Dynamics AX Hybrid Cloud. Should PLM Vendors Care?

September 14, 2011

I have a feeling "cloud" topic got some dominance for the last days and week. However, the following article about Dynamics AX 2012 and cloud was something I considered important enough to mention. Navigate your browser and read – Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 Dips Its Toes In the Cloud, Carefully. Microsoft is pushing their Dynamics AX to the cloud and trying to keep it on the ground at the same time. Here is how it happens:

With this morning’s release of Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012, the company’s long-standing enterprise resource planning suite, the company is rolling out a new set of Windows Azure-based services that are leveraged on top of local deployments. The newest of these services is a deployment assistance tool called RapidStart that gives new customers a wizard-like questionnaire system for configuring Dynamics AX.

Microsoft is trying to blend tools and introduce Azure services. Some of them already here. The choice of "Rapid Start" is interesting too. Deployment, configuration and service – these are most painful topics in every implementation. To have an assistant coming from the cloud is kinda cool…

Dynamics AX and PLM

What PLM vendors can learn from Dynamics AX? AX never been very focused on PLM and PDM options. However, Dynamics AX kept PLM/PDM in the scope of Manufacturing solutions. Take a look on the following chartrepresenting Industrial Equipment solutions based on AX.

What is my conclusion? Microsoft is trying to push their new Azure development into existing business applications. AX is one of them. The idea of cloud services to leverage existing system is an important point. It is not unique to Microsoft, but probably can fit very well. This is something that can take care of existing investment made by a customer and prevent immediate "migration" development. Azure cloud can be a good technology option for such type of solution. PLM vendors need to notice how to re-use existing assets with the cloud option. This is can be an important strategy for coming years. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

PLM and Location Based Intelligence

September 13, 2011

I learn about SAP and Google Maps collaboration from LBZone few days ago. Navigate your browser to the the following link – Intuitive Overlay of Enterprise Data onto Maps to Fuel Better Business Decisions. SAP is traditionally investing in business analytic software via SAP Business Object product. The following passage explains how Google consumer oriented services can be used together with enterprise tools.

SAP and Google are working together to pair enterprise applications with the kinds of consumer tools that enrich millions of people’s lives every day, such as Google Maps and Google Earth™. With location-based intelligence capabilities, SAP envisions bringing corporate information to life via Google’s dynamic, interactive map, satellite and even street-level views. As a result, customers could analyze their businesses in a geospatial context to effectively understand the "where" of their information, as well as global, regional and local trends and how they are impacted by different scenarios — helping to increase efficiency and profitability, among other benefits.

I can see few interesting scenarios related to product development that require location-based tools such as: maintenance and service operation, supply chain and some other. Visualization of location information can simplify user interface and help to find data trends that hardly can be recognized using location-based visualizations. It will be interesting to see if latest PTC acquisition of 4CS for service lifecycle can find advantages of location-based software.

What is my take? There is a clear trend to merge consumer web tools with enterprise software. So called "IT consumerization" is definitely needed to be watched by PLM vendors. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Cloud PLM and Data Residency Option

September 12, 2011

Whenever I had a chance to speak about cloud solutions in the context of PLM, the normal reaction of people was like that – company never agrees to put their IP to the cloud. The question of data privacy, especially when it comes to sensitive data like company IP (design, manufacturing, etc.) is obvious. However, the devil is in details, of course. I think, the view of manufacturing companies on data security and cloud is sometimes biased (especially when it comes from IT people). I talked about that on my blog – Cloud PLM and Security certification, Top 3 Cloud Killers and some others.

Database.com and DRO

Salesforce.com made lots of announcements on their last Dreamforce conference earlier this month. You probably had a chance to read my earlier comments about “Social Enterprise“. However, another interesting thing salesforce.com announced is somewhat called “Data Residency Option”. The option is part of database.com service – a cloud database saleforce made generally available. The service supposed to compete with solutions like Microsoft Azure Cloud SQL and some others. Database.com is going to play an important role in future development of Force.com platform. Navigate to this link to learn more about Database.com. You will find it interesting.

Salesforce is recognizing the challenge behind data placement outside of a company firewall. DRO solution supposed to solve this problem by providing an option to keep data inside of the company. I didn’t find a lot of information about how DRO supposed to work. The general availability of this service is planned for the next year.

