Legacy Systems and Future Coolness of PLM Software.

May 30, 2013

Enterprise software sucks. How many times we’ve heard that for the last 5 years? Probably too many… I remember one of the first articles about that back in 2007 – Why Enterprise Software Sucks? by Jason Fried. The article got almost 100 comments, which confirmed that the topic does matter. Earlier this month, I found an article re-thinking the view on enterprise software – Why Enterprise Software sucks – 6 years later. Take some time and read these articles. There is a clear confirmation that trend towards developing better enterprise software is positive. While you can still see lots of crappy software used by enterprise organizations, enterprise software and SaaS is seeing lots of innovation. At the same time, legacy systems is one of the main factors that prevents enterprise software from innovation. Here is a very important passage:

One of the main reasons that enterprise software sucks is because enterprises are still using software from the 1990′s (or worse). Putting traditional enterprise systems in place is expensive, time consuming, and requires massive customization. Once it’s deployed, it gets relied on by other software, workflows, and processes. Over time, it becomes mission critical and a load bearing wall. Companies are entrenched in their systems and don’t dare touch it if it’s “working” (think: Windows XP).

Let’s get back to PLM. Think about typical situation of manufacturing company using PDM/PLM legacy systems. The deployment cycle of legacy PDM/PLM systems is 3-5 years from initial product introduction and demonstration. Installation and customization can potentially take up to 1-2 years to get it done. As a result of that, companies are using PDM software developed back in early 2000s. The average investment into an existing PDM/PLM deployment can be in the range from $0.5M up to millions of dollars. The level of complexity to update an existing system is high. The migration is combined from multiple factors – data import, customization of new systems, people training. Companies need to pay a lot of money to re-implement software and processes, which is a complicated decision in terms of product ROI.

What is my conclusion? The roots of future enterprise software coolness is deep in enterprise legacy products. The ability to transfer data and processes from old systems to new environment and keep ROI of these projects high – this is a major goal of new enterprise vendors these days. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

What CYOD means for PLM?

May 28, 2013

mobile-apps.jpgDo you like acronyms and buzzwords? Not much, I guess. You probably familiar with that one – BYOD (Bring Your Own Device). For the last couple of years, BYOD trend transformed and disrupted IT policies in many enterprise organizations by permitting employees to bring personally own mobile devices (laptops, tablets and smartphones) to their workspace and use them to access corporate information as well as use corporate enterprise systems.

Earlier this week, I’ve learned a new one – CYOD (Choose Your Own Device). Navigate to the following link to learn about what Gartner defines as one of the hot enterprise trends in 2013 – Evolving communications: hot enterprise technology trends for 2013. Here is an interesting passage:

This year, Gartner has predicted that mobile phones will overtake PCs as the most common web access device worldwide. As a consequence, increasingly connected consumers and professionals are instinctively evolving the way they communicate and operate. Amidst this surge in mobility, the most strategic enterprises are also proactively evolving their communications, recognizing key trends such as bring your own device (BYOD) and choose your own device (CYOD) as an enabler for business growth, rather than a problem that must be dealt with.

Here, speed could be a critical factor. More specifically, businesses that are swift and agile in the way they use and further the deployment of technologies within the organisation are more likely to realise important opportunities to improve internal productivity and efficiency, as well as seize the potential to further competitive advantage.

It made me think about some potential impact it will create on enterprise software vendors strategies. To increased role of mobile devices and mobile application will create a need to develop a diverse set of PLM apps independently running on mobile platforms leveraging corporate and/or cloud infrastructure. I shared some of the ideas of mobile communication and OTT application in my blog earlier this week – Will PLM pickup OTT mobile communication strategy.

What is my conclusion? The influence of mobile development in PLM will increase coming years. This is a good time for PLM vendors to move from "the same, but mobile" strategy new way to provide customers with new type of mobile applications. Speed will be indeed a very critical factor here. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

5 Overused Buzzwords in PLM marketing

May 28, 2013

Technology field is deeply surrounded with different type of buzzwords. The terminology is a complicated part of enterprise software and PLM marketing is probably one of the most confusing zones. In general, buzzwords don’t mean something bad. However, when overused can lost their meaning for customers.

