It takes XX months to implement PLM. Can we fix it?

October 1, 2015


I was attending Aras Innovator Software-as-a-Service – a new PLM cloud offering of T-Systems webinar yesterday. If you are in Europe, Aras / T-Systems can be an alternative to installing PLM servers in your organization. I captured the following data point – it takes ~1 day to get Aras cloud instance up and running when you’re implementing PLM. I believed the number is a bit on a high side (compared to many other SaaS services in our consumer and business life). However, I’ve got the following comment from my long time blogging buddy – Jos Voskui @josvoskuil: and it takes xx months to adapt the business processes and motivate the people ?


That comment reminded me the article I posted one year ago – What cloud PLM cannot do for you?. Actually, Jos is spot on – implementation is the hardest part of the overall process to introduce PLM to the any organization. It made me think again about PLM implementation and organizational challenges.

PLM today is strongly associated with change. The value proposition of PLM was built on company transformation and improvement. Change is really hard for companies and it is not always possible. Company legacy data, established processes, existing technologies, politics – this is a reality of every PLM implementation.

Is there a better way to implement PLM? Very often, it comes to the point of discussion about company business processes as a competitive advantages to win a market.

One of the reasons companies stay in business in the competitive environment is because they built processes, that provide them with competitive advantage or differentiation. Usually companies have business processes that can be optimized or made more efficient by available technologies, but that is different from complete process re-engineering. At the same time, technologies can offer some approaches that would change company business processes business processes in a fundamental way.

Is it possible to capture business processes used by organization instead of introducing an organization change? For a long period of time, it was considered by many companies as the most complicated task. Usually it wasn’t about technology and products, but was mostly about sales strategy and technological partnership between industrial companies and PLM vendors. But such approach cannot scale – hence we are here with a complexity of PLM adoption by many organization.

Flexibility is one of the most demanded technological advantages that can help to adapt PLM products during to implementation and capture existing business processes. Usually, it is presented by PLM vendors as a differentiation. In the example below you can see how Aras does it – Aras adapts to your business, not other way around.


While I agree completely with Aras’ message, I’d love to see more examples how Aras Innovator can be adapted to existing business processes.

What is my conclusion? The change is hard for every organization. Current PLM implementation approach makes implementation as hard as every change. That’s why implementation can take XX months and fail. Is there a better way? For the last few months I’ve heard about several approaches to make implementation easier. The traditional approach is to provide PLM system with predefined characteristics tailored for specific industry and segment – so called OOTB (out of the box). Cloud PLM / SaaS approach is a combination of cloud advantages with better administration and configuration user experience (I’ve heard about it from Autodesk PLM360 team). Super flexible PLM platforms adapting to company business processes can be another way (Aras message above). Is there another way? Who knows… What is clear to me is that PLM implementation is one of the major inhibitors for a broader PLM adoption. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Image courtesy of iosphere at


Will PLM vendors rethink toolkit approach?

August 26, 2015


Business models and technologies can come together and create significant and painful problems. The last few years, created lot of changes and new dynamics in engineering and manufacturing domain. 3D printing, cloud software, mobile – this is only a short list of examples. Product lifecycle management software is facing few interesting challenges and opportunities related to new demands of customers for faster ROI and lean implementations. Navigate to read more about it here – New manufacturing business models will influence PLM software.

Despite all changes, PLM still has some sort of “uncomfortable” price for many customers. It leads to future innovation in this space. One of the examples in this space is related to a new business formula from Aras that includes software upgrades into Aras Innovator subscription. More about it here – Aras and search for new business models. Aras subscription model is leveraging Aras enterprise open source model.

Open source is probably doesn’t sound as loud these days as it was few years ago. At the same time, open source innovation is fueling many new solutions and business models. My attention was caught by Techcrunch article – Custom Analytics Company Keen IO Goes Open Source With Its Data Explorer. Here is my favorite passage from the article:

But the Data Explorer, which launched earlier this year, isn’t just for programmers. Instead, businesses can use it to explore and visualize their data through a friendlier interface. In Wild’s words, it lets you “point-and-click your way to analyze data.” By open-sourcing the tool, Wild said Keen IO is allowing customers to embed the interface into their own internal websites and apps, customize the interface and potentially improve it and contribute back. Wild noted that Keen IO already open-sourced its dashboard templates and he said the company plans to make more available in the future.

I found it interesting because it emphases the importance of solving core fundamental data management and collaboration problems using open source approach. In a broad sense, PLM software is the same “data management toolkit” wrapped with layers of applications, configurations and customers. Here is the thing – none of PLM vendors didn’t think about converting core platform into open source and allowing to customers to develop their applications. Aras is probably half-way exclusion.

