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


The definition of cloud PLM

November 7, 2014

cloud-plm-def

PLM industry is moving towards broader adoption of cloud solutions. More people these days are asking how to implement cloud. It becomes more and more clear that devil is in details and cloud environment can be very different. It comes in variety of aspects related to infrastructure, support of browsers, the need to have elements of software installed on your desktop and mobile devices. It depends on many options. I’ve been touching some of them in my earlier blog – PLM cloud options and 2014 SaaS survey.

As part of overall eduction about cloud technology, it is not unusual to get a question about what is definition of cloud solution in general and more specifically – cloud PLM. I’ve been reading CIMdata commentary – Next Generation Cloud-Based PLM Solutions. I found the following passage as a good summary of cloud PLM definition:

1- On-demand solutions with new cost models that have lower upfront costs for software licenses, subscriptions, or rights-to-use, allowing smaller companies to afford PLM

2- Hosted computing services and environments that do not require investments in infrastructure, providing access to information for anyone at any time while minimizing administrative overhead

3- The ability to add and increase scope of capability and the performance of the solution and processes without requiring additional investment in the underlying IT infrastructure

4- Global access to required application functions, information, and processes

CIMdata’s cloud PLM definition combines some technical aspects blended with business and licensing characteristics of PLM solutions. In my view it is clear indication that cloud PLM story is not pure technology. Customer demands are to find solution that solves multidisciplinary problem of system – technological, business, licensing. It is also shows the fact customers are dissatisfied with today’s business practice of PLM software licensing.

What is my conclusion? The technology and business are going together. Cloud PLM is about to solve customer problems in different aspects – improved business models, low cost and better experience. However, in my view, an interesting part of cloud PLM innovation can be related to the part of PLM system implementation. For many years, implementation was one of the most complicated element of PLM. It takes time to adjust system, capture business processes and set up tools to run and optimize product development. The first PLM vendor who will crack how to leapfrog PLM implementation using cloud business model and technology can gain a significant competitive advantage. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

photo credit: JD Hancock via photopin cc


Cloud PDM hack with Google Drive and other tools

November 6, 2014

google-drive-app-launch

Earlier this week I talked about future of ubiquitous CAD cloud drives. My hunch CAD and other engineering software companies will be trying to use new cloud technologies to improve the way people collaborate on design. The question what tool to use for CAD file collaboration is not simple. I discussed it last year – Top 3 pros and cons to have a special CAD file sharing tool.

Engineering software vendors are trying to bring values such as collaborative viewing, redlining and even project collaboration. At the same time, companies focused on generic file sharing and collaboration are in a full swing to improve their mainstream solutions as well.

Some interesting news came from Google yesterday. Read Google blog post – Launch desktop applications from Google Drive in Chrome. The story is quite simple – Google is chasing Dropbox in the way how to make Google Drive even more transparent to work with desktop tools.

But here’s the catch: when it comes to browsers and installed applications working well together, they aren’t quite on the same page. To change that, today we’re launching a new extension for Chrome that lets you open files from Google Drive directly into a compatible application installed on your computer. This includes apps like advanced image and video editing software, accounting and tax programs, or 3D animation and design tools. So, no matter what you keep in Drive, using the web to access and manage files doesn’t mean you’re limited to using applications that only work in your browser.

Unfortunately, CAD files are not in the list of supported file types. I guess, it may change in the future. A transparent sync of files between cloud and local file storage can open a new opportunity and hack the way to simplify future cloud PDM solutions. Still, majority of tools used by engineers today are desktop tools.

One of the biggest challenge I can see here is speed of synchronization and work with multiple dependent files. It can create an opportunity for cloud PDM vendors to innovate. Some of these problems can be solved by software technologies – cloud PDM and Dropbox Streaming Sync. CAD vendors are looking how to innovate in cloud PDM as well. Example – Autodesk adds PDM functionality to PLM360. Alternatively, I can see some potential in hardware solutions to create virtual cloud file system. Here is one possible example of such solution – Panzura Global File System.

What is my conclusion? Cloud to desktop transparency is a big deal. There is no magic. If you want to use desktop tool you need to sync files. However, technology that can make it transparent can simplify user experience and make users unaware about actual location of files and the way files are going to be synchronized. It will allow to use existing CAD tools but and manage and collaborate using cloud. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


Competitive edges of SharePoint and PLM collaboration

November 5, 2014

microsoft-sharepoint

SharePoint is an interesting product and technology. I’m following it already few years. I can see some kind of love and hate relationships between PLM vendors and Microsoft SharePoint business. You can catch up on some of my thoughts about SharePoint in my previous posts – SharePoint PLM Paradox; Why PLM should care of SharePoint?; PLM SharePoint thoughts. SharePoint technology was successfully used by some PLM products (eg. SolidEdge SP) and discontinued by others (eg. PTC ProductPoint). With these two extreme examples, I guess most of CAD/PDM/PLM vendors are keeping neutral position with regards to SharePoint. Most of them are supporting some sort of integrations typically done by partners and service providers.

