How CAD and PLM vendors will compete with “Facebook at Work”

November 18, 2014

facebook-at-work-for-engineers

Social software was hot topic in engineering software ecosystem for the last few years. The results are somewhat mixed. Start-up companies and well established CAD/PLM vendors learned by mistakes, some of them failed and some of them is still in process of developing new type of collaborative engineering software. I captured some of my thoughts about that here – Why Social 1.0 failed

One of the most famous messages of social software was to create “Facebook for XYZ”. Many companies tried to deliver this message in variety of forms in engineering software. The most impressive one was GrabCAD, which created a community of about 1.5M engineers sharing 3D CAD files. Even so, GrabCAD put their focus on development of cloud PDM software – to find a way to monetize. Some of my comments on what GrabCAD did are here – GrabCAD – from Facebook for engineers to PLM. GrabCAD is probably a company that unofficially can own the tag of “Facebook for engineer”. Google search is a good confirmation for that.

A very interesting news came from “original” Facebook. Earlier this week, Facebook leaked the information about Facebook’s intent to create so called “Facebook at Work”. Forbes article gives you some details about Upcoming Facebook at Work service will rival LinkedIn and Slack.

Facebook is preparing Facebook at Work, a service aimed at enterprise customers that will allow them to chat with colleagues and “collaborate over documents,” according to a new report in the Financial Times which cites anonymous sources.

Social business wasn’t an easy job for many companies. For the last few days, I see many speculations and reports about how easy (or not, actually) Facebook can capture a new business niche. Here is the article from ReadWrite – Why Facebook For Work Will Be A Hard Sell To Employers. This is my favorite passage:

Users will be able to chat with coworkers, collaborate on projects, and build catalogues of colleague’s contacts, with each of these services directly competing with Microsoft’s Yammer, Google’s Drive, and LinkedIn. All the services Facebook at Work will offer already exist. Slack, Google Drive, and LinkedIn already do these features well, and have the market for these respective services cornered. If Facebook at Work is going to have a chance of competing, it’ll need to extremely improve on its competitors’ services. And from the little we’ve seen of the service (with Facebook declining to comment), it’s hard to tell if Facebook for Work even has a chance.

“Facebook at Work” news made me think about what it means for engineering software ecosystem? First of all, it reminded me how is dangerous profession of industry analyst. It is still unclear how successful Facebook at Work is going to be, but Jim Brown of Tech-Clarity should be probably concerned about his 5 years old statement – We are not Going to Design an Airplane on Facebook!

All engineering vendors (CAD and PLM companies) just got a new mindshare competitor in everything that can be considered as social and collaboration. In my view it will be hard for Facebook to focus on “project collaboration” for design and engineering teams. The space is too narrow. At the same time, “social collaboration pond” is not as safe as it was before such a big fish as Facebook jumped into it.

My special attention caught by feature related to document sharing and collaboration. In my article – The path towards ubiquitous CAD cloud drive, I mentioned few examples of companies working on how to leverage cloud for CAD files storage and collaboration. Cloud file storage is an interesting place and I expect to see many changes in this domain in coming years. Every engineering company will have to think about pros and cons to have a special CAD files sharing tool. Facebook is just another behemoth convincing companies to store files on their servers and developing slick user experience to collaborate and share project information.

What is my conclusion? Facebook just captured a piece of attention for social project collaboration from everyone. “Facebook at Work” won’t compete directly with engineering software businesses. However, most probably, CAD and PLM vendors have to review their sales and marketing presentations. How to differentiate engineering collaboration software from Facebook? I will put security and CAD viewers on the top of my list of differentiators. Facebook won’t be able to change security perception overnight. Also, it will be challenging to develop 3D viewing solutions. Some specialized vendors can decide to jump and partner with Facebook about 3D CAD viewers. At the same time, there is one thing, which will challenge CAD and PLM vendors already tomorrow. Together with Google, LinkedIn and other web giants, Facebook will challenge engineering teams by setting even higher bar for project collaboration user experience. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

photo credit: aldoaldoz via photopin cc


Future PLM selection: It is like to get married or buy a smartphone

November 17, 2014

decision-making

Ask people about PLM selection process. You can get an impression it is not a simple process. The same can be said about any decision related to enterprise software – it is complex. Today, I want to take a look on that from a bit different perspective.

I know few manufacturing companies that literally spending years to make a decision. In PLM domain, it is quite regular to invest few months in investigation about what is the right PLM system for your organization. You can find many articles and presentations from vendors, service providers and industry analysts about PLM selection process. Here are just few of them (priority order by Google search) – Gartner PLM selection criteria; The art and science of selecting the right PLM for your organization; PLM selection – do this.