As part of having fun and blogging process, I’m following lots of other blogs and social media channels about PLM. I decided to come with a list representing the most overused PLM marketing buzzwords. This is not statistical research, so don’t blame me for accuracy. Also, these buzzwords are not unique for PLM and you can meet them in other fields as well. Here is here is my top 5 list – 1/ Value proposition; 2/ OOTB; 3/ Experience; 4/ Community; 5/ ROI.

1. Value Proposition – a promise of value as a result of specific product, component or technology usage. Value proposition is usually comes as a result of analyzes of benefits, cost and values of product/ technology to organization. The biggest problem of value prop definition in PLM is related to the cost. It is usually missing. The term is overused without specific characteristics applied to an organization.

2. OOTB (Out-of-the-box) – represents an ability of software and/or components to be implemented without specific customization and/or development services. Usually assumes features that can be used immediately after the installation. The problem of OOTB is over-promise of OOTB features with following consulting and service agreements.

3. Experience. The original concept of "experience" is coming from the ability of user to know how to use a particular software. For the last few years, "experience" became a powerful, but unfortunately very overused term claiming practically everything in terms of how to improve use of software including sales process and end user interface.

4. Community. The term comes from outside and not specifically related to software world. Usually, it is group of people sharing common interest. During the last 10 years, community term transformed into a measurable characteristic representing the group of people using your software. The problem of the term is the absence of a precise way to measure "community value" in enterprise software. It is different from Facebook and other social networks.

5. ROI (Return of Investment). Another very general term used to calculate the efficiency of investment measured as proportion of benefits of investment and cost of investment. The higher is better. The problem of PLM ROI is to be calculated on very long period of time without specific tangible benefits.

What is my conclusion? People are tired of overused expressions and buzzwords. Count all marketing buzzwords in the marketing campaign you plan to run next week – probably you need to review the content to make your marketing more human and meaningful. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

How to rethink 3D and visual search?

May 27, 2013

Visual search. 3D search. For all of us in design and engineering, this topic always was fascinating. I had a chance to speak about this topic with my industry colleagues and blogged about PLM and 3D search couple of times. After all discussions, this is a simple definition of 3D search problem – bad input. You cannot get this visual thing work without the ability to input in an easy way what do you want to search for. Do you remember one of the famous search problem definition – most of the complaints we get are due to the way users search – they use wrong keywords. On my long flight from Boston to Russia earlier this weekend, I’ve been skimming social media backlog. One of the article caught my attention – Google Brings Intelligent Search to Google+ Photos. I must agree with authors of the article. This is one of the most unadvertised features of Google search.

One the surface, it looks simple – Google allows you to search in your Google+ photo library and it gets integrated in Google search. Here is a passage from the article explaining how it works.

Google is now making it easier for users to find their own photos using Google Search.On its Inside Search blog, the company explained that users can now search for and through their photos hosted in Google+ Photos. Searching for the query “my photos” offers up this result, personalized with your own Google+ photographs.

But it gets better. The system actually uses machine learning so that you can target your queries to be more specific. Searching for “my photos of food” or “my photos from Orlando” will provide results tailored for those specific instances.

I tried to search for “my photo bikes” using my Google+ account and discover quite precise selection of photos representing bikes in my photo library even I never used any tagging manually. So, my guess, Google is preprocessing Google+ photo library photos to get search in a right way.

The idea of pre-processing is actually resonated with the my view of 3D search problem. This is how we can rethink visual search. By using intensive processing of geometrical objects and semantic connections of these objects to variety of textual information, we can solve the original problem of user input. 3D models, 2D drawings and other visual objects can be analyzed before and used as an input to search. Extracting of non geometrical data from geometrical objects can allow us to solve “input problem” for many visual search situations.