One of the issues that makes many customers and vendors confused is a comparison and sometimes even competitive positions of SharePoint. With increased demand for enterprise collaboration and information sharing, many customers are concerned about how both technologies can interplay in the organization. I put some of my thoughts about that in my post last year – How to stop comparing PLM and SharePoint?

Real story group blog SharePoint is no longer a swiss army knife caught my attention and made me think about SharePoint and PLM again. Also, chart shows SharePoint usage by different type of application. It also made a highlighting of new, mature and light usages.

sharepoint-usage-survey

The following two categories – project oriented collaboration, document management and simple file sharing shows probably a dominant place of SharePoint mature usage. From my experience, these categories demonstrates why many companies are confused about PLM and SharePoint. For many of them, the initial phase of PLM – project collaboration and CAD file management can create a feeling of functional overlap.

The situation is getting even more interesting with new wave of cloud products developed by CAD/PLM companies and new startups. The focus of some of them is clearly to solve a problem of document management for engineers, file sharing and project collaboration. It is not obvious that these companies are going after the same market niche as Microsoft. At the same time, I can smell some levels of competitiveness there.

What is my conclusion? SharePoint is mature and successful technology. Microsoft has strong enterprise positions and with new Microsoft strategy for enterprise cloud can become even more dominant player. My hunch, PLM companies should make another round of thinking how to live together or compete with Microsoft SharePoint and connected social collaboration products. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Picture credit Microsoft SharePoint and RealStoryGroup


The path towards ubiquitous CAD cloud drive

November 4, 2014

cad-files-cloud-drive

I’ve been talking about future of cloud file system and CAD data trajectories the other day on my blog. It goes back and connected to multiple discussions about future of file system. What will be future of file systems and file paradigm. Can we announce the death of file system? So, file system is dead, long live cloud file system. The cloud eco-system is developing fast and I wonder how CAD companies will keep up with the speed of changes, environment, technologies and adoption. One of the things is related to cloud storage. Navigate to one of my earlier posts to read more – CAD companies and cloud storage strategy. One of the main points – storage is a temporarily market.

It looks like CAD companies are certainly following the trend. Autodesk just recently released a completely refreshed version of Autodesk A360 Team version of project based collaboration tool. Navigate here and you learn more about how to share documents and cloud storage. Here is a short passage, which summarize A360:

Our customers are in the business of creating things and they organize people and data around their business and their projects. A360 is a tool that brings together people, design and project data, ensuring everyone is informed and involved.

a360-1

a360-2

My attention was caught by another announcement few days ago – MySolidWorks Drive. According to SolidWorks blog MySolidWorks drive provides a way to collaborate on data located on public cloud – Google and Dropbox.

Connects cloud-based file storage services, such as Dropbox and Google Drive with MySolidWorks. MySolidWorks Drive enables SOLIDWORKS users to view their designs online with the eDrawings online viewer and easily share large designs files with manufacturers, colleagues and vendors from anywhere.

I captured few screenshots showing more details about MySolidWorks drive from Michael Lord’s blog.

solidworksdrive-1

solidworksdrive-2

Both examples made me think again about transition of design environment to the cloud. The biggest challenge here is to operate in the environment with mixed data. Existing design data is heavily persisted on engineers desktops and company shared network drives. At the same time, new products are providing customers with the opportunity to improve design collaboration using new modern cloud environment. The third factor is related to mainstream cloud providers. Cloud storage is a temporarily market and cost of storage is decreasing very fast.

Autodesk and SolidWorks examples are not unique. Recently, on my blog, I was talking about cloud file sync features developed by Kenesto. In addition to that, you might remember by discussion with Hardi Meybaum of GrabCAD about CAD file sharing collaboration tools.

What is my conclusion? We are coming to the point of potential collision between CAD vendors strategies and giant cloud vendors strategies. Customers are tempted to move their data to Dropbox, Google Drive, Microsoft One Drive, Box.com and other non-CAD specific cloud storage. At the same time, CAD and other engineering software vendors are developing cloud collaboration software with specific value proposition tailored to engineering and CAD specific data. How new CAD collaboration and data management products will navigate in such environment? This is a good question to ask. My hunch, cloud file collaboration will be in a focus of all CAD vendors in a near future. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


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