Jos Voskuil (you might know him as Virtual Dutchman) just posted another story that caught my attention during this weekend – PLM selection proof of concept observation. Have a read – this is very thoughtful article. I found it as a very good advise how to manage complex enterprise software selection process. For good and for bad, it can be applied to any piece of software, hardware and probably even to situations beyond that like decision about business partnership, etc. I replaced word “PLM” in the article by “ERP” and found it as a very good piece of advise too. I tried to applied it by “mobile solution” or “home theater system” – hold your breath… with some stretch, I think you can use it as well. Because.. the process of decision making is very similar.

It made me think about lifecycle of things and solutions around us. So, I want to come with two examples – ERP system and smartphone. Navigate your browser to the following article by fairphone – Next step in lifecycle assessment. Article speaks about average lifecycle of smartphone is about 2-3 years these days.

average-lifespan-of-phone

The following article – Why your new smartphone is already obsolete by MyPhoneMd brings you an interesting breakdown of smartphone lifecycle by country. From absolutely extreme case of 21 months in U.S. it goes to some more conservative numbers in Europe, which is about 40-50 weeks.

Another example – ERP system (I wanted to come with PLM and CRM, but didn’t find any meaningful data). Bluelinkerp blog – When should you replace your ERP software brings an interesting diagram – the majority of ERP implementations is up to 7 years old. The chart based on data provided by Aberdeen study – Aging ERP – When your ERP is too old.

erp-system-age

Now, I want to take it to extreme. Lets speak about marriage. For most of us, this is a fundamental decision we supposed to take for a very long time (I hope most of my readers would agree). However, modern statistic provide a bit different data points. Navigate to the article – 32 shocking divorce statistics article and you learn that average marriage lifespan is 8 years (almost like ERP system in my example above). My hunch, we can improve this situation by applying of some recommendation and observations from Jos’ article about PLM proof of concept, but this is already different story for another blog post.

What is my conclusion? The lifespan of things in our life is getting shorter. While it is sad in some situations like family, it is probably good for most of other examples I mentioned. In my view, this is a reflection of speed of changes in technology and industry. What it means for your PLM selection process? Do it faster and think what pains you can kill and what processes you can improve in your organizations in a short period of time. Modern trends in software development – cloud and SaaS will make software lifecycle easier and replacement less painful. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

photo credit: toprankonlinemarketing via photopin cc


DIY Cloud PLM using Aras Innovator

November 14, 2014

diy-cloud-plm

I’m continue to explore the topic of cloud PLM options. My last blog post about it covered delivery options for cloud PLM. It raised few interesting discussions showing that vendors are closely following up any opportunity to leverage a combination of existing PLM platforms and cloud infrastructure. IaaS is a technical buzzword behind this option. It researched by many PLM vendors. I discussed one of them in my Azure Cloud Box blog post.

Today, I want to speak about another option. My attention caught Minerva blog post – Tutorial : How to start an Amazon EC2 cloud server all prepared to install Aras Innovator! It provides step by step instruction how to make your first step in cloud PLM strategy. As I mentioned many times, Amazon Web Services (AWS) is remaining one of the most widely used option to deliver IaaS strategy. If your cloud PLM vision is mostly focused on how to reduce a burden of IT and infrastructure, you may consider "Do It Yourself" cloud option by deploying your existing PLM system to Amazon based servers. The following passage below says it is sometimes tricky to install Aras, but if you will follow steps explained in this blog, in 1 hour you will have Aras running from AWS cloud.

The Aras Innovator install is still extremely simple. Of course I say that because I already tried to install other solutions and I went in some training for other solutions and it has always been a disaster to uninstall these. The first day, you spend it installing the solution, the day after you copy the virtual machine of another trainee as it failed… This doesn’t happen in an Aras training. But Aras Install can fail sometimes, it always rely on your windows server and IIS configuration. But as long as you follow the tutorial you should be just fine. In less than 1 hour you should have Aras Innovator Up&Running starting from scratch!

The idea of Aras on AWS made me think again about IaaS approach in cloud PLM. The biggest advantage – you can get rid of infrastructure and IT by moving to Amazon. Aras Innovator is an interesting option. If you opt out Aras subscription and limit yourself to Aras enterprise open source, the cost of solution will be equal to your Amazon bill. Of course, I’m not counting implementation cost and cost to handle Amazon servers. It can give you some idea about fundamentals of cloud PLM economic related to potential of infrastructure sharing and servers utilization.

