The last, but not the least one. The concept of a single point of truth is strong and heavily supported by PTC / Windchill. This concept remains with us for the last 10-15 years in PLM and maybe even more before with ERP and other enterprise software. My take on this is simple – there is no single point of truth. Company is complicated and it is impossible to have everything synchronized and working as a single whole. Even if a company can do it, it will remain valid only for the next 5 minutes. Next change will disrupt it again. The cost of change is tremendous and companies cannot afford that. Something needs to be changed here.
What is my conclusion? I found Planet PTC very energetic and enjoyed communicating with the executive and marketing team. Two days wasn’t enough to get connected to many people, but I found online community (and especially the community on tweeter) very active, and I’m looking forward to staying connected on the blog, tweeter and other social net. I think some of the things PTC is thinking and working about are very promising and following industry demands. At the same time, the strategy is still lacking some fundamental decisions related to how PLM improves the work with the rest of enterprise software. Another element of the concern is related to the scalability of solutions for different companies. My take – one size doesn’t fit all in manufacturing industry. It shows some promise in Creo Apps, but not reflected in anything else. This is just my opinion, of course.
Disclosure: PTC paid for registration and hotel during the event.