What is my conclusion? There are two main important things when you speak about search – ease of input and precisions of results. Keyword search makes first obvious and try to solve the second one gradually. This is the way internet search was improved for the last decade. Visual search is still untapped territory. Several early attempts to solve this problem failed. Maybe it is a time to rethink it? Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

PLM and Data Reuse Focus

May 24, 2013

Product data is one of my favorite topics. People in product development and manufacturing organizations are surrounded by digital data these days. The life 20 years ago was much easier. I remember the story about how people collaborated before CAD systems came to aerospace industry. Engineers were gathered in a single room, drawing boards were setup in the way similar to functional scheme of jet engine or aircraft. As a result of that, people were able to collaborate with their colleagues working on related parts and systems.

Fast forward to 21st century. The life is much more complicated. Engineering and product data are scattered among multiple systems and data sources. 3D models, drawings, CAE files, suppliers data, ERP systems, released archives, etc. Earlier this year, during PI Congress event in Berlin, I captured the following slide from Gartner’s presentation – Navigating the Shifting Product Design and Lifecycle Management Software Landscape made by Marc Halpern.

Scattered product data creates lots of complication in a manufacturing organizations. Gartner research speaks about 7 sources of mistakes in product data. The following two are specifically resonated to me – inaccurate data entry and incorrect data flow between applications. One of the ways to solve this problem is to foster data access and data reuse. It is still not unusual to see how people cut/paste or re-enter data between applications. Various point-to-point integrations create a mess in terms of ability of people (and systems) to use data located in other systems.

What is my conclusion? Data Reuse. This topic should be in a focus on people implementing engineering and manufacturing information systems. Variety of data management systems, PDM, PLM, ERP, CRM… All these systems should be focused on how to make data searchable, accessible and re-usable across the value chain. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Office Competition Gets PLMish?

May 23, 2013

Office and other productivity tools are un-separateable parts of product development environment. Some of them such Microsoft Excel literally can stop product development and manufacturing in many companies. I’ve been blogging about Excel and Office many times. Couple of weeks ago, I came back to this topic with my – PLM Excels and Future Downfall of Manufacturing post. If you remember my presentation about PLM development trends, Office is part of so-called DIY (Do-It-Yourself) PLM.

For the long period of time, Microsoft Office was (and probably still is) unbeatable by other Office providers. Word and Excel are ultimately de-facto standards. You cannot live without these two applications installed on your computer regardless on your role in manufacturing company.

At the same time, the competition in Office space is getting more aggressive. One of the Office competitors (Google App) was keeping the status of "good enough" alternative, which make impossible to use Google Docs and Spreadsheets as a real alternative to Excel and Word. There are some news in this space. Navigate to the following article – Google Is Prepping A Sneak Attack On Microsoft Office. Google is planning to play a catch up game with Office. Well, this is a not a very big news.

The following picture made me re-thing some of my thoughts about Google Apps, PLM and competition in this domain. Take a look below.

The keyword is "mobile". Google Apps are getting significantly better on mobile devices for the last year. The ability to edit and work collaboratively on mobile devices can be a groundbreaking feature and game changer in the ability of Google Apps to compete with Office. What does it mean for PLM? Collaboration is very important in product development and manufacturing. Even small companies can be distributed among 3 locations in different continents these days. Google collaborative functionality can provide a very easy and simple way for people to collaborate.

What is my conclusion? Mobile is disruptive. We like this word "disruptive"… It smells good to all technological geeks and bloggers. Will ‘mobile office’ change PLM excel competition ground rules? I think about capability of co-editing bill of materials in online spreadsheet using your iPad or Android device located in different places – manufacturing shopfloor in China and restaurant in Palo-Alto, CA at the same time. Do you like the idea? Well, I’m kidding. Dont’ work in restaurant on you BOMs :). Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Image source – Google.

Will PLM pickup OTT Mobile Collaboration strategy?

May 22, 2013

Collaboration. Magic and one of the most confusing words. People are using it in so many contexts that it became meaningless. One of the main trends that was dominant for the last few years was social collaboration. Social networks and social tools went mainstream and it impacted the way business applications and tools think about collaboration. I outlined it few years ago in my post – PLM Collaboration Social Trends and Lotus Notes Memories.

