How To Disrupt PLM Price with Technologies?

June 21, 2010

My post “How To Manage ECO Without Paying $1’500 Per Seat” raised a very interesting discussion on Zero-Waite State blog about PLM price. Thanks Stephen Porter for doing that. I recommend you to get inside and have a read. This post made me think about the future of PLM price trajectories and an impact of technologies on the future of PLM price.

The Future Disruption

I hope you had chance to read the book by Chris Anderson – Free: The Future of a Radical Price. I’d call it the modern “Bible of Free”. One of the important points, in my view is the following – “information and technology cost is trending towards zero”. As part of this, my own believe is that we are going to experience an influence of this trend, including an influence of free-price-market in various fields. The potential weak elements in the chain of highly priced software products are those that have a serious customer dissatisfaction or a very high price/value characteristic. What happens with PLM? In my view, this is a definitely weak chain. The complexity, over-promising during a sale process and history of acquired products and companies created a place that needs to be disrupted. I can see potential PLM disruptors PLM disruptors – Open Source (Free Distribution) of Aras, few on-demand products and PTC SharePoint business. The last one is trying to ride SharePoint adoption and Microsoft strength in the enterprise market. Who will be more successful in the future PLM disruption? A very interesting question…

PLM Technology Weakness

Where I see a weakness in PLM technology we have today? The current technological approach was born 15-20 years ago. We are continuing to SQL our future. The development of most of PLM technological platforms are balancing to co-exist between existing customer commitments and future product development. Platform fundamentals are the same regardless on the type of user interface or modern marketing terms. This technology is vulnerable in front of new development that happened during past ten years in Web 2.0. To understand the scope of the last ten years and the potential influence is very important.

What is my conclusion? When Stephen is asking – The Price Is Right?, I’m thinking about sales lessons I learned in the past. The right price is one customer will be ready to pay. Since PLM sales these days are not similar to sales of iPhones and iPads, I think we have a problem. We won’t be able to solve it since the problem is not in the price, in my view. The problem is broader and related to all main components of PLM delivery to customer – price, technological complexity and high price customer need to pay by installing, customizing, modifying software and training people. To make PLM cheaper, to provide a more flexible PLM pricing model, or even give PLM away can definitely provide some pain-relief, but will not give a radical change to the industry.

Just my thoughts.
Best, Oleg

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The Future Of PLM Walmarting

June 18, 2010

Say “PLM” to anyone, and you hear the words “complex” and “expensive”. However, thinking about trajectories of different technologies, I came to the conclusion that it always introduced as something very expensive and then going down to become cheaper and, in the end, even free. It was a story of so many technological inventions in many industries. There are many outside of PLM examples. The most valuable insider’s stories related to the evolution of CAD systems. Even in the data management domain, we can definitely see a trend to move from expensive custom-built PDM systems to windows-based mid-priced solutions. It gave a certain push in the adoption level and allowed to “non-Boeing” customers to come and taste these products and technologies.

The Parallel History of CAD/PLM and Walmart
Let’s take an unusual look on how companies and product can grow within time. Let’s take a look first on the very interesting video of WalMarts growth across United States from 1964 until 2007. I think this video is amazing and shows viral WalMart distribution. You can take a look on the interactive map following this link.

Now let’s take a look on the following framgment. “This video is a TV show made about the software Ivan Sutherland developed in his 1963 thesis at MIT’s Lincoln Labs, “Sketchpad, A Man-Machine Graphical Communication System”, described as one of the most influential computer programs ever written. This work was seminal in Human-Computer Interaction, Graphics and Graphical User Interfaces (GUIs), Computer Aided Design (CAD), and contraint/object-oriented programming“. These are definite roots of CAD and PLM.

The Future Is PLM Walmarting
In my view, there is a very interesting paradox related to PLM. I can see Product Lifecycle Management ideas as a vision and practical guidance about how to manage product from their entire life. These ideas are getting good acceptance from many people in the organizations. At the same time, as soon as discussion is going towards software and vendors, I can hear much more negative context about what PLM can and cannot do. Here is my point – to walmart PLM! It needs to be done easy, cheaper, simpler. It needs to be open and available. It needs to solve initially the subset of problems that relevant to everybody and not requires implementation time.

What is my conclusion today? I love Wal-Mart’s mission statement: “To give ordinary folk the chance to buy the same thing as rich people“. I’d like to think about a direction toward the future of PLM – To give all engineers the chance to buy and use the same software as Boeing, Toyota, Honda, Airbus… I don’t think it is about people and methodology. They will not learn how to use complicated software. This is about software…

Just my thought.
Best, Oleg

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PLM Competition and “MEH”?

