Will PLM Vendors Jump into Microsoft Cloud Window in Europe?

April 11, 2014

european-plm-cloud

Cloud is raising lots of controversy in Europe. While manufacturing companies in U.S. are generally more open towards new tech, European rivals are much more conservative. Many of my industry colleagues in Germany, France, Switzerland and other EU countries probably can confirm that. Europe is coming to cloud systems, but much slower. I’ve been posting about cloud implications and constraints in Europe. Catch up on my thoughts here – Will Europe adopt cloud PLM? and here PLM cloud and European data protection reforms. These are main cloud concerns raised by European customers – data, privacy and specific country regulation. With companies located in different places in EU, it can be a challenge.

Earlier today, I’ve heard some good news about cloud proliferation in Europe coming from Microsoft. TechCrunch article – Microsoft’s Enterprise Cloud Services Get A Privacy Thumbs Up From Europe’s Data Protection Authorities speaks about the fact Microsoft enterprise cloud service meets the standards of data privacy in several European countries. Here is a passage that can put some lights on details and what does it mean:

But today comes a piece of good news for Redmond: the data protection authorities (DPAs) of all 28 European member states have decided that Microsoft’s enterprise cloud services meet its standards for privacy. This makes Microsoft Azure, Office 365, Microsoft Dynamics CRM and Windows Intune the first services to get such approval. The privacy decision was made by the “Article 29 Data Protection Working Party,” which notes that this will mean that Microsoft will not have to seek approval of individual DPAs on enterprise cloud contracts. In its letter to Microsoft (embedded below), chair Isabelle Falque-Pierrotin writes, “The MS Agreement, as it will be modified by Microsoft, will be in line with Standard Contractual Clause 2010/87/EU… In practice, this will reduce the number of national authorizations required to allow the international transfer of data (depending on the national legislation).”

Majority of PDM / PLM providers are friendly with Microsoft tech stack. Some of them are completely relies on MS SQL server and other Microsoft technologies. Most of them are supporting SharePoint. Now, these PLM vendors have an additional incentive to stay with Microsoft technologies for the cloud. It can be also a good news for manufacturing companies already deployed PDM/PLM solutions on top of Microsoft technologies and developed custom solutions.

What is my conclusion? The technological landscape these days is very dynamic. The time, one platform worked for everybody is over. In light of technological disruption and future challenges tech giants will be using different strategies in order to stay relevant for customers. Will European cloud regulation keep PDM/PLM players with MS Azure and other Microsoft technologies compared to alternative cloud technological stacks? How fast will take to other players to reach the same level of compliance? These are good questions to ask vendors and service providers. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


Why so hard to break PLM into components?

April 9, 2014

plm-componentizing

Product Lifecycle Management is not a software. It is business strategy and approach. One of my blog readers mentioned that in the discussion few days ago. Nevertheless, manufacturing companies are usually talking about PLM systems and platforms as something solid and unbreakable. The same picture you can see when looking on PLM online marketing materials and brochures. Despite recent changes in broad PLM acceptance and value proposition, companies still see PLM as a software mostly for engineering domain or driven by engineering IT. One of the dreams many PLM vendors developed for the last decade is how to reach the C-level management such as CIO and engineering executives. In other words, how to reach ERP level of acceptance and awareness.

Earlier today, my attention was caught by Toolbox.com article about modern ERP trends. Navigate to read ERP Trends: Shifting from Big ERP Systems to Componentized ERP Environments. Cloud is changing the face of ERP. The technology is breaking ERP into pieces. One of the results – two tiers ERP configuration. Here is the explanation I captured from the article.

Because of the coinciding innovations in cloud technology, instead of deploying and implementing traditional ERP infrastructure, organizations started adopting a two-tier, or hybrid, ERP model. Two-tier ERP is a method of integrating multiple ERP systems simultaneously. For instance, an organization may run a legacy ERP system at the corporate level while running a separate ERP system or systems, such as cloud ERP, at a subsidiary or division level for back-office processes that have different requirements. To facilitate the adoption of the two-tier methodology, vendors increasingly opened core databases and application programming interfaces and provided customization tools, thus spurring the advent of self-contained, functional ERP components or modules.

So, what does it mean for existing and future PLM strategies and products. More specifically, it made me think about the possibility to break large and heavy PLM platforms into sets of re-usable components. ERP componentizing example speaks about splitting ERP system into modules such as – supply chain, financial, management, human resources. So what potential PLM split can look like? I can see two possible ways here – business process and lifecycle. The first one is something probably we can see a lot in existing PLM platforms. Requirement management, Design Collaboration, Change Management, NPI, etc. I’ve been thinking about Lifecycle as an alternative approach to the traditional business process oriented approach. Lifeycle approach means to develop applications to serve people with their everyday tasks based on maturity of product in the development or services. Think about manufacturing assembly line. Different tools and operations are applied to manufacturing product to bring it to life. Now think about PLM and software tools. PLM components will be used to create product (actually product data and related information).