To bring the experience and techniques of social tools in business domain became one of the trends in many application and system developments. I can bring you multiple examples of systems that were created for the last 2-3 years to implement social collaboration – Salesforce Chatter, SAP StreamWork, Oracle WebCenter Social, Autodesk Qontext and many others. Social Applications are coming to design tools as well. Navigate your browser to one of my previous posts – From Design Collaboration to CAD Social Tools to read more.

At the same time, new trends are coming. Have you heard about OTT messages buzzword? OTT term was originally used to define the over the top content that you can stream by passing multiple operators. In the context of mobile messages, it used to define messaging application running on mobile phone, but bypassing regular SMS/Text messages. Techcrunch article – The Future Of Mobile-Social Could Spell The End For Social Networks speaks about trends around OTT messaging applications and social networks. The following picture is showing clear trends towards OTT messaging application to capturing the conversation.

Another interesting viewpoint – migration from social platform and networks to point messaging applications running on top of mobile devices. Here is an interesting passage:

The ground has been set for a fascinating next few years as the web-based social platforms seek to own mobile-social messaging and the mobile messaging apps seek to extend into more fully integrated social features. As of this moment the mobile-first apps have the lead measured by number of users and levels of engagement. To keep it they will need to continue to innovate. The human race is already social, and the smartphone has everything needed to enable them to act on their social needs. As the growth of OTT messaging and media sharing shows, a user’s social needs are being met with no need for a social network. In this mobile-social world the only question is, whose software will we all use to enable human social activities?

You may ask me – what is between OTT and PLM? Here is the thing. PLM adoption in organizations is a hard topic. How to make customers using PLM applications beyond engineering (the core domain where PLM is originated in many situations)? One of the possible ways is to come with ad-hoc OTT mobile application allowing to downstream users to get access to data in PLM system for decision making or other workflows.

What is my conclusion? OTT messaging is a new behavior we discover for the last 2-3 years. People are experiencing it in their personal life. In the past, PDM/PLM used File Explorer and MS Outlook user experience to drive user adoption. Similar to that, PLM applications can use the familiarity of people with OTT mobile applications to help driving PLM downstream adoption. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

PLM, Search and Findability

May 21, 2013

Searching for information is a tricky thing. Search may sounds as a simple operation, but in fact, it is translated to a complex computational, information and organizational task. Search isn’t a new problem. Lots of work was done in this domain for the last 20 years. Google clearly changed a consumer perception about internet search. Google "lady Gaga" and in less than a second you will have all relevant internet information about Lady Gaga.

However, searching inside of corporate data is different. What works for "lady Gaga" type of search, doesn’t work for MPR-345000 type of search for product information, part numbers, documents in SharePoints, emails, intranet sites and other enterprise data sources. It is complicated and daunting task. Sometimes, it even goes beyond of what is most important – it is about where to search. During my previous work at Inforbix, I found customers are usually very confused about searching information. They think about search as an easy and complicated thing at the same time and usually blame IT for not bringing a right solution to solve the problem of search.

I’ve been looking on materials coming from Enterprise Search Europe 2013 conference earlier this week. looking on Enterprise Search and Findability Survey 2013 published by FINDWISE and presented by Kristian Norling few weeks ago. The following two slides caught my special attention. It speaks about what are the obstacles to find the right information. Take a look on the following statistics:

According to the research, there are top 5 obstacles – we do wrong tagging, we don’t know where to search, tools are not perfect as well as tagging made by tools. The last one is even more interesting – we don’t know what to look for.

What is my conclusion? Information search is a complicated, but fascinating topic. For the last few years CAD and PLM vendors started to put more emphasis in order to improve their way to search and actually find the information. However, solving the problem of a single tool is still not enough. Even if company has PLM/PDM system in place, the information usually located in disparate sources. As we learn from the research, the problem is going much beyond searching for a specific set of keywords – data sources are not defined and how to search for right data is not clear as well. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

PLM Workflows and Google Actionable Emails

May 18, 2013

Process management is an important elements of PLM implementations. PLM systems usually offer a variety of solutions for process management – from simple message routing to complex workflow management systems. However, regardless of process and workflow complexity, all customers are interested how to integrate processes and workflows with their email system.