What is my conclusion? In the past, I’ve been discussing "DIY PLM option" by combining Excel spreadsheets, email and multiplying it by some database development skills. That was DIY PLM circa 1995. These days, cloud PLM also has its DIY option – to reuse existing PLM software from IaaS based cloud servers. This is a very real option you can explore to learn about benefits and pitfalls of cloud PLM. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


How PLM can leverage Azure analytics?

November 13, 2014

azure-ml-microsoft-plm

Analytics is a hot word these days. You can hear it everywhere. It sounds and feels sweet and smart. You can think about crunching data and getting results. It sounds very Googley? Indeed, Google is spending lot of money making Google cloud platform more affordable. Google provides some interesting online services that can be used to crunch significant amount of data and draw insight. Learn more here – What is BigQuery?

Actually, Google is not alone in the goldrush for data and analytics. VentureBit article – Microsoft gives out free access to its Azure Machine Learning service. I think, it is a very good news for enterprise software developers. To have a competition between two giant companies will make service more affordable for long run. Another VentureBit article can give you more information about what is behind Azure Cloud. Here is my favorite passage:

Azure ML, which previews next month, will bring together the capabilities of new analytics tools, powerful algorithms developed for Microsoft products like Xbox and Bing, and years of machine learning experience into one simple and easy-to-use cloud service. For customers, this means virtually none of the startup costs associated with authoring, developing and scaling machine learning solutions. Visual workflows and startup templates will make common machine learning tasks simple and easy. And the ability to publish APIs and Web services in minutes and collaborate with others will quickly turn analytic assets into enterprise-grade production cloud services

The link to access Azure machine learning is here. You can try it with your real projects.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SJtNJepz-pM

Azure ML made me return to one of my recent articles- What is potential of product lifecycle analytics? One of the scenarios I’ve been talking there was product forecasting as part of NPD (new product development) process. To launch new product is a big deal for manufacturing companies. It can lead to lot of expenses. What if you can make it by applying some analytics and get some insight on the future of new product, performance, sales, customer base, etc?

What is my conclusion? Cloud infrastructure companies are looking how to feed their platforms with data and scale to more customers. This is clearly the goal for Microsoft, Google and other companies in this domain. PLM companies are interested how to provide additional value to customers. Engineering and manufacturing companies are operating in a very dynamic businesses eco-system. For many of them, new product introduction is an essential critical part of business decisions. So, this is a note to established PLM companies. However, this is also an opportunity for engineering and manufacturing startups. Free services is a best way to check technology with real customers. It sounds like a common interest and technology to leverage. Customer will judge results. Just my thoughts…

Best,Oleg


PDM & PLM UI Makeup: new trend in user experience

November 12, 2014

old-UI

User experience is in focus these days. Slowly, but surely enterprise software companies are coming to the point of understanding how important is that. It is not about changing of colors and making buttons nicer. It is about how to get a major revamp in behavior of software or how often we call these days – user experience. I’ve been following this trend since my very early posts. I want to mention few of them you may consider to review again – PUI: Not PLM UI. Future User Experience and 5 NOs to make PLM usable. I want also to refer you to the article in UX MagazineOverhauling a UI Without Upsetting Current Users. My favorite passage is related to differences between aesthetic and functional improvements.

A redesigned UI that looks pretty but fails to deliver new value will not only disappoint new users but will also alienate existing, previously satisfied users, and the news of this failure will spread rapidly. Never make the mistake of thinking that a product’s aesthetic is the same as the product’s actual experience.

My attention was caught by SolidWorks blog speaking about redesigned web client for widely popular SolidWorks Enterprise PDM.

Web2 for SOLIDWORKS Enterprise PDM is a brand new web client for both desktop and mobile platforms. This new web client enables fast file searching and browsing, easy navigation, and access to all common functions like Where Used, Contains, Check-in and Check-out, and Change State. It is also easy to upload and download files for remote workers to interact with the vault and your design projects.

SolidWorks blog made think about actually a whole trend of UI redesigns for PDM / PLM products for the last year. I’ve made few Google searches and want to come with examples.

Autodesk Vault Thin (web) client’s new look was delivered as part of Autodesk Vault Professional 2014. Navigate here to get more info. The following description and video can give you an idea of that.

The new Autodesk Vault Thin Client 2014 has been completely redesigned to provide a superior experience when accessing a Vault through a web browser. The redesign includes Enhanced user interfaces, Customizable view functionalities, New BOM interface, and Enhanced report printing.

Earlier this year, Aras Corp came with new Aras Innovator 10 version delivering long awaited new web client. Navigate to the following link to get more information and read Aras press release. Here is a short snippet to summary UI changes.