June 11, 2010

I’ve been reading SolidSmack postJim Heppelmann. Dassault Arrogant Competition. Siemens Invisible. This post made me think more about competition.  Competition is very important and this is a part of any healthy industry. So, I want to suggest a short discussion about PLM competition and modern competitive strategies. The way companies behave, can show what are their motto, believes, technological position.

Blue Ocean Strategies
If you haven’t had chance to read this book, I highly recommend you to do so. In my view, it can be considered as a modern “bible of competition”. You can find lots of interesting examples from the past and present about how companies managed their competitive strategies. The blue ocean metaphor explains the world of competition-less, where companies are focused on untapped market places, new opportunity for growths and compare it with the dominant competition strategy (red-ocean) of finding ways to cut costs and growth by taking a market share from competition.

MEH and Competition
Relax, ‘MEH’ is not a new PLM  TLA (three letter acronym) for a new super technology that will outperform all other competitors. Take a look in urban dictionary definition of “meh”. It states for “Indifference; to be used when one simply does not care.” It seems to me, MEH is going to be a new way to compete in the world when software will be available for PULL and vendors will stop PUSHING it to potential customers. I want to credit Steven Arnold KMWorld article about Google and their MEH strategy in mobile phone space. Time will show if Android will be able to outperform iPhone and RIM. This is an interesting perspective, though.

PLM Competition
PLM and associated space of CAD, CAM, CAE is not simple from a competition standpoint. In my view, the most problematic aspects of PLM-related competition are customer’s lock-in on software, sotware versions, data formats. Cost of change (or switch to a competitor’s solution) is another thing that plays as a competitive factor. On the other side, customers are starting to be tired of such competition and looking for alternatives to get the job done.

What is my short conclusion today? I think, PLM market is too focused on competition and less focused on customers. To be able to listen to customers is probably the first tool to win a competition game. PLM competition needs to learn from how to win over customers and not over competitors. This is not a simple shift. However, this is one that needs to be done to make PLM associated industry stronger.

Just my thoughts..
Best, Oleg

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PLM Life-like Search Injection

June 10, 2010

An interesting turn in PLM trajectory of Dassault Systems – the acquisition of French based Exalead. With this acquisition, we can expect new life-like energy injected into PLM life-blood. In some announcements, Exalead was mentioned as French Google. Exalead indeed shares some Google DNA coming from early days Alta Vista and DEC search experiments. DS-Exalead deal made me think again about an enterprise search trajectory in Product Lifecycle Management. Actually, I already touched this topic at least two times in my blog before: PLM and Enterprise Search: Can We Leverage It In Downstream Applications and What Is The Role Of Search In Enterprise Systems and PLM?

So, PLM+Search=? What can be hidden behind this question mark? First of all, I wanted to put some historical perspectives in the relationships of PLM and search vendors. This is actually not the first time, PLM is catching a search wave. In 2006, Autonomy and Agile Software PLM created a partnership to provide a solution together . In 2007, Dassault made the announcement about a future use of Autonomy as a technology for search in DS and ENOVIA solutions. Endecca, another enterprise search vendor signed an agreement with Kalypso PLM solution provider. The same Edecca signed an agreement with PTC, one of the major DS completitiors. The same PTC by their significant move to SharePoint over the past 2 years, have an access to Microsoft SharePoint search solution. The same Autonomy, one of the leaders in Enterprise Search solutions is providing full stack of connectors that allow them to handle PLM related information too by their IDOL platform.

So, I wanted to put some thoughts towards possible mix of PLM and Search solutions. What can be advantages of PLM and Search merger and what need to be done to analyze previous solutions?

Usability
This is the first thing, in my view. PLM will try to fix the usability problem with application of some search techniques. All PLM applications today are surviving from user adoption rate in the organization due to the complexity in user experience. To have a search solution in this space is an interesting approach. However, what is good for web search not always can work in the same way inside of the organization. This will be an interesting to challenge for search solutions .

Content Processing
Search solutions have a different perspective on how to work with data. It is really not the same as to do it for enterprise application and business process management. How it will fit? What web search is doing by manage data is not really the same as enterprise data processing. Lots of interesting questions are coming here. I assume, we’ll have chance to see soon in the  in DS-Exalead story.

Integration
Crawling data from multiple sources, enterprise search has a potential to become a federated access point for PLM apps. This is the most interesting turn, in my view. However, to execute this route, a significant shift in PLM openness needs to be done.