Toolbox article also speaks about difficulties of componentized approach. The main one is a potential growth of TCO because of the need to integrated data coming from different modules. Here is the passage I specially liked:

The data from the second-tier cloud ERP or modules typically require normalization to integrate with the legacy ERP system at the corporate level. Although direct cost is associated with master data management to ensure consistency and no redundancy, by extending the life of the legacy system, the intention is to reduce the total cost of ownership (TCO) while meeting additional needs for flexibility and functionality. However, the shorter duration of implementing and deploying a two-tier ERP model can actually lead to increased TCO if the indirect costs, such as training, hiring staff, and vendor support, are not taken into to account, as well.

The same problem will arise if we try to break PLM into components. With no solid data foundation, ability to bring and integrate various PLM components will be questionable. The integration cost will skyrocket. Compatibility between PLM components versions will make it even harder. Nevertheless, I can see growing business requirements, customers’ demand and shorter lifecycle for software products as something that will drive future PLM technological changes. Componentizing will be one of them.

What is my conclusion? To break large and heavy PLM suites into configurable and flexible components is an interesting opportunity to satisfy today’s dynamic business reality. However, two fundamental technologies are required to make it happen – scalable open data platform and reliable integration technologies. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


How cloud PLM can reuse on-premise enterprise data?

April 7, 2014

plm-on-premise-data-sync

Cloud becomes more and more an obsolete additional word to call every technology we develop I hardly can image anything these days that we develop without "cloud in mind". This is absolutely true about PLM. Nowadays, it is all about how to make cloud technologies to work for you and not against you.

For cloud PLM, the question of secure data usage is one of the most critical topics. Especially, if you think about your existing large enterprise customers. These large companies started PLM adoption many years ago and developed large data assets and custom applications. For them, data is one of the most important elements that can enable use of cloud PLMs.

Networkworld article How Boeing is using the cloud caught my attention this morning. The writeup quotes Boeing chief cloud strategies David Nelson and speaks about very interesting approach Boeing is using to deploy and use on-premise data on public cloud. Here is the passage that outline the approach:

Nelson first described an application the company has developed that tracks all of the flight paths that planes take around the world. Boeing’s sales staff uses it to help sell aircraft showing how a newer, faster one could improve operations. The app incorporates both historical and real-time data, which means there are some heavy workloads. “There’s lots of detail and analysis,” he says. It takes a “boatload” of processing power to collect the data, analyze it, render it and put it into a presentable fashion.

The application started years ago by running on five laptop computers that were synced together. They got so hot running the application that measures needed to be taken to keep them cool, Nelson said. Then Nelson helped migrate the application to the cloud, but doing so took approval from internal security, legal and technology teams.

In order to protect proprietary Boeing data the company uses a process called “shred and scatter.” Using software supported by a New Zealand firm, GreenButton, Boeing takes the data it plans to put in the cloud and breaks it up into the equivalent of what Nelson called puzzle pieces. Those pieces are then encrypted and sent to Microsoft Azure’s cloud. There it is stored and processed in the cloud, but for anything actionable to be gleaned from the data, it has to be reassembled behind Boeing’s firewall.

It made me think about one of the most critical things that will define future development and success of cloud PLM technologies and products – data connectivity and on-premise/cloud data sync. Here is my take on this challenge. It is easy to deploy and start using cloud PLM these days. However, PLM system without customer data is not very helpful. Yes, you can manage processes and new projects. However, let’s state the truth – you need to get access to legacy data to fully operate your PLM software on enterprise level. Manufacturing companies are very sensitive about their data assets. So to develop kind of "shred and scatter" data sync approaches can be an interesting path to unlock cloud PLM for large enterprise customers.

What is my conclusion? I can see cloud data sync as one of the most important cloud PLM challenges these days. To retrieve data from on-premise location in a meaningful way and bring it to the cloud in a secure manner is a show stopper to start broad large enterprise adoption. By solving this problem, cloud PLM vendors will open the gate for large enterprises to leverage public cloud. It is a challenge for top enterprise PLM vendors today and clearly entrance barrier for startup companies and newcomers in PLM world. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


CAD is half pregnant by cloud

April 1, 2014

cad-cloud-pregnant

The usage of cloud is growing every day. Started as an option to simplify collaboration and data exchange, it is proliferating into spaces such as backup, computation and many others. CAD and design are remaining one of the most conservative zone of the cloud and engineering software. Commonly agreed opinion – desktop is the best place to run CAD system in terms of resources, performance and tasks designers want to accomplish.

