PLM and SharePoint Technical Definition

I’m off to Detroit, MI this week for Aras PLM user conference – ACE 2012. Microsoft .NET and MS SQL are two important elements of Aras infrastructure. For many enterprises these days, Microsoft IT based technology is no-brainerdecision. It runs everywhere.

It is near impossible to talk about PLM and Microsoft’s technologies without talking about what potential role Microsoft SharePoint can play in establishment of scalable PLM solutions. Usually, Microsoft SharePoint and PLM are over-hyped by lots of marketing slogans. I decided to take off marketing and get down to SharePoint technical definition that can help PLM and IT managers in organization to decide about how to position PLM and SharePoint in their strategies and implementations.

The following article – Making Sense of SharePoint 2010 by Tim Anderson provides a very good foundation for my post today. Have a read and make your conclusion. The following quote is the best introduction to what is SharePoint in a nutshell:

So what is SharePoint really? Technically, it is an ASP.NET application which runs on Internet Information Services (IIS), Microsoft’s web server, and which stores most of its data in a SQL Server database. Conceptually, it is the outcome of Microsoft’s efforts over many years to create a web storage system, a document repository accessible via a web browser.

SharePoint is extremely good if you are working with Office documents. It provides a very tight integration with Microsoft Products. The majority of companies today are running Office. I was able to see some companies taking off to Open Office or Google lately, but not doubt – Office is mainstream even after of public web 2.0 disruption. The following passage explains clearly your advantages of working with Office in SharePoint – seamless integration.

SharePoint is designed to integrate with the Microsoft Office client applications such as Word and Excel . If you do not use Office, SharePoint is unlikely to be worth running. When used with Office, a key feature is that users can open a document from a SharePoint site, edit it, and save it, without being presented with a Save As dialog. This is one reason SharePoint works better than simply storing documents on a web site with download and upload features.

I want to add few words about multiple versions of SharePoint. There are three versions – Foundation, SharePoint Server 2010 and SharePoint Enterprise 2010. Here is the summary:

Foundation includes document management, discussion forums, wikis, and support for applications including workflows. SharePoint Server 2010 extends this with search, compliance features including document retention policies, server-side Microsoft Word automation, social media features including status updates, ratings and tagging, individual profiles and content sites, video and audio media support, templates for workflows, improved scalability, and more. SharePoint Enterprise 2010 adds server-side support for Access databases and Excel automation services, business intelligence integration, support for forms applications using InfoPath (part of Microsoft Office), more scalable search and more.

PLM and SharePoint

I think, the overall hype of SharePoint replacing PLM solutions is over these days. Nevertheless, SharePoint became practically ubiquitous these days if you think about enterprises. The infrastructure provided by SharePoint is well-known by IT and service organizations. As soon as it approved to be used in organization can provide a backbone for collaborative applications. You need to take into the account the cost of SharePoint.

The base Foundation product is surprisingly rich, considering that it is a free add-on. SharePoint involves licensing for three products, each with separate CALs (Client Access Licenses). These are Windows Server, which is always required; SQL Server, which is required unless you use the free SQL Server Express, and SharePoint itself, which is required for editions other than Foundation. Since SQL Server Express is limited to single-server installs and 10GB per database, some organisations which can get by with Foundation will still need SQL Server and its CALs.

You can consider SharePoint as a platform for customization.

SharePoint is an application, but it is also a platform. Since it is built on ASP.NET, code that runs on ASP.NET will generally run in SharePoint too. Office services for Word and Excel enable applications that parse, manipulate and create documents.

What is my conclusion? SharePoint is stable Microsoft based infrastructure. If your company is running on Microsoft products you can consider it as an option to develop additional applications. Check your PLM provider on how flexible PLM platform and applications can be integrated with SharePoint – you can save a lot of service money and people resources in the future by doing so. Reading from Aras website:

Our application framework is implemented on the Microsoft .NET and Microsoft SQL Server platform. And Aras technology has built in security from the ground up and a world-class professional services and support team to meet your unique design, development and infrastructure needs.

I’ll pay a close attention understanding how Aras keep following integration with SharePoint and Microsoft technological foundation. Follow my blog and twitter later. this week.