At the same time, 10-15 years ago, PDM / PLM platforms were actually advanced data management toolkits used by large implementation services team to develop highly customizable PLM applications for aerospace and automotive industry.

What if one of the existing core PLM platforms will turn into open source toolkit? It will allow to community of developers to build solutions on top of it and sell it to customers. Actually core developers of PLM platforms will turn their focus into providing of tools and technologies to support a consistent application experience. Salesforce can be a good example of providing UX experience that can be reused by developers. Take a look at Lightning Design System allowing to 3rd party developers to design applications with the same look and feel.

What is my conclusion? The next innovation turn might require rethinking multiple aspects of PLM software – business and technical. In the past, toolkit approach proved to be successful to sell complex PDM / PLM solutions to large companies. Today, a combination of open source and toolkit approach can fuel next step of innovation in product lifecycle management. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Image courtesy of dan at


Visual Design Collaboration: Bundle vs Unbundle?

August 20, 2015


Collaboration in is an interesting topic. Whether you are a 3-person team or a 10,000 person OEM manufacturing company, some of the same rules for successful collaboration apply. The more you share what you know the more value it creates. To understand specific personal or use case context is absolutely critical to successful collaboration regardless on what technology you may use.

The rules of collaboration are changing these days. New collaborative technologies coming from web, mobile and social network experience are coming to disrupt what traditionally considered as a good collaboration practice. In the past, we used an old “mom test” for collaboration software – collaborative application should be easy enough for my Mom to use it (she is smart and well educated, but she didn’t grew up with computers). That was probably a good idea back in 1995 when desktop computers and Windows disrupted office environment.

Fast forward into 2015, many rules established by desktop computers where broken by web and mobile products. The disruption in a workspace is coming from younger generation. The Content Strategist Blog brings an interesting comparison of how differently Milleninals, GenX and Boomers are consume content. They same rules apply to collaboration. If the old “Mom test” spoke about simplicity that Mom can get, the new rules my trigger a question about what collaboration style new generation of people can get. Maybe it is a question how to bring SnapChat type of collaboration into design process?

All together made me think about what is the optimal strategy for design collaboration that will better address the needs users in engineering and manufacturing scaling from needs of individual makers to large OEM manufacturing shops.

Traditional design collaboration approach is going around 3D design. Most of the tools developed by CAD and PLM vendors for the last 10-15 basically created a way for users to access 3D product representation with additional set of functions like redline, comments, etc. The core complexity of these tools related to seamless access of diverse set of information – 3D, 2D, specification documents and contextual information coming from data management tools. These bundling made it complex to develop and use.

Unbundling is an interesting business strategy used in many application domains these days. Read my earlier blog about that – The future unbundling strategies in CAD / PLM. The potential of unbundled services can be significant. Existing bundles are complex and inefficient. People don’t use all functionality and look for something simple and easy to grasp. However, unbundle can be hard. Read my Why unbundle 3D is hard for PLM vendors? As much as people are valuing simplicity and ease of use today, vertical integration remains a very important thing for many companies.

Last year I started a discussion about PLM tools, bundles and platform. Since then, few new interesting products and came to the market that pursue the value of design collaboration – I should mention two cloud CAD products Onshape and Autodesk Fusion 360. Also, I have to mention engineering communication and collaboration tools provided by GrabCAD. However, I want to bring to examples today to show two distinct approaches in development of design collaboration products – bundle vs. unbundle.

The first one is Visual Collaboration product Aras Corp. introduced in the last version of Aras Innovator. Navigate to the following link to read more. In the following video you can get a full demo of visual collaboration fully integrated with PLM product. The approach taken by Aras to bring visual collaboration to all users is absolutely valuable. Everyone in an organization can collaborate in the 2D/3D and any other design context.

My second example came from new startup company founded by ex-Facebook product designers – Read more about story on TechCrunch – Designers Ditch Perfectionism For Instant Feedback With Wake. The idea to solve a problem of collaboration in a community of product designers made them think about product that capture and share a very simple design collaboration process. The following video can give you an idea of that about:

What is my conclusion? Both bundling and unbundling approaches have pros and cons. Vertical integration is important, but simplicity and capturing a specific design workflow without overwhelming users with additional information can be valuable too. In my view, unbundling is trending. This is the way to create new products solving painful problems. The same collaboration problems engineers and other people are experiencing when designing products can be applied to other places as well. An example of is a hint to CAD and PLM companies to think where future disruption can come from. The same way Slack disrupted existing collaborative approaches practiced by companies today, new products like can disrupt future of 3D and engineering collaboration. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Image credit GrabCAD



What is different in Aras PLM?