What is my conclusion today? DS acquisition proved again, that PLM space is alive and will continuously provide innovative solutions for enterprises. As one of the leaders in PLM and 3D, Dassault just confirmed it yesterday. The next important step will be technological convergence and new solutions coming from Dassault.

Just my thoughts…
Best, Oleg


PLM Future Business and Social Models

June 8, 2010

Usually, when we are discussing various aspects of software, we are spending lot of time talking about technologies. However, I think, most of the people, learned these days, that to have an excellent product and technology is only part of the game. Business Model matters not less than technology. You may have an excellent technology. However, you have no idea how to sell it to your customers. Nowadays, to think “business” is not enough too. My take is that we also need to put “Social” next to business. I think, “social” becomes a very important part of the business.

Before I will dig inside of possible business and social models, I want to ask – what is so special about PLM? Is the same as any enterprise software? My guess is that there is some differentiation that can be applied to PLM. It comes due to a huge dissonance I can see between adoption of PLM as a manufacturing strategy and PLM software adoption level. I can see a great level of PLM ideas adoption. If you talk to engineering and manufacturing people, they will explain how important Product Lifecycle Management strategies for their business. However, if you’ll shift talks to the topic related to software packages, the actual discussion will be going a very wrong way.

Open
There is a lot of magic in the word ‘open’. Very often, we are manipulating by “open”. Open API, Openness, Open Access to Data, Open…  In my view, the strongest trend in the space of “Open” is, actually, Open Source. Many companies outside of PLM space are experimenting with the open source and lately I had chance to see lots of interesting results coming out of this space. Aras Innovator is the only product in PLM space today thinking about Open Source. Without going too much in the details, some of these experiments are very fascinating.

Freemium
Another interesting direction is Free or Freemium. We had chance to see lots of examples related to free models in consumer space. However, businesses are also starting to explore this space. I had chance to post about different aspects of Free models. You can take a look on one of my previous posts. Freemium model is coming from the combination of free and premium. In my view, it can be combined with Open model as well. Free can provide an easy path to customers. However, I had chance to hear lots of criticism of free in the business space, especially from people selling value to enterprises.

Causium
I learned an interesting and new trend in business models from Daniel Freeman on his marketing phreaks blog. Causium is a new business model based on the idea of charity and donation. The fundamentals of this model are in the psychological incentives and psychic needs of all parties. You can take a look on the experiment Atlassian is making by charging 10$ and proceed these revenues to charity. I don’t see many other examples of this model, but it provides a very unusual way to get into business with customers.

What is my conclusion today? PLM need to think how to innovate in a non-technological space too. I’m not saying that PLM vendors successfully solved all technological problems. Nevertheless, it seems to me that even with today’s level of PLM product and technological development, their adoption stacks because of some business and social aspects. Do you think existing PLM vendors will be able to make this shift? Time will show. In my view, all depends on how healthy is their core business today. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

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PLM Excels And The Ugly Truth About iPad

April 29, 2010

If you ask me, who is the biggest competitor of PLM apps, my constant answer is simple – Excel. I think Excel plays a huge role in the engineering and manufacturing life. An amount of information that engineers load and management with Excel is enormous. I’ve been writing quite many time about Excel. If you had no chance to see it before, you can take a look on some of the following posts.

PLM Excel Spreadsheets: From Odes to Woes
Why Do I Like My PLM Excel Spreadsheet?
Do We Need Chief Excel Officer To Manage BOM?

However, today, my post is not about Excel. I wanted to touch Apple Numbers for iPad. Since iPad was released few weeks ago, there are lots of discussions and conversation about if this new device will find his pathway into enterprise organizations. Yesterday, I had a very interesting discussion with my friends working for one of the manufacturing companies. There are two polar opinions were stated – 1/ iPad is a useless device; 2/ iPad is a very slick device. The second was mentioned by their manager. The point was made very clear, in my view. If we can make an interesting and useful apps on iPad to satisfy needs of manufacturing communities, the situation with  iPad in organizations in few years can be similar to iPhone. I decided to dig a little to find what can be attractive out-of-the-box in iPad and found a very cool demo of iPad Numbers.

Now, think about these two things together. Excel as the king of PLM universe and iPad Numbers. Sounds as a perfect match to win hearts of managers. I’m almost sure your Bill of Material will look very slick on such device, and you will like the idea to show it this way to your boss. In my view, this is the “ugly truth” about how iPad is going to win in the organizations.

I’m interesting to hear your voices? Have you had chance to play around Numbers on iPad? Would you like to have Your BOM on Your iPad?