The latest open release provides a new level of PLM platform scalability for enterprises with global supply chains, and introduces an HTML5 browser interface which redefines usability making PLM more accessible for business users. Aras Innovator 10 introduces an HTML5 browser interface with a clean, modern design. The release is technology focused with Firefox browser support, the item on our Roadmap that has received the most votes ever, and includes inputs from ECCO, GE, MAN and others.

Aras-10-UI

Another example came from recently announced update of Autodesk PLM360. Design & Motion blog post by Scott Moyse does a great job outlining UI changes:

When PLM 360 was launch in late February 2012, the web technology used within the user interface was circa 2008 & 2009. In web terms that’s quite old, although nothing like the 20-30 year old technology used by some of their competitors. As a result the Autodesk team believed they could do a lot better to redefine the User Experience. With these upcoming changes, the development team have leveraged the most modern HTML 5 & AngularJS web frameworks, to provide a rich speedy interface. The website now behaves much more like a desktop application with respect to response times from user interaction.

plm360-html5-UI

What is my conclusion? I guess nobody wants to work with application like you can see on the first picture above. PDM and PLM vendors are clearly recognized the trend towards improvements of user experience and user interface. It confirmed by multiple projects in that space and acknowledged by many customers. New generation of users is coming and the demand to deliver modern consumer level user experience in enterprise software tool is the reality of today. The danger here is to come with polished user interface without re-thinking actual product experience for end user. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

picture credit.


PLM Vendors and Tunnel Vision

November 11, 2014

plm-tunnel-vision

I’ve been following Dassault Systems 3DXforum this morning. Thanks for technology improvements these days you can be almost present at the events by combination of live streaming and social media communication. The first presentation by Bill Taylor, Fast Company editor struck me by mentioning of the idea of Tunnel Vision. I took a trip to Fast Company website. Navigate to the following link to read Six Ways to Prevent Corporate Tunnel Vision. In a nutshell, I can see tunnel vision as a sort of decease that keeps company in the eco-system of existing business boundaries. At the same time, business is getting so disruptive these days that focusing on a known boundaries, suppliers, partners and business models will crash you eventually. Here is my favorite passage:

Such upheaval is evident everywhere in the business world today. Did you know that big-box retailer Walmart now competes with Comcast, and Netflix for movie streaming on TVs? Or that a business-to-business network equipment giant Cisco now competes with Kodak and Sony for consumer camcorders? Most market incumbents stick with their current products, business models and industry for their entire existance, such that they don’t see opportunities to move—or the risk of new entrants. Such tunnel vision presents a tremendous opportunity for savvy executives looking outside their current base to grow revenue or maintain leadership.

It made me think about PLM vendors attempts to think out of the box by pushing boundaries and challenging current paradigms. If you had a chance to read my yesterday blog, you can see how Siemens PLM is pushing PLM-ERP boundary with the strategic objective to develop fully digital manufacturing and take over mBOM. The comparison of engineering and manufacturing performance with Google self-driving cars was pretty bold. At the same time, you see how Dassault System is innovating into multiple domains by pushing CAD file paradigms introducing “Zero file” strategy and, as I just learned this morning, very much focusing on experience. PTC is looking how to expand their horizons with IoT strategy and services. The last, but not least – Autodesk is focusing on cloud as a strategic differentiation in PLM.

PLM vendors are clearly coming to push existing PLM boundaries. I’ve been trying to map PLM vendors’ strategy to six ways to prevent tunnel vision – business models, encroachment, simplification, total customer, next wave, distribution. I think there are bits of these ways in everything PLM vendors are doing. However, I want to come back to the one of the slides I captured – Apple Lazarus Strategy.

apple-lazarus-strategy

Apple repeatedly outsmarted competitors by introducing revolutionary products in the domains of other companies by providing new experience, combining services and new design. PLM companies all have their strengths these days. However, in many situations, PLM implementations are all look very similar if go down to nuts and bolts of business.

What is my conclusion? PLM companies are innovating to change traditional boundaries of what we know about PLM. My hunch, we are still in a very beginning of PLM disruption. I want to bring Marc Andreessen’s talk about competition and market -“The common theory is that you want to be first to market, but actually you want to be last to market and close the door [on that industry] so no one can come after you“. So, from that standpoint, it is interesting to see who will become last to PLM market. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

picture credit


PLM vendors’ fight over BOM will require to solve data synchronization problems

November 10, 2014

data-links

Engineering.com article by Verdi Ogewell earlier today is introducing a next step of PLM vs. ERP battle for ownership of manufacturing BOM. Navigate to the following link to read a very provoking interview with Siemens PLM CEO Chuck Grinstaff who says – “PLM should take over ownership of the manufacturing BOM too“.

