PLM: Ugly vs. Cool

April 9, 2012

Do you think PLM software must be cool? More than two years ago, I posted FREE and COOL trends in CAD/PLM. I’m observing an increased amount of discussions about "PLM coolness" in the past few weeks. The release of PLM 360 by Autodesk just amplified the interest to the "cool" side of PLM. In my view, this discussion is related to the following two modern treneds: consumerization and user experience. I will try to speak about that.

Consumerization and BYOD

I’ve been talking about PLM and IT consumerization back in February during PLM innovation in Munich. Navigate here to refresh your memory. The following slide represents the typical "consumer behavior" – simple, easy, fast and DIY.

It is clearly come opposite to all traditions of "enterprise software" that requires planning, installation, training, etc.

User Experience and "Don’t Make Me Think"

This is another topic to discuss. Years (if not decades) people are talking about usability of enterprise software. I remember the pathetic phrase – "you are here to work, not to play", that was said in the context of enterprise software usability. The typical enterprise application doesn’t change much for the last 15 years.

At the same time, I can see that vendors started to pay attention. Navigate here to read one of my previous blogs comparing what PLM vendors are doing to improve user experience. Latest Siemens PLM release of Active Workspace is clear confirmation of the importance of "don’t make me think" concept.

Why you might decide to keep your PLM ugly?

So, why you can consider "ugly PLM" as a good thing? It is easy. Companies are looking how to solve their business problems. IT and business people are working with software vendors providing "value proposition" behind future investment into the software packages. All these processes are complicated, and interplay with the strategies related to the selection of "trusted IT providers", long-term strategies of IT platforms, existing software platforms and replacement cost and many other things.

You can imagine the following speech – "PLM should be ugly and complicated. This is a business system (or even strategic approach) that prevents CEO to go to jail because of manufacturing failures. PLM systems business benefit is to validate manufacturing planning to be smooth and optimal, to satisfy regulatory and compliance needs and follow regulation rules". All what I said before, multiply with the cost optimization. If PLM software does all this stuff, but still NOT COOL, would you care? Now, guess what is the answer?

Why PLM turns to be cool sooner than later?

There are three main aspects why I think PLM software will become COOL – cost of complexity, consumer software trends and people. Let me talk a bit about each of these.

Many IT organizations hide the cost of complexity. It implied in installation, training and many other aspects. What is the main reason why people decided towards Excel and not enterprise software? Easy answer – it is simpler. People don’t like complicated software, and this distrust will just increase. These days enterprise IT will be on fire to compete with services coming from the consumer world. Who will be using complicated FTP services provided by IT at the time dropbox can do the job painlessly? Finally people like what they like in their everyday life. This is actually started to happen. Look on BYOD trend. People will stop tolerating complicated software. The one that makes them think…

What is my conclusion? As the late British advertising guru David Ogilvy said: "The trouble with market research is that people don’t think how they feel, they don’t say what they think and they don’t do what they say." Another fact I recently discovered that despite lots of "business justifications", "ROI calculators", etc. the decision engineering IT is taking with regards to PLM systems is very subconscious. I think, the same subconscious decision will be moving towards COOL stuff sooner than later. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Graphic logo credit to TrustoCorp. It is pretty cool artist. Check out twitter, and see more of the work on Flicker site.


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