Best, Oleg

Disclosure: Aras paid my registration and traveling expenses to ACE 2012. Microsoft wasn’t involved. Both Aras and Microsoft are in no way influenced the content of this post.

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11 Responses to PLM and SharePoint Technical Definition

  1. bkatsma says:

    Thanks Greg, looking forward to your follow up.

  2. bkatsma says:

    Sorry I meant Oleg obviouly not Greg.

  3. Hi Oleg. It is an attractive tool for managing documents but what are its data management limitations? Can it manage and archive multple revisions of an item? If you have a document related to a particular product (say a software spec) with say 30 revisions over a year or so and then the team wants to go back to revision # 10 and use that to start a separate baseline for a related product can sharepoint 2010 easily enable that?

  4. Hello Oleg, interesting post on the technical aspects of SharePoint. I find that the majority of manufacturing companies I talk to are using SharePoint somewhere in their organization – and they are interested in opportunities to integrate their design data and processes with the other business processes they are managing using SharePoint.
    SharePoint does have some limitations that can make it difficult to use as a solution or platform for PLM – for example it is focused on managing individual documents and not on the more complex product and project structures that manufacturers use every day. We are working on major improvements in this area that we will be announcing in the next few weeks – a development of our SharePoint based Insight design data management solution that is already in use by many of our Solid Edge customers.

  5. SharePoint and PLM Marriage is need of the time. There is clear difference between what advantages PLM has and what SharePoint has. Both integrated together can make life easy for endusers. An enduser may like his organization intranet to show PLM Part search and workflow status and task scheduler integrated with outlook. In short a single UI which eliminates need to open any PLM web client and relogin to application.

  6. @Ashish, You are right, the integration of SharePoint and PLM is inevitable and important for end users. What needs to be done by vendors is to find a right business terms and configuration to come with an appropriate business and sales model to make both PLM vendors and Microsoft happy. Just my opinion. Oleg

  7. @David, thanks for your comment! I think we share the opinion of SharePoint position as an addition to PLM platform (Not a replacement). I believe you make SolidEdge Insight sustainable for many users. At the same time, the big question is how to co-operate between a bigger brother – TeamCenter and SharePoint at the same organization. What is the right business and licensing model? Best, Oleg

  8. @Duane, in my view SharePoint manages revisions for non-structured documents like Office docs. When it comes to CAD and other structured data, SharePoint will require expansion. I hope it helps… Best, Oleg

  9. George Gunendran says:

    I totally agree with your point, yes SharePoint should integrated to the PLM systems to manage office documents. Most of the current PLM systems are evolved from CAD systems and they are very capable in managing part information. When it comes to the document management the traditional PLM systems are struggling to cope with the user requirements and failed to offer user friendly search/ edit/save functionalities.
    I am personally experiencing these issues in my company. I have evaluated our PLM system’s MS office integration and identified several shortcomings. Currently, I am waiting for the future release of the PLM system with the SharePoint integration facility.
    Hopefully, the marriage of the both systems will offer better management of both parts & documents.

  10. George, thanks for your comment! Yes, most of PLM vendors made Office integration available. I think, SharePoint can come on the same level. However, the problem PLM vendors are struggling is that SharePoint business model and PLM strategy to expand products downstream in the organization doesn’t fit well. How do you plan to use SharePoint with our PLM tools? What PLM system are you using in your organization? Best, Oleg

  11. George Gunendran says:

    Oleg, thanks for the reply. We are using Teamcenter as PLM tool. All our important documents are securely managed by the PLM system based on projects & user roles in a multi site environment. Besides the PLM system, we are using SharePoint as a medium for discussions.

    I believe, the integrated PLM/ SharePoint system can provides best of both. If PLM system offers a gateway for SharePoint to access/ publish the managed documents with same level control is ideal.

    I have to use Teamcenter as a main PLM tool, but I will explore the possibility to integrate Teamcenter, Aras PLM & SharePoint to obtain the best of each tool. However, I have to keep the balance of the difficulties of integration & the functionality benefits.
    Thanks, George

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