All roads lead to Rome. Sometimes, I have a feeling whatever discussion happens in CAD, engineering and manufacturing world, it will lead to PDM and PLM. My earlier conversation about pros and cons of having special CAD file sharing tools started here, ended up on GrabCAD blog by Hardi Meybaum here with a conversation about what system should be used in organization to manage data, users and workflows and how to integrate these systems. Here is the passage:
In addition to the cons Oleg brought up I actually see a bigger issue – integration. A good thing about a generic/horizontal file sharing tool is that everyone is using the same system so it’s easy to manage data, users and workflows. Conversely, a manufacturing company might have someone who only needs to access very specific CAD data once or twice a quarter. Does this person really need access to your manufacturing-specific tool to get it? I think overcoming this problem is going to be an important obstacle to address in the next 3-5 years.
Another interesting point raised by Hardi, was the role of VAR is changing cloud/SaaS software role. In the past I discussed the future of PLM VARs last year here – What is the future of PLM VARs? My main point was that technical experience will become one of the main differentiation factors for future SaaS VARs. GrabCAD blog practically in the same way.
The benefit of VARs repositioning within the CAD space is that most of them have offered value implementing rather complicated engineering systems to customers already. They understand the customer well and have software knowledge within the company. I believe the new model for VARs in the next 5 years will be reinvention – some will become software companies providing specific integration like Zapier and others will focus on very specific workflow integrations between horizontal products.
However, let me get back to CAD, PDM, PLM and integration topic. While CAD File Sharing is highly demanded by almost all organizations these days, customer requirements are moving very fast from pure need to share information to questions and requirements how to control CAD data and manage change processes.
In the early beginning, PLM vendors and implementers were trying to get deep associations with CAD roots. This is not true anymore. One of the latest trend is to focus PLM on the business level of the company and how to improve company business processes. In one of my early articles CAD data and PLM, I described this position talking about CAD Rootless PLMs and importance of integration between CAD and PLM.
At the same time, the center of integration gravity is still positioned on integration of CAD and PDM. The complication of this type of integration is related to multi-CAD nature of CAD data. Companies are using different CAD systems. Some of CAD systems can dominant, but you always can find data from multiple CAD systems in every organization. GrabCAD post mentioned that as well. In the early days, PDM vendors were focusing on how to develop plug-ins for every CAD. This is still true for many vendors. However, next trend, in my view, would be future openness of CAD systems toward providing interfaces integrating to many PDM systems. You can read more about it in my post – Multi-CAD integration: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow .
Last, but not least topic is related to Cloud/SaaS solutions. This is a place where Hardi Meybaum of GrabCAD believe the most. Here is an interesting passage from GrabCAD post:
It will only be solved once there is enough adoption in the general market for the next generation of SaaS CAD tools like GrabCAD Workbench, Autodesk PLM360, TeamPlatform. At that point the integration challenges will evolve.
I can see a clear point of movement to the cloud / SaaS trajectory. However, in my view, despite a significant growths in design domain, co-existence will be probably the right word to describe the reality of coming few years. I want to stress this point – CAD will be the latest application in the list of PDM, PLM and other business services to move to the cloud. What is interesting to me is how vendors are going to support this “cloud transition”. Companies clearly won’t be able to move all in a single shot. You can take a look on how I can see a transition in my blot post – PDM/PLM Evolution: Final Step and Cloud / On-Premises Integration.
What is my conclusion? Integration is a complicated and important topic. However, to think integration will disappear with movement to the cloud is too naive position. Cloud/SaaS can clearly simplify some technological aspects of integrations. However, the complexity of design, data management and processes in an organization will be very hard to overcome only by the change of technological foundation. The "transition phase" will be another reason why vendors and customers will have to deal with integration for coming decade, at least. Just my thoughts…