August 7, 2015


Aras Corp is making waves in PLM eco-system. The latest news about addition of Aibus to Aras customer list raised eyebrows and questions among PLM industry pundits. Desktop Engineering magazine created few publications to cover that news. One of them – Aras Innovator Touches Down in Airbus’ PLM Backbone can give you an good summary of why Airbus made such decision.

Airbus got serious about the PLM platform for a number of reasons, among them: its open architecture, its agility for building solutions due to its interactive GUI, and the key criteria — better visibility into total cost of ownership compared to traditional PLM. Airbus has over 2,000 applications in its PLM portfolio and a variety of different platforms to support, which makes for a very complex environment, heavy on customizations.

As part of its unique subscription model, Aras covers all of the work and cost involved in migrating customizations to a new release—a feature that has a huge impact on TCO for PLM, Weimer says. “Upgrading all our customizations can be a very significant cost for us, but because Aras includes it in the subscription, all customizations are carried forward to the next release … and Aras carries the risk and cost of the upgrade,” he says.

What makes that promise possible is the underlying technology in the Aras Innovator platform, notes Marc Lind, Aras senior vice president of marketing. “With our platform, you are modeling as opposed to writing compiled custom code,” he explains. “What that means is that the platform underneath can be upgraded while maintaining the integrity of the models — not just out of the box features, but customizations as well.”

A larger paper by Desktop Engineering – Aras is Making the Case for Resilient PLM. You can download it from Aras website. The paper brings the point of resilient system – the marketing term PLM industry never used before.

DE paper made me think again about the topic of PLM system differentiators. I think, PLM companies are chasing differentiations. Nobody wants to sell “plain bagels” only. In my view, PLM industry has some challenges here. Dig inside of every PLM implementation. You can find it surprisingly similar and it comes down to CAD data management, BOM, portfolio management, product configuration, supply chain and quality. PLM vendors saying that their platforms are different. Different technologies were created in a different time. New user interface is nicer than one that was created 15 years ago. New administration tools are simpler. Cloud was a differentiation factor for some PLM vendors over the past few years, but these days cloud is everywhere. PLM companies are innovating in open source, business models and marketing.

But the devil is clearly in the details. Aras paper made me think about the attempt of trying to compare some of PLM technologies and business model elements. I captured the following picture in DE article. The same picture used as architecture diagram on Aras website. The following link leads to so called “model-driven SOA” approach by Aras.


I can get some color difference between pictures, but I found picture above too simple to exaplain how Aras is really different from other systems. After all, Web server SOA is code, which runs on the server. And what if solution models are presenting some logic? I made an attempt to create more granular comparison below by covering PLM system from technical and business perspective:


You can see several points where Aras is supporting one of possible options available in traditional on premise and cloud PLM systems (marked by orange):

1. Cloud and Hosting: Aras is available from IaaS infrastructure. From earlier announcements, Aras is supporting Microsoft Azure. 2. Operation System: As far as I know, Aras is supporting only Windows platform on a server, which is not unusual. 3. Database: Aras is supporting Microsoft SQL server, which one possible RDBMS supported by traditional PLM systems. 4. Client Applications: Aras is available in browser. IE and FireFox are supported according to last information on Aras website. 5. Releases. Aras is available via major releases and Service Packs.

However, there are 3 points where Aras is different from traditional PLM systems (marked by green). One of them is technical and two additional are business related.

1. Data and object model. Aras is marketing its object model as model-driven SOA. The high level description of this model can be found on Aras website. Although the definition is overloaded with technical jargon, it gives you an impression of something more powerful and open that must insure Aras sustainability for changes in a long run. Hence, this is a point of Aras resilient characteristics.

2. Aras License is free, which is unique in PLM industry. You can compare SaaS subscription to Aras, but there is no way how to get PLM software with zero cost from any other PLM vendors.

3. Upgrades. Typically for PLM on premise software, upgrades are handled by service providers or vendor. Aras is including upgrade support in the cost of subscription. It is somewhat compatible to SaaS- vendor will have to take care of server upgrades, but unique for on premise PLM offerings.

What is my conclusion? Aras stands out by 3 differentiation factors – free licensing, upgrade included in subscription services and technology to define everything in the system using XML-driven language. There is a connection between technical and business factors. According to Aras, model driven SOA gives a unique ability to support lifecycle of Aras implementations and future upgrades. This is a point mentioned by Airbus where Aras is assuming risk to upgrade the system in the future. It is a unique bundle that cannot be found in other systems. The jury is out to check sustainability of Aras model and their ability to support large scale Airbus-like implementations and upgrades. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Disclaimer: The information in this blog post is my personal opinion. Aras didn’t sponsor this blog post and didn’t influence its content. All information captured from public websites.