Just my thoughts…
Best, Oleg

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PLM, iPad and High Impact Technical Documentation

April 6, 2010

Oh, yes… iPad is finally here. Do you think it will create new opportunities to PLM vendors? This is a first example I just took from the Alltop news stream. Hyundai has announced that all new buyers of the Equus luxury sedan will receive an Apple iPad, one that comes pre-loaded with a digital version of the car’s owner’s manual.

It opens an interesting opportunity, in my view. The interest in Technical Documentation and Publishing is high. PLM vendors invested a significant effort development and acquisitions of such tools. Products like 3DVIA Composer, PTC Arbortext, TeamCenter Content Management, Autodesk Inventor Publisher and other. The question when we’ll have iPad Apps tuned to use a content generated by technical publishing apps? Is it an opportunity in your view?


Best, Oleg

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Future CAD-PLM and Assembly Version Management

March 12, 2010

I was reading SolidSmack’s post about how to manage versions of the assemblies. Creating versions of drawing and models is one of the most fundamental activities during your design process.

For the long period of time, I assumed that this field of PDM/PLM activity is well explored – done deal! If you need versions, you need to move to the one of the available PDM systems (whatever fit your CAD system and vendor choice). Sounds like pretty straightforward… Finally, if you don’t want to move to PDM burden, you can follow Josh’s rules and options.

But, what if…?

What if we will be able to automate this painful version management mechanism. Think Google Docs for the moment. You actually can manage versions of your document and Google Doc is taking care of your changes. You can revert to any version you want, compare versions, etc. Sounds simple. I know, you can tell me CAD data is complex, lots of dependent information and not clear how to manage version with actually designer involvement. However, the actual problem, in m view, is not a complexity of design and assemblies. The main problem is the way today PDM systems manage it. In the typical environment, the data is located on your local disk (or shared network drive). Data Management software (PDM or PLM system) is taking care of moving your data to the secured location (vault). Each time you are doing it, the very painful check-in / check-out process needs to happen.The fundamental problem is data management procedures. So, maybe we finally need to remove and reorganize it?

Let me dream about different data management scenarios and work organization. We can split version-related data management process in two separate activities. 1/Save all changes all the time; 2/Tag versions.

Unlimited Storage and Save Command
The storage is cheap these days. Even if you think it is not yet as cheap as you want, the trend is going down. Let assume we have an unlimited online storage that will allow us to keep track of all CAD activity and changes you are doing. Basically, we will reduce the need for <Save> command. Still, you may have it, but normally you’ll not use it anymore.

Revision As Tagging
Think about Version as a tag of the particular design state. When you are coming to this state, just tag all you have with a specific tag (actually you can use lovely revision schema you have in your organization).

There is no magic. The biggest problem is to optimize a process of data saving between CAD software and storage. I think, the network speed improvements and CAD vendors efforts will move us in the right direction. And finally, an alternative is to move your CAD system on the cloud and run it in a browser. Do you think, I’m overwhelmed by the simplicity of some online sotware available today? I don’t think so. Time ago, CAD systems had a problem to optimize save procedure to the disk. Today, they are in a pretty good shape and can optimize loading of huge assemblies in a very efficient way.

So, what is my conclusion? The “second movers” innovation is very important. The problem is on the plate. Today’s PDM Versions mechanism is outdated. Don’t give up and accept “it is as it is” statements. There are some fundamental CAD/PDM activities that can be improved and need to be improved.

Just my thoughts…
Best, Oleg

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Will Google App Store Disrupt PLM?

March 9, 2010

I think, it is always fun to talk about next disruption. When you are doing so, you have a real feeling something happens. Therefore, I had a real pleasure to read Jim Brown’s ClarityOnPlm about future PLM disruption. The name of the blog “Who will disrupt entrenched PLM vendors” was promising and discussion around this topic was interesting. Take your time and read it via this link.

Few takeaways from Jim’s blog:
1. PLM market is very slow, political and hardly can be disrupted
2. Mindshare PLM leaders will have enough time to react on any future disruption by acquisition or their own development.
3. PLM stuff is complex and big technology leaders (Google, Microsoft, etc.) will have no interest to be involved in this business.
So, for foreseeable future, large PLM and ERP vendors will continue to represent leadership on the PLM market. Nevertheless, few technological and business models related aspects were mentioned by Jim as one of the possible future scenarios.

In parallel, I had chance to read Dion Hinchcliffe’s blog post – The App Store: The new “must have” digital business model and another one that came today about coming Google’s announcement related to Google App store availability next week. These two publications as well as one of my previous posts on PLM Think Tank – Where is the PLM shortcut to the cloud?,  made me think about App Store as a future disruptive technological and business model for PLM.