This service is also associated with the acquisition salesforce.com made earlier. The Israeli company Novajo Systems was acquired by Salesforce.com a month ago. You can find more information from this eWeek.com article. The company was in the business of data encryption.

PLM, DRO and Database.com

What is going around database.com and DRO is interesting. There are two aspects I want to mention. It first is related to DRO and IT acceptance. Salesforce.com is working with sensitive corporate data. And they are getting more customers. Some of them are probably customers buying CAD and PLM solutions from today’s mindshare vendors. Security is a tough problem indeed. However, once solved it provide an opportunity to other companies and vendors to leverage this option. Another aspect is related to Database.com as an infrastructure layer that can be leveraged by somebody interested to develop a cloud PLM solution. The trust of vendors and existing Salesforce.com relations with IT can be an excellent opportunity for gotomarketing and the foundation of technological acceptance.

What is my conclusion? I think PLM vendors need to pay a close attention on what is going on salesforce.com cloud. The DRO innovation is about how to solve one of the biggest firewalls to enable cloud business solution pathway in large companies working with sensitive data. Manufacturing companies are obsessive about IP. At the same time, IT of these companies are playing with the security “red herring” to protect their territory from companies providing cloud solutions. However, it is not going to stay forever. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

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

PLM and Social Enterprise: Files vs. People?

September 8, 2011

For the last couple of days, I’m digesting materials from the Dreamforce conference organized by Saleforce.com. I wasn’t able to make it this year, but the stream of online information and social networks clearly stated that this even last week in San-Francisco was felt almost like Oracle Open World, which is actually going to happen at the same place in one month.

Marc Benioff’s Social Enterprise

Salesforce.com CEO is pushing towards something he called “Social Enterprise”. I have to say, the term is still needed to be analyzed, and it sounds very “marketing” to me. However, in the explanations, Benioff defines social enterprise in three steps for every company:

1. Make full use of public social networking tools like Facebook and Twitter.
2. Create private social networks inside of organizations and among partners.
3. Developing social networking capabilities for enterprise applications.

In the following video Marc Benioff explains these three steps early this year during the Cloudforce event in Boston:

How PLM can get social?

In my view, “social” trends are clearly recognized in the PLM space. CAD and PLM vendors started to push some social buzzwords as well make some initial experiments. I can include few tools and announcements made by PLM vendors – Windchill Social Link, Dassault 3DSwYm, SAP StreamWork and few others. This list is not exhaustive. In addition to that, PLM vendors and service provide worked to provide socially oriented solutions based on usage of tools like SharePoint and some others.

Social PLM: Files vs. People

Social experiments of PLM vendors and huge Benioff Social Enterprise concepts made me think about some elements of PLM that actually can fit into the 3 steps roadmap proposed by a charismatic salesforce.com leader. The focus of PLM software is clearly on the step 3 and related how existing tools used by people in manufacturing company can be connected to social networking infrastructure.

PLM tools are doing a lot in collaboration. However, the topic of PLM collaboration for most of the cases is around so called “files” or associated “file data”. The multiple collaborative applications are focusing on how people can access data simultaneously or in an asynchronous way. Here is the main difference. Social enterprise is focusing on people as a major players in social interaction. Files and other data need to be at people disposal in order to communicate efficiently.

What is my conclusion? It is still hard to make a prediction about future Social Enterprise development. What is clear to me is that PLM and other systems involved into the overall enterprise social interaction have to find a right way to communicate and expose information to people. Similar to Facebook’s ability to to share files, new generation of CAD, PDM and PLM tools need to build this connection to accomplish the final step in Social Enterprise strategy. Do you think PLM vendors will play Social Enterprise game? A good question. Do you think salesforce.com will become an ultimate social platform? Btw, Salesforce just acquired web domain social.com for $2.6M. Big plans ahead… Just my thoughts.

Best, Oleg

What is the biggest PLM challenge?