I’ve been writing about the complexity of manufacturing BOM before. You can refresh your memories with the following two articles I wrote earlier this year: Manufacturing future will dependent on solving old PLM-ERP integration problems and Manufacturing BOM is the next cool thing in PLM.

BOM topic is fascinating and incredibly important for PLM companies. It boils down to the ability of PLM to control the complexity of variety of product definitions. The complexity of modern manufacturing environment is skyrocketing. Think about a combination of multiple disciplines involved into the process of design, engineering, manufacturing and support. Mechanical, electronic and software components are tightly integrated to produce modern airplanes, cars and other highly sophisticated products. However, to solve design complexity is just a beginning of the road. The next huge problem is to solve manufacturing problems. It all comes to manufacturing planning, procurement and shopfloor control. After, eventually, you end up with the result, which is represented by “as built” product data, support and maintenance systems.

To demonstrate complexity of BOM transformation I created a diagram below. What you can see below is different views of product data. It usually represented as a different views of Bill of Materials.

plm-bom-data-synchronization

The following quote from Engineering.com article is one of my favorite to describe the importance of product data modeling. According to Chuck Grinstaff of Siemens PLM:

How important is the BOM issue among businesses? ”Incredibly important”, claims Chuck Grindstaff, and it’s not just a matter of semantics, ”The real issue around the Bill of Materials, whether for engineering, for manufacturing, for test or for procurement, is that each of these views of the product are important to the consumer of the BOM. Every view of the ‘bill’ needs to reconcile to other views and must remain accurate within the context of the total product during each stage of development. We believe that each of these viewpoints needs to be configurable from a common definition; from a single source of truth into the context for each of the engineers. For that reason it’s important to get it right. You can call it ”a battle”, yes, but the point still is that a PLM system is the best environment to manage this complexity.”

PLM vendors arguing towards full control of all aspects of BOM by PLM platforms and tools. The main battle is with ERP systems. Historically and traditionally, ERP companies are controlling part of product data starting from manufacturing planning and going future towards procurement and as built representations. It created well-known status of engineering vs. manufacturing balance. However, future demands of deep manufacturing integration brings PLM vendors to think that to take over MBOM (or more specific, manufacturing planning BOM) will deliver better solution for product complexity management.

The desired status for PLM vendors is to push ERP down towards procurement only and manage manufacturing BOM as part of PLM database. Here is another passage from Engineering.com article quoting Peter Billelo of CIMdata explaining why it can be reasonable from PLM vendors’ standpoint:

”ERP solutions generally do not actually optimize or have development tools for defining what the manufacturing BOM is. They just focus on executing a defined Bill of Material. So if I look at what Siemens is doing they are based on developing what that mBOM should be and optimizing that BOM. Quite frankly I don’t see any of the ERP vendors spending much time, if any time, at all at actually doing that. That said it makes sense for Chuck to claim the ownership since they have the tools to make changes, analyze and optimize the BOM.”

Engineering.com article made me think again about complexity of data management and integration in product development. It is certainly complex thing to manage multiple aspects of product data – design, engineering and manufacturing. To ensure data accuracy, both PLM and ERP systems must be well synchronized, which requires multiple very complex data transformation. The “sync” is king of the road on the PLM-ERP highway connecting engineering and manufacturing organizations.

Current enterprise data management paradigm is based on the RDBMS architecture that fundamentally provides a storage for all aspects of product data. TeamCenter is probably one of the best systems to support the complexity of product data representation. By moving manufacturing planning BOM to TeamCenter (or other PLM system), PLM vendors can decrease complexity of data synchronization between two complex views – engineering and manufacturing planning. ERP system role in this situation will be limited to procurement function and management of master production schedule.

However, Siemens PLM is not alone in their desire to take control of complete product structure management and all aspects of BOM. My earlier article – PLM and Zero BOM errors speaks about how Dassault Systems ENOVIA strategy to simplify the complexity of BOM synchronizations between design and engineering environment. This is a bit different aspect, but still represents the desire of PLM companies to solve BOM synchronization problem.

What is my conclusion? The problem of data synchronization between different BOM representations is a real one. The level of complexity is huge. PLM companies are trying to leverage their sophisticated data platform to control the overall product data complexity. The fight is two fold – technical and political. The heart of every CIO is usually with ERP system. PLM companies need to think how to deliver technologies to solve the level of integration complexity. In my view, this is a key to win MBOM battle. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

photo credit: elcovs via photopin cc


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