With such CAD desktop paradigm, you might think CAD users are completely independent from cloud. Actually, it is not so true. My attention caught by Cadalyst article – Advocate for Internet Access for CAD Tools by Robert Green. According to him CAD is no longer an island and significantly depends on cloud services and public internet infrastructure. Here is the passage, which explains that

Like it or not, our CAD users are becoming more and more dependent on tools that reside outside our company’s internal network. The types of systems we use may vary, but they typically include the following: FTP access sites for file uploading and downloading, Remote access of workstations for technical support; Remote log-on sessions to run compute-intensive tasks, such as rendering or analysis, on powerful remote workstations; Enterprise data management (EDM) and product data management (PDM) systems for CAD/BIM models and files; Cloud-based services on vendor-supplied servers. Whether you use one, several, or all of these Internet-based resources in your day-to-day CAD system, the fact remains that using CAD is no longer something that you alone can control. And when you must reach out over the Internet to complete your CAD tasks, IT becomes a crucial part of your workflow.

It made me think again about future of cloud and CAD relationships. In my view, cloud won’t be introduced to CAD users as a single lifetime event. Instead of switching designers and engineers to cloud CAD overnight, companies will introduce some cloud based services to maximize cloud value proposition to existing CAD-based workflows. You can navigate to some of my earlier posts – The future of CAD without files?; A moment before CAD files cloud mess…; What “end of local storage” means for CAD?; CAD, PLM and Future Cloud File Systems.

I can identify 3 main zones of existing CAD system enhancements that will leverage cloud eco-system to provide additional benefits to engineers:

1. Cloud based backup and file exchange. This is mainstream scenario that requires very little from CAD and other engineering software vendors. Cloud services such as Dropbox, Google Drive and some others can provide it today without even disrupting current workflows.

2. Viewing and collaboration. This is more complicated, but still very feasible scenario. Think about services such as GrabCAD Workbench, TeamPlatform and some others. These services can solve basic revision management needs and collaborative viewing of files.

3. Computation and special engineering design services. This is the most interesting case, in my view. In this scenario, desktop CAD systems will use services running from public cloud to solve simulation, analysis, and more complicated design tasks. Some of them can leverage elastic nature of cloud and some of them can be collaborative by allowing several engineers working together.

What is my conclusion? Can you be ‘half pregnant"? Actually, you can, if you think about CAD and cloud services. In my view, existing and new design tools will be leveraging hybrid resources (from desktop and cloud) to support optimal workflow and implement best user experience in the future. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


How to eliminate PLM customization problems?

March 28, 2014

plm-customization

I’m following strategic visions of the major PLM vendors 2014+ publication by Jim Brown – well known analyst and my blogging buddy for last few years. It started as a publication covering Autodesk, Dassault, PTC, Siemens (vendors listed alphabetically). Last week, Jim expanded his PLM vision publications by adding Aras Innovator to the list. Navigate here to read about Aras 2014+ vision. Aras is well known by their Enterprise Open Source strategy. One of the interesting differentiation I captured in Jim’s article is related to Aras’ strategy to break rules of PLM customization. Here is the passage:

Aras has decided to break the rules [of PLM customization]. They aim to become the PLM company that defies the conundrum, allowing manufacturers to customize their software and still upgrade to future releases without major disruption. They can do this because customers can update the data schema, business rules, workflows, and forms without jeopardizing the integrity of the system. How does this work? Aras’ XML-based, model-oriented approach coupled with their willingness to provide customers with the business flexibility and tools to make it feasible. Aras has effectively morphed themselves into a PLM Platform with solid core functionality with a built in ability to be extended by customers and partners. To put this strategy into action, they have told me they are “putting their money where their mouth is.” They now include upgrade services as a part of their subscription service. I haven’t seen that from anyone else anywhere, particularly while encouraging people to enhance and modify the package. This is a clear differentiator and makes Aras unique in the PLM market.

PLM customization is a tricky deal. Honestly, nobody is dreaming to make PLM implementation with zero customization effort. It all starts from flexible data modeling, which imply certain level of data customization. Time ago, I posted – Is PLM customization a data management Titanic? Earlier this year, I’ve been discussing options and reasons on How to de-customize PLM? The story of PLM customization is tightly related to PLM system flexibility data modeling. Typically, every PLM implementation contains some portion of customization that usually done by service organization and/or internal IT department. Lifecycle rules, data import, workflows, integration with other enterprise systems – this is only a very short list of customizations done during PLM deployment. Another huge aspect of customization is related to system upgrades. That one is actually mentioned by Jim Brown in his Aras’ review.