September 7, 2011

I’m continue the conversation with my PLM blogging buddy – Jos Voskuil atvirtualdutchman. For the last two weeks, Jos is running a multi-part blogging series about PLM 2.0. I found this topic engaging and touching lots of important things related to PLM industry discussion, so I decided to put commentary as a separate blog post. Jos’ last post was about PLM challenges. Navigate your browser to the following link and spend time to read Jos’ post. It is worthwhile. The following passage is my favorite:

Instead of being able to implement new concepts or new technology, the implementation became more and more vendor monolithic as other capabilities and applications do not fit anymore. This is against the concept of openness and being flexible for the future. I believe if PLM becomes as rigid as ERP, it blocks companies to innovate – the challenge for big companies is to find the balance between stability and flexibility.

The flexibility is an important topic. It corresponds to some of my previous blogs: PLM out-of-the-box: Missleading or Focusing? and PLM Model: Granularity, Bottom-Up and Change. The ability to deploy pre-configured solution and make an easy change by manipulating multiple elements of PLM infrastructure in a granular way is one of the most important technological aspects related to most of successful PLM implementations. I think Jos nailed these topics in the list of PLM challenges. Here is the list:

-PLM is considered complex to implement
-PLM is a huge IT-project
-PLM requires change and structuring – but what about flexibility
-Where is the PLM value and ROI – user acceptance
-PLM for the mid-market – does it exist ?

Earlier, this year, I had a chance to run Beyond PLM panel discussion during Aras Community Event (ACE). Navigate to the following link to see my presentation and read more comments. Look on the slide from mypresentation shows the list biggest PLM challenges as I see them:

What is my conclusion? PLM as it today introduces a significant level of changes in an organization. It can be considered as an organizational improvements and impact organization for the future improvements. However, in many cases, this change is burden organization and people. It is also coming with a significant cost. So, to decrease PLM implementation and future changes cost down is the top priority for all PLM vendors. This is a time to innovate. Just my thoughts, of course.

Best, Oleg

Image: scottchan / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

PLM Think Tank – Top 5 August, 2011

September 6, 2011

Summer is over. Last week I was attending SolidWorks media event in Concord Mass. September is going to be a traveling month for me. I’m going to attend Autodesk CIS event in Moscow. Autodesk is making some bold movements in the area of PLM. If you had a chance to follow my blog, you noted Autodesk PLM: Fast Second? post back in July. I hope to learn more about what Autodesk community outside is expecting from the future Autodesk PLM product and share it with you. Now, let’s move to the traditional Top 5 reviews of the last month.

ERP vs. PLM: More Competition in the future?

PLM and ERP integration topics are usually drive lots of attention from readers. This topic was clearly the August hit. I think we are going to face an increased competition between ERP and PLM vendors in a near future. The overlap between these two domains becomes more and more obvious. With the increased business objectives, PLM companies and stepping into the ERP territory in the spaces related to business aspects of PLM. At the same time, ERP companies are increasing their ability to handle and maintain engineering and product design data, which will put under a big question mark the potential implementation of PLM.

Live from SolidWorks 2012 Media Event

This post was mostly informative about what is going on with SolidWorks and coming SolidWorks 2012 release. I’ve shared some interesting numbers I had a chance to learn. Some of the most important ones – SolidWorks revenue ($417M), the number of employees – 825 world wide, the average selling price ($8K) is almost constant for the 4-5 years, 20% of sales are coming from non-CAD space (technical documentation, simulation and PDM). The integration between SolidWorks and Dassault System is increased for the last 2-3 years. I think SolidWorks can play a significant role in the future transformation of Dassault Systems.

PLM 2.0: Born to Die?

PLM 2.0 is an innovation introduced by Dassault System about 5 years ago. It is trying to capture the philosophy of Web 2.0 and everything else 2.0. However, I haven’t seen PLM 2.0 succeed as a trend. I’m discussing this topic and making analogy with Web 2.0 and Enterprise 2.0. I think the key word in a failure of PLM 2.0 is openness and availability. On a contrary, think for a moment about Web 2.0 – Blogs, Wikipedia, Flikr, eBay, Twitter… These and many other applications and technologies turned Web 1.0 into what we know as Web 2.0. It allowed many people bring web to a completely new level. I can influence the content published on the web, and many people simultaneously can have an access to this content. What I’d expect from PLM 2.0? I’d say, first, the ability to all people in the organization to have an easy access to product lifecycle data and processes. Unfortunately, it didn’t happen, until now. So, we have a new version of PLM. It applies to DS V6 and to other PLM vendors as well. However, I cannot call it PLM 2.0.