What Aras “great fanfare” means for PLM industry

July 3, 2015


Aras is probably doing something right. At least this is an immediate thought that comes to my mind when I see a line of press releases with announcements about significant deals or agreements. The last one about Aras and Airbus partnership just came few days ago – Airbus and Aras sign Strategic Partner Agreement to use Aras Innovator for enterprise-wide Engineering Business Processes beyond 30,000 Users. The announcement outlines list 5 topics that potentially differentiated Aras from other PLM platforms. Here is the passage from press release:

Several PLM Platforms were evaluated by Airbus for the ability to enable simple, agile solution delivery, and Aras was retained as the preferred platform based on: 1/ Significant coverage of expected scope; 2/ Open architecture with high-end data modeling “on the fly”, no development involved; 3/ Upgrade services for customizations included as part of subscription; 4/ Easy integration & handling; 5/ Long term viability and total cost of ownership

Four years ago, I attended Aras event – ACE 2011 in Detroit. You might remember my article – Aras PLM lines up against Windchill, Enovia and Teamcenter. I can see a connection between topics from Aras-Airbus announcement and my 2011 blog post – platform flexibility, customization, integration and low TCO.

Aras announcement made me think about what happens with Aras for the last 4 years. Here is the list of my thoughts.

1- Aras is probably coming to the right combination of functional maturity and cost that allows to be disruptive for larger deals against top 3 leading PLM vendors (Dassault Systems, Siemens PLM and PTC).

2- Aras architecture can scale to the level demanded by enterprise IT of large organizations thinking about 10’000s users. Aras sent a strong message last year (backed up by Microsoft) about 1 million PLM user scalability test on Microsoft SQL server, which potentially created a confidence for IT organizations.

3- Aras removed one of the most complicated questions related to upgrades and continues support of new revisions. Aras is committed to support “free upgrade services” for subscription customers. It allows to IT managers not to be very concerned by a potential “version lock” when organization is forced to pay a significant amount of money for services to migrate to the latest PLM software version.

So, how does it impact PLM industry? For the last 10-15 years, nobody created a significant competition to the top 3 largest PLM software outfits – Enovia, Teamcenter, Windhcill. But, here is the thing – traditional PLM software reached their limits and many organizations need to consider what to do next. The ROI is slow and upgrade to next versions of PLM platforms is questionable.

What is my conclusion? It looks likes Aras has a potential to change a status quo among top tier of PLM providers. You can think about Aras as a “pain relief” for companies thinking how to grow their PLM development and concerned about a ROI speed. Here is my formula of what happened: ARAS SUCCESS = MATURE PLM FUNCTIONS + STABLE ARCHITECTURE – HIGH LICENSE COST + ALL INCLUSIVE UPGRADE SERVICES. So, what about risks of switching to Aras? The potential risks for Aras can come from growing development and support effort that will force Aras to raise subscription cost. I see it as a challenge for Aras team. But, by that time, Aras can potentially disrupt large enough number of manufacturing OEMs to become 4th major PLM provider. It looks like next few years we will see a growing competition between existing PLM vendor and Aras, which is on mission to disrupt PLM industry status quo. Just my thoughts.

Best, Oleg

PLM, Upgrades and Competition

June 1, 2015


Traditional PLM wisdom says to buy PLM system is a complex process. Once you decided for a specific platform or technology, it will be very hard to change or replace with something else. I’ve been skimming social network news this morning The following tweet from @jonathanpscott caught my attention – “More details on the #ENOVIA #SmarTeam User Group meeting in OH next week #PLM“. I’ve been involved into SmarTeam development many years ago and I’m aware Dassault System is still supporting the system. However, the following message from the agenda – “ENOVIA SmarTeam – a safe place to be”, increased my curiosity up even more. Future in the agenda you can see topics related to SmarTeam migration and co-existence.

It made me think about lifecycle of PLM systems and implementation more. What is the average cycle time for PLM implementation? How often companies are replacing PLM systems and what does it mean for a company in terms of effort, planning, operation and support?

Earlier this month I came across Aras Corp. materials about “resilient PLM”. If you haven’t heard about this new PLM buzz, navigate to the following link to read more. The term was coined by Aras to explain how Aras Innovator’s technology can withstand multiple upgrades and changes. Peter Schroer, Aras CEO is explaining about resilient PLM in the following video. Pay attention to the following part of the video explaining how Aras customers successfully moved between different versions of Aras on different databases – Postgress, Oracle, Microsoft SQL for the last 15 years.