A very iteresting picture made by Dion in one of his blog. The concept of business apps delivered from App Store seems solid and promise for enterprise. However, is it the same for enterprise PLM?

I summarized my initial thoughts about pros and cons of Google based Business Apps.

Google App Store Advantages:
1. Lower cost of application development.
2. Re-use of globally available platform
3. Availability of general purpose Google Apps and collaboration tools
3. Integration with other Google Apps

Google App Store Disadvantages:
1. Security concern
2. Adoption level in the enterprise
3. Shortage of development skills in enterprise domain for such platform.

As I can see, one of the key inflation points for Google Apps, will be multiple application availability and enterprise adoption rate. Today is insignificant, but tomorrow can be different. As I mentioned in my comment on Jim’s blog, the interesting potential for PLM apps on Google’s platform can be provided by growing collaborative capabilities provided by Google Wave. Still in the early beginning, Google Wave is a very promising collaboration tool.  App store business model is something has that never been used in PLM domain. When existing business model innovators are going after SaaS (Arena) or Open Source (Aras), nobody is looking into potentials of Enterprise App Store. Salesforce is an interesting example to learn with regards to that.

What is my conclusion? App Store business model for the enterprise companies seems as a very interesting idea. The  application built on one of the available app stores (Google, Salesforce or others) can represent a potential disruption in PLM domain. However, to make it happen, these platforms need to get to the next maturity level. Therefore, I think, we need to watch how cloud office applications are moving into the enterprise domain. This can be a real indicator for available business case. Potential disruption will not come from either technological or business direction, but will use both in co-existent mode.

Just my thoughts… I’m looking forward to your comments.
Best, Oleg

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PLM Social Disruption – Whom Should We Follow?

February 15, 2010

I want to get back to social applications and PLM topic. You can ask me why? Last week was the week Google Buzz was born. In my view Google did it, as usual, in  a very disruptive way. I remember, last year or so, Google introduced Google Profile. Nobody clearly understood what is that. I did one for myself. Last week everybody finally discovered what is Google Profile about – it is about your social identity. Btw, if you haven’t had a chance to read my Google Buzz notes, please find it here.

Google Buzz was a trigger, in my view, to start a discussion about what are fundamentals of social connection? What I like about social application is that all of them put people before processes. When I asked teenagers – why are you on Facebook? The answer was simple – because everybody is there. Interesting comparison was made – Facebook is the place to see and stay connected with friends and Twitter is the place to spy celebrities. This is an interesting observation. You are following people you consider as your social or professional connection. And existing social networks provide a clear answers – you can follow celebrities, friends, colleagues, brands- these are they way things become social.

Let’s get back to Product Lifecycle and Enterprises. The application of social tools in the enterprise is in the very early beginning. The most massive social attack on the enterprise is fast growing number of social platforms promising the creation of communities between users, customers, brands, etc. Chatter, 12sprints, BlueKiwi, PTC Social Product Development with Product Point… This is an incomplete list of all apps proposing creating of community of people like Facebook. Finally, we got the new one – “Facebook for files”. I got this definition from Chris at Vuuch in his post “Following A Friend Make No Sense”. So, “whom should we follow?” was the most important question for me to ask?

It is about people.
Files and other data were here before social systems came in. Somebody can put an assembly, file, word document. You never know somebody did something with that. If you will try to spy after all files, things can get crazy. But, if you are following people you’re working with, it can be more relevant. In the end, you are not working with millions. On average, you connected to couple dozens of people in the organization you work. So, stay connected with them, and you’ll get all you need.

It is about data you can get through your connections.
You work with people, so you can collaborate on data everybody owns. Design, bill of materials, changes, product definition, customer’s claims, etc. – all these collections of data can be available from the people are working with. So, stay online with your connections and you’ll have all up-to-date stuff. You’ll become a focal point for the data you own.

It is about openness and share.
If you are in the open social world – share what you have to say. If you’re in the organization – share what you need to work on. If you will do it, the most probably it will allow you to get connected to the right social focal points in your organization and extended enterprise.

What is my conclusion today? You cannot follow “data” or “files”, since data is not social. Files are not social. You can get connected to data by using your social connections. It doesn’t matter if this is an enterprise organization, your high school or college. The aim of social software is to bring “the relevant data” to you. So, in PLM – follow people you need to work within the organization. This will be your ultimate way to get the most relevant information you need. And this is, in my view, the purpose of social PLM (and other social apps)- to get your data by using your organization’s social network.

It will be interesting to know what do you think?
Best, Oleg

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