Total Integration and the future of PLM

Integration is a very painful topic in PLM eco-systems. Most of the vendors are relying on partners and system integration companies to deliver a finished solution to customers. It seems to me, the understanding of the “integration value” is important to successfully implement PLM systems. This is not a short term project, but a long journey. I think, in the past “integration” was a “step child” in PLM product family. PLM companies focused on their own product lines and dismissed integration opportunity. However, future is integrated.

PLM Definition from Dassault System’s Al Bunshaft

Ask 10 people about "what is PLM?" and you will not find an identical answer. When I’m hearing somebody is coming with remarkable PLM definition, I always like to bring it to a wider audience to discuss. I found Mr. Bunshaft PLM definition quite balanced. Lifecycle is always a hot topic in every PLM discussion and an important element of PLM strategy. At the same time, lifecycle is also one of the biggest challenges in every PLM implementation. Let think about ECO as one of the fundamental elements of Product Lifecyle – the implementation of ECO management is still complicated and expensive. In the end of the last week, I posted about Total Integration and the Future of PLM last week. This post included some examples of Siemens PLM strategies in this space and raised active conversation with people about TLCMS (Total Lifecycle Management System). It is interesting to see how lifecycle oriented strategies will be converted into future products and technologies.

Best, Oleg

PDM in 2010s: Commodity or Competitive Advantage

September 5, 2011

Product Data Management is not a new term. The first appearance of PDM software goes back in early 1990s (I believe veterans of the industry will come with some even earlier examples). Nevertheless, 20+ years should be enough to put all dots on “i” in PDM applications, systems, etc. I was thinking almost the same. However, I’m thinking about to withdraw my previous conclusion. You can ask me why? During this long Labor Day weekend, I was screening feeds and links on multiple sources of information marked “for review”. Some of them were related to PDM. It made me think “PDM story” is not written in full… yet.

Commodity Function and Unique CAD Integration

For the last 3-5 years, I can clearly see the trend of converting PDM into CAD system add-in. Many CAD vendors strategically focusing on how to convert their own PDM development into the best-integrated-component to their CAD products. It happens with different PDM systems: ENOVIA V6 (CATIA), Enterprise PDM (SolidWorks),TeamCenter Express (SolidEdge), Autodesk Vault (AutoCAD, Inventor, etc.), Windchill PDM Link (Creo-Parametric).

Take a look on the following two video fragments presenting PDM functionality for TeamCenter Express and SolidWorks Enterprise PDM. Both systems represent two popular PDM products widely used on the market.

SolidWorks Enterprise PDM

TeamCenter Express

PDM today provides a quite standard set of data-management functions. However, one of the key points is related to the ability of PDM to work efficiently with a specific CAD system. The last one is definitely creates an advantage of every CAD-PDM bundle coming from each CAD vendor.

PDM Competitive Advantage

I was reading Gain Competitive Advantage with Product Data Management white paper from Autodesk during this weekend. Navigate your browser to the following link to download it (note – you need to register to download). The article looks like “Product Data Management 101″ courses for high school. The advantages presented in this white paper – speed up development cycle, improved collaboration and higher quality. For every manager in any manufacturing organization, these things are obvious. The question of PDM cost is presented in this paper as something that can be easy calculated. I specially liked the following passage:

As a rule, taking the first steps into design data management today is a simple process that is possible at quite a low cost. PDM solutions are practical and cost effective. The barriers to adopting them are lower than ever, making the investmentworthwhile even for small-scale engineering offices. The costs involved in the acquisition of hardware and software and foroperation can usually be calculated relatively simply. It is significantly more difficult to assess the benefits of a PDM systemquantitative terms. There are no formulae, factors or tables from which the increase to a company’s ROI (return on investment) can be easily calculated.

Autodesk defines 5 key questions to answer when selecting PDM system. Here is the list.

• Will the PDM solution work with my CAD applications?
• Will the PDM solution work with my existing data and drawings?
• Will the PDM solution work with my ERP system?
• Is the PDM solution easy to implement and use?
• Who is the right partner?

