Mobile PLM gold-rush. Did vendors miss the point?

April 6, 2012

One year ago, I posted – PLM and Post-PC era. It is interesting to read back and think about the same topics again. Mobile revolution. We are living in this now. Our personal life became much more mobile in the last 2-3 years. Post-PC era and revolution made by table computers changed the way we consume data and use it in our everyday life. CAD/PLM companies are on the run to create "mobile" and "tablet" applications for everything. However, I want to stop for a moment and think. Are we on the right track? Do we need to make "everything mobile" and "everything tablet". At the end of the day, I didn’t stop using my laptop since I started to use my iPad.

I’ve been reading CIO magazine yesterday. The article Why Mobile CRM are slow to take off? by David Taber caught my attention. Have a read and make you own conclusion. To me, it makes a lot of sense. The following reasons are why the enterprise mobile apps for CRM are not taking off quickly. Here is my favorite passage:

The Comprehensiveness Thing. Here’s a fine how-de-do: In the paragraphs above, I said the dedicated mobile CRM apps are too complicated for a small device. And now I’m going to say that the dedicated mobile CRM apps aren’t capable enough when used on a phone. If you need to look up something in the CRM, you’re likely to also need to look up something else or take some action in a related Enterprise app. Whether it’s accounting (Refund issued?), or ERP (inventory available to promise?), or an external logistics app (where is that FedEx tracking number?), users need to check systems that are outside the immediate purview of a CRM. So you’ll either need to have a hell of a lot of integration points (which would take a lot of custom coding inside some dedicated CRM mobile app) or you’ll need access to an internal portal. This all points to the need to use a multi-tabbed browser for access to multiple systems. So in most cases, the browser trumps dedicated CRM mobile apps.

This "comprehensiveness thing is very resonating with my thought about PLM and mobile. Most of the CAD/PLM vendors today create mobile and table applications that "kind-of identical" to their regular products. Windchill Mobile,TeamCenter Mobile, etc.

When it absolutely great that software can converge to mobile and tablet platforms, in my view it raises a concern – why people will move from large screens and comfortable keyboard to smaller tablet real estate. I think, a better idea for mobile and tablets is to think about applications that can be used to perform a specific task. I want to have ECO mobile app on my iPhone to make an approval when I’m on go. Alternatively, I can review my tasks list before working day or in the airport. Sales person or maintenance technician may have an app that can search for a particular drawing or visualization.

What is my conclusion? I think, vendors did miss the point in the overall mobile gold rush. To make "all tablet" won’t work for product development software. To stop and think about a specific productivity apps that can solve a particular problem is the right way to go. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


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