For many years the business model of CAD, PDM and later PLM vendors was structured as high upfront license combined with continues maintenance payments. The same is true for many other enterprise software vendors. PLM vendors built their businesses around expensive licenses sell covering significant sales cycle cost and even pilot implementations. The majority of PLM software is running on top of relational databases (RDBMS) licensed from big 3 vendors – Oracle, Microsoft and IBM. Back in 2010, I posted Faltered licenses and future PLM business models. 3 years ago it sounded as something that will never happen to enterprise software. However, things are going differently in 2013. Navigate to ReadWrite Enterprise article Oracle big miss and the end of an enterprise era. The author, Matt Asay, VP of 10gen, the outfit behind noSQL open source database MongoDB is clearly biased with the disruptive ideas and business models coming to the enterprise space. Even so, some of his assumptions in the article resonated. One of the key points – Changing the way how vendors get paid. He doesn’t see the problem of bad sales execution, but a fundamental shift in technology and product landscape. Here is my favorite passage:
This isn’t just a matter of improving legacy software products. It’s a matter of fundamentally changing how these legacy vendors deploy and charge for software. For example, Oracle’s entire cost structure is built around the premise of a hefty upfront license and high-margin maintenance (Over 20% of the license fee). We believe the primary issue is a fundamental shift in the technology landscape away from legacy systems towards a new breed of better products at a lower cost both in Apps and in Data Management. Virtually every emerging software trend is having a deflationary impact on spend.
Another aspect of disruption is related to developer communities. Software developers and CIOs of enterprise companies are looking for technological platforms. They don’t like the idea of expensive licenses and approvals of enterprise vendors to develop software on top of their platforms. As a result of that, they are turning to open source as an option to have their “platform of choice”. Here is a interesting quote:
With the rise of open source…developers could for the first time assemble an infrastructure from the same pieces that industry titans like Google used to build their businesses — only at no cost, without seeking permission from anyone. For the first time, developers could route around traditional procurement with ease. With usage thus effectively decoupled from commercial licensing, patterns of technology adoption began to shift…. Open source is increasingly the default mode of software development….In new market categories, open source is the rule, proprietary software the exception. The top-down approach, in other words, is losing its currency within the enterprise, as both open source and cloud enable developers (not to mention line of business executives) to get work done without getting permission.
So, getting back to future PLM business models and ways to disrupt PLM today, what does it mean for PLM vendors? I want to outline 3 main points:
1 – Alternative business models.
Customers are looking for alternatives to existing PLM licensing models. The biggest conflict here is between high cost of lucrative PLM licenses and interests of PLM vendors to take PLM software upstream and downstream in the organization in order to increase usage. However, adoption speed of PLM software is low. High cost of additional licenses is one of the factors preventing customers to expand the usage of PLM software. PLM vendors need to think how to provide flexible portfolios with options allowing to customers to spread PLM systems and technologies across the enterprise.
2 – Diversify revenues and activities
PLM vendors need to learn from the past of IBM and some other vendors. Years ago, IBM reshaped their business from software licenses to services and consultancy. IBM was extremely successful in this change. We can see how existing enterprise software vendors (Oracle, Microsoft, SAP, etc.) are trying to diversify their activities by providing new services and solutions. PLM vendors might be taking a similar path in the future.
3 – Pay attention to open source disruption
Open source is disruptive. Period. It is very hard to compete with free software and good technologies that can be used to develop solutions. Mainstream web is running on top of open source technology foundation. New generation of developers are coming with a significant baggage of knowledge and experience in this space. PLM vendors, system integrators and service providers need to take a note, until it will be late. You future competitors are developing from Starbucks shop next to your office.
What is my conclusion? I think, Oracle miss is a big alert sign to PLM companies. Changes are coming. It will come from customers that will be looking for alternative business models, from developers that cannot tolerate an expensive infrastructure and from technological vendors that will propose alternatives to expense PLM infrastructure. All together it will move PLM industry towards new horizons. PLM vendors need to take a note. Just my thought…