I found something interesting analyzing these questions. There is no question in this list directly related to PDM core functionality. The questions are completely focusing on aspects related to CAD (or data) and ERP connectivity. Easy implementation and usage are very subjective as well as the ability to choose a right partner. Any CAD+PDM bundle coming from a specific vendor will have a definite advantage. On the other side, the white paper coming from Autodesk doesn’t contain any information that present advantages of Autodesk Vault vs. Product Data Management solution coming from other vendors.

PDM-less CAD users

CAD vendors are constantly reporting about growing amounts of PDM sales. Earlier last week, during SolidWorks 2011 media event, SolidWorks stated that 20% of their sales are non-CAD. Some of these 20% are definitely related to PDM. Autodesk stated about incredible good adoption of Autodesk Vault promising to surprise everybody with the Autodesk Vault results. Here is the quote from Carl Bass interview few months ago:

…I would suspect right now, we’re getting close to as many people using Vault as any other PLM system in the world,” retorted Bass. “The standard Vault, we don’t charge for it, it’s included but there are tens and tens of thousands, of implementations involved…

At the same time, Carl Bass admitted that even Vault is not solving some of the existing problems related to product data management:

I think there are two things we have to do more. One is we have to do something that’s even simpler than Vault, for all the other CAD users. I mean there’s still too much design data and you can’t find stuff easily… I think many, many small offices, industrial designers and architects have gotten past the point where they need something more than just to help organise and search their data. They’re not ready for full Vault implementation.

What is my conclusion? PDM systems came to the certain level of maturity and customer adoption. At the same time, it is still expensive and complicated work. That’s why, in my view, the number of “PDM-less-users” is still significant. White-papers about PDM are clearly focusing on PDM value proposition and referencing successful PDM implementation. However, it doesn’t provide any information about how to decrease PDM TCO and take PDM to the next customer adoption level. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

PLM – Clearer Definition or Problem Solving?

September 2, 2011

I’m adding another post to my collection of PLM definitions. Gavlin Quinlan came with the blog post on concurrent-engineering blog earlier this week. Here is the name – A Clearer Definition of PLM. I spent 10 minutes reading the blog and material. It points out to the CIMData Whitepaper 10 Questions to ask PLM Solution supplier from the last year sponsored by PTC. The following passage is presented by the author as a clearer definition of PLM:

PLM is software designed to enhance process efficiencies related to a product’s bill-of-materials (BOM) – the core information that tells manufacturing companies how to design, manufacture, and support products. Specifically, PLM software enables manufacturers to optimise the management and evolution of a BOM throughout a product’s entire lifecycle – from concept to retirement. Any and all activities that affect, change, influence, or finalise a BOM are factors that will drive a manufacturer’s overall operational effectiveness and as such are considered to reside underneath the PLM umbrella.

Also, Gavlin note the following: For clarity’s sake, it’s important to note that it is our perspective that PLM does not include the technologies used to author the information that populate a product’s BOM – such as MCAD/ECAD files and engineering/design calculations.

When talking about PLM ROI, author is coming to the definition of functional areas, but most importantly provides the definition of characteristics for PLM system. Here it is -A single scalable system architecture characterised by high performance, effective data replication, and robust security to support the modern geographically disparate company. The system should be integral, Internet based, and interoperable with other company systems.

Seven functional areas are Document, Visualization, Collaboration, Workflow, MCAD Data Management, BOM Management and Configuration Management.

PLM: Network vs. Single System

I found the definition provided by concurrent engineering interesting and here is why? It represents a very popular for the last 10 years approach on a single large PLM suite (or product) that can solve all product development company problems. Just go for that and all your problems will go away. There is nothing wrong in this approach, in my view. In one of my previous I discussed the "singularity topic in PLM" – PLM Network Effect and Single Point of Truth. My take is the "network" is a more powerful system organization compared to the a single system. The web is the best example, in my view.

What is my conclusion? The run for a completeness in PLM definition, requirements and implementation was, in my view, trendy and popular for the last 10 years of PLM. I think, the vendor’s "me too" and comparison of functional capabilities will go away in coming years. What will come as a replacement? My take is following- the capability of solving a specific business problem with a minimum of effort and in a shortest time period. Does it sounds obvious? Yes, I think so. PLM vendors, service providers, please take a note. This is important, in my view.

Best, Oleg


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