PLM Enterprise App Store: Bad Idea or Future Promise?

September 10, 2011

During the past months, I’ve seen an increased amount of conversations about the future of App Store software model in the enterprise. You, of course, familiar with the App store model. It all started from iTunes and prolifirate to many other places. The question, obviously, raises lots of discussion about pros and cons as well as a discussion about the potential steps software vendors can take to get benefits of app store model in enterprise.

App Store – Next Gen Enterprise?

Dion Hinchcliffe outlined the visionary picture of future Enterprise App Store in his blog already last year. Navigate to the following blog Enterprise App Store and Self-Service IT… to read about how enterprise Apps mixed with the ideas of mashups, SOA and SaaS. Take a look on the following picture to get an idea.

I found this passage interesting.

The premise of an app store model for enterprises is simple: By removing the middleman, the famous bottleneck between the business and IT demand can be reduced in many cases. Application backlogs can shrink, consumption of internal and external IT resources will increase, and fierce competition to provide the best solutions to niches can greatly improve overall quality (the long tail of IT argument), all while reducing costs. At least, that’s what is possible if we look at what’s happening to the non-enterprise software market today.

The idea is to optimize IT by introducing SaaS applications and outsource all IT works to outside providers. At the same time, it can cause significant re-assignment of the work from the internal IT to hosting companies and new class of cloud IT providers.

Why Enterprise App Store is a bad idea?

In parallel, with visionary thoughts about the future next generation of enterprise app stores, I can hear opposite voices. Navigate your browser to the IT World Canada and have a read of Why Enterprise App Stores are Bad Idea?Dilan Persaud is writing about multiple factors that will prevent enterprise app stores to succeed. Here are some of them – the complexity of integration, insufficient level of certification, security and potential hacks in organizations. Here is my favorite quote from this article:

The vendors that have enterprise software App Stores should hopefully have certified each application to integrateseamlessly into the original application and should be an extension of the original application. If support issues do arisewho do you contact for technical support, is there a guarantee of a fix, how will this affect your service level agreementSLA) for downtime and supplier performance, what additional security and IT administration must be set up within thecompany, who does the testing, are employees allowed to try it out on their own, is there a sandbox environment to installthese new apps in, have old project issues been solved to address IT failure, will the new app support a distributedworkforce, will it fit your company strategically, is the vendor viable, how easy it to use, will it require a full changemanagement procedure for adoption, will it require executive buy-in, do existing budget constraints still have to go through project approval process, do you still have to make a valid business case to adopt the new application are some of thequestions that still exist for an enterprise App Store.

PLM App Store Promise

As we can see there are multiple pros and cons for the future model of enterprise app store. Let me try to wear my PLM hat and talk about what I think with the regards to PLM App store. The idea of being able to select an appropriate app from the website and run it inside of a company is an interesting one. PLM vendors may think, it is going to solve their problems related to implementation and future application distribution inside of organizations. However, I have a certain doubt here. In my view, the majority of PLM implementation costs are related to the following two aspects – organizational agreement about future business processes and integration between tools (including CAD tools). It seems to me cloud model proposed today by vendors is not able to solve it. At the same time, CAD and PLM vendors already started to run some implementation of PLM App stores (i.e. Autodesk, Dassault Systemes, etc). Some of them took a decision to develop it by themselves. Others are trying to re-use some existing facilities of consumer apps stores.

What is my conclusion? We are still in a very early beginning with regards to the adoption of cloud and enterprise app store. The current experiments made by vendors are interesting and requires learning and analyzes. However, what is clear to me that rebranding of existing products into App Store won’t solve existing problems of PLM software. I think changes need to happen with regards to how Apps (or product components) are communicating, interacting with people, exchanging data, etc.. In my view, it is too early to say something specific about how fast it will happen. We are going to learn many lessons on that way. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


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