Cloud technologies is another way to solve the problem of upgrades. Jim Brown of Tech-Clarity and Brian Roepke of Autodesk are discussing the advantages of cloud PLM. Watch the following video from 6:05 when Brian speaks about upgrades and revision lock. The upgrade sometimes even more expensive than initial implementation. According to Brian Roepke, cloud PLM technologies are solving the problem of upgrades and migrations in traditional PLM implementations.

Migration of PLM solutions can be significant driver in fundamental strategic decisions manufacturing companies are taking. Earlier last week Siemens PLM announced about the successful completion of PLM2015 project and move from CATIA to NX. Daimler’s decision was heavily influenced by the preference not to move between two PLM systems (Teamcenter and ENOVIA). Read about it in Schnitgercorp blog Reaching that one customer in a PLMish landscape. Here is the passage, which explains the reason:

Daimler‘s decision to move from CATIA to NX, huge as it was, was ultimately made by a team that weighed the benefits and risks in a more limited context than the overall Siemens portfolio. As I understand it, in the end it was simple: Daimler had based many business processes on its Teamcenter implementation; CATIA V6 requires ENOVIA, so Daimler would have had to build links between ENOVIA and Teamcenter to move forward with Dassault Systemes. That was more complicated, to Daimler, than migrating 235,000 “CAD objects” and retraining 6,000 people.

What is my conclusion? PLM upgrade or migration is sensitive and complicated process. It requires a lot of resources and can be very costly. In the current state of manufacturing and PLM technology customers are looking how to insure many years of operation once they implemented the system. However, business is changing and the need to be flexible is striking back as a conflicting requirement. Combined together it brings a very interesting flavor into PLM competition. The ability to implement PLM system and upgrade an existing (often outdated) PLM implementation becomes a key feature in the future competitiveness of PLM system. It is equally important for cloud and non-cloud implementations. I think the PLM vendor and technology capable to do so can gain a lot of traction in the future. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Image courtesy of iosphere at


How much does it cost to manage CAD data?

May 14, 2015


CAD files. Everyone who is dealing with design and engineering is familiar with this type of data. Large files, many dependencies, hard to store, share, change. That was the place where originally Product Data Management – PDM was born (if you long enough in this industry you might remember EDM or TDM acronyms too). Until very recently, PDM tools were hard to install, configure and use. Engineers didn’t like them and tried to avoid it as much as possible.

There are some good news on the horizon. CAD and PLM vendors are recognizing the need to release engineers from PDM pain and focusing on how to improve it from both user experience and license cost. If you recall one of my earlier blogs this year, I was talking about some interesting changes in PDM licensing from GrabCAD and SolidWorks – The future of free PDM.

Recent announcement from Autodesk about changes in Fusion360 packaging is not directly related to PDM. In a nutshell, it was about moving bunch of premium Fusion360 features into standard package with subscription price $25/month. At the same time, Fusion360 is providing PDM functionality and it is part of the subscription license which cost you 25$/month. Navigate here to learn more.

Another my post “Onshape quietly developed Google Drive for CAD” will give you a perspective from another cloud CAD disruptor – Onshape. A set of CAD data management (PDM) functionality is part of Onshape product. The subscription has free option as well as $100/month option. Navigate here to learn more.

It made me think about how much are we going to pay to manage and share CAD files in a near future?

The more “traditional” CAD / PDM approach is bundling CAD data management and integration functions into PDM/ PLM products. It forms a group of relatively expensive CAD data management tools. Navigate the following links to see examples – Aras CAD data management, Autodesk Vault, ENOVIA CAD data management, SolidWorks Enterprise PDM, SolidEdge SP, Siemens TeamCenter PDM, Windchill PDM Link. The license cost and TCO is not always obvious and transparent (not very different from many examples of on premise enterprise software). At the same time, the functionality of these packages are often goes much beyond just managing revisions and sharing CAD files.

Another group of vendors and products are formed by new “cloud products” that can give you an option to manage and share CAD data. All of them are subscription based. For some of them, PDM is an integral part of a bigger product. There are products with free subscription option under some conditions. Here is the list of vendors – Autodesk Fusion360, Autodesk A360, GrabCAD Workbench, Onshape, Kenesto Drive, Team Platform. I’m sure missed some of new cloud outfits, so please let me know about new cool names to be added.

What is my conclusion? I can see a strong trend for making CAD data management ubiquitous and near free is a reality we might face very soon. Cloud CAD vendors will lead this trend because PDM is an fundamental part of cloud CAD delivery mechanism. It will take trajectory of cost for CAD data management and collaboration to zero. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


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