Email is fascinating topic, in my view. Many companies are still literally run by emails. The fight over the email is one that usually happen when enterprise system is implemented in a company. Usually companies recogniz the problem of email communication and even try to implement Zero Email Policy. However, the typical end of this fight is to integrate their enterprise system with with email solution.

Earlier this morning, I’ve been skimming Google I/O news stream from the last week. One of them resonated with the idea of PLM workflows and email integration – Google makes email more interactive with customizable Gmail action buttons. The original gmail blog article is here. Take few minutes of your weekend time and have a read. Here is the passage that explains what this feature does:

New quick action buttons in Gmail, designed to help you tackle your digital to-do’s as quickly as possible. These buttons appear next to certain types of messages in your inbox and let you take action on an email without ever having to open it. For example, you can RSVP to your friend’s party invitation or rate that restaurant you went to last night all right from the inbox. You’ll be checking things off that to-do list in no time.

Here is an image showing the appearance of customized action buttons.

I found this Gmail update very cool. What makes me specially excited about this feature is the fact Google implemented it using schema.org actions. Schema.org is a collection of schemas (ontologies) that can be used to describe actions. For example, here is a definition of RSVP action. As you can see, you can make it completely customizable for your application.

What is my conclusion? Few weeks ago, I attended an interesting session EOL 4 Email at COFES 2013 in Arizona. One of the topic during that discussion was about future of email as integrated messaging system. I think actionable extension of email is a perfect example of how you can design your future PLM implementation and system to manage processes and keep you in the loop of your email. Ask your PLM vendor or service provider if your system can be extended that way. Important. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Image courtesy of TechCrunch article.

PLM360+NetSuite: Changing the integration game?

May 18, 2013

PLM and ERP integration is not a new topic. Step in the discussion about any PLM implementation and you will come to the topic of PLM+ERP integration in less than 5 minutes. Integration between two enterprise software suites is usually a complicated tasks which involves lots of planning, adjustments and hard-wiring from both sides.

Cloud software brings a new perspective to PLM / ERP integration domain. Of course, it will not dismiss planning stage. Lots of EPR and PLM planning tasks are still needs to be done. However, cloud integration is simpler. Web APIs and architecture as well as cloud deployment can make integration between cloud products easier. Early stage SaaS products exposed some difficulties in integration. Usage of REST APIs and additional cloud-based integration tools is streamlining integration tasks.

Earlier this week Autodesk and NetSuite announced partnership focused on providing seamless integration between two products – Autodesk PLM360 and NetSuite. You can find press release of the announcement by navigating to the following link. Here is an interesting passage:

The bi-directional integration of these revolutionary cloud technologies gives manufacturers a single, closed-loop solution to accelerate product design and development, reduce risk of errors and delays, streamline supply network collaboration, and gain critical real-time visibility into costing, scheduling, capacity and profitability.

Market research shows that manufacturers are increasingly turning to cloud-based Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) applications to run product development, production, supply chain, order management, financials and other core business applications without the time and cost burden of on-premise software and servers. Gartner predicts that nearly half (47 percent) of manufacturers worldwide will be using or piloting SaaS applications by 2015, up from just 2 percent in 2010.[1]

In the following video, Gavin Davidson and Brian Roepke demonstrate the new integration between NetSuite Manufacturing and Autodesk PLM 360 software at SuiteWorld 2013:

Couple of thoughts about the scenario presented. I found natural to see not only traditional BOM transfer function during the PLM/ERP integration, but also modern social collaboration functions presented by NetSuite. Also, additional cloud-based tools such as Fusion 360 (cloud design CAD) and online cloud simulation tools naturally fit into the scenario.

What is my conclusion? Integration is tough topic. Usually it requires implementation effort and additional services. It looks like cloud software (both ERP and PLM) is about to define a new trend in the ability to establish a different level of integration. Time and customers will show how it will work. Nevertheless, it is clear that cloud vendors are trying to resolve old integration problems in a different way. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Disclosure: I’m responsible for PLM and Data Management product development at Autodesk.


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