So, is there a way to solve customization problem? In my view, the answer is – it depends. In my view, you cannot eliminate specific implementation activities. Adding of new features and infrastructure technologies (eg. RDBMS) will require certain upgrade activity to happen. However, if you are selling services, the interest will be to optimize this work. Cloud vendors have similar incentive to optimize infrastructure upgrades and maintenance, otherwise operational cost will go up. So, smart technology can optimize cost and customization efforts.

What is my conclusion? Business and technology are going together. To have good business incentive to optimize technologies is always helpful and can put pressure on development organization to optimize cost of infrastructure upgrades. Service based offering (open source and cloud) are two great examples where business interests of vendors and customers are going at the same direction. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


Will cloud PLM go shadow?

March 25, 2014

plm-shadow-it

If you are not familiar with the term "Shadow IT", you better do. The term is not completely new. Wikipedia article provides definition and speaks about different aspects of shadow IT activities. Interesting enough it has both negative and positive aspects. While (in general) usage of non-approved by IT applications is not a good things, it provoke innovation and overall tech progress.

Shadow IT is a term often used to describe IT systems and IT solutions built and used inside organizations without explicit organizational approval. It is also used, along with the term "Stealth IT," to describe solutions specified and deployed by departments other than the IT department. Shadow IT is considered by many an important source for innovation and such systems may turn out to be prototypes for future approved IT solutions. On the other side, shadow IT solutions are not often in line with the organization’s requirements for control, documentation, security, reliability, etc., although these issues can apply equally to authorized IT solutions.

Lately, the wide spread of SaaS application created a new dangerous trend in the development of shadow IT. At the same time, it introduced a new opportunity for innovation. My attention caught the article speaking about research McAfee did together with Frost & Sullivan- The Hidden Truth Behind Shadow IT. You can download research here. It provides some very interesting numbers about adoption and usage of non-approved SaaS applications.

non-approved-app-usage

It is not surprising, but IT people itself are representing a significant portion of non-approved SaaS applications usage. Also, not very surprising the categories of applications.

types-of-non-approved-app-usage

Nevertheless, I found the follow passage the most important. The reason for high interested in SaaS application fast adoption is the fact they people just want to get a job done. For most of them IT approval is an overhead and extra work.

What drives employees to “go rogue”? Is it boredom? Restless energy? A desire to rebel? Alas, the truth is less romantic. It turns out users overwhelmingly turn to non-approved apps for one reason: they need to get their jobs done. As shown in Figure 3 below, the top drivers cited by both LoB and IT respondents are related to gaining access to the right tools, fast. Nearly half of respondents indicate a comfort level with their preferred software package. While whimsical personal preferences may play a role, it is equally likely that respondents’ familiarity with a package means they can avoid a learning curve and thus get their work done more quickly. Users also cite slow approval processes for new software, and inadequacies of “approved” software.

So, here is the question – what does it mean for future of cloud PLM? Usually, product lifecycle management programs are going through long process of evaluation, approval and implementation. I can see two potential scenarios in which cloud PLM activities can go shadow. First one is related to activity driven by departments and/or divisions. At the time, department finds difficult to get everybody aligned, implementation of cloud PLM can be a good alternative to have usage and get job done. Another one is individual productivity and cross company usage. Think about supply chain scenarios, for example. In the case BOM planner can achieve better collaboration with other suppliers, he can decide to use cloud PLM without getting company and IT aligned.

What is my conclusion? I want to differentiate PLM business strategy and PLM software. Business strategy requires alignment, planning and getting everybody on board. The situation is different with PLM software. In my view, it should be first about getting job done. Today’s perception of PLM software to be slow, complicated and expensive. Cloud is going to change that. In the past, popular software was very often stolen. In the world of SaaS, non-approved and free software is probably a good starting point for future success. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


Why PLM vendors might decide to beat Amazon?

March 21, 2014

aws-for-plm-cloud-options

Amazon is an absolutely marketshare leader in cloud computing. Because "cloud" is such a big and vague word these days, we must clarify and say "public cloud". So, you may think for most of us, cloud is equal to Amazon. AWS EC2 allows us to spin new servers quickly and provide great services to everybody interested in development of SaaS packages.

Not so fast… Questions are coming too. I can see two major ones – cost and strategy. I’ve been posted Cloud PLM and battle for cost recently. Amazon public cloud is coming with challenging cost sticker to some of us. Strategy question is connected to many factors – PLM PaaS opportunity, security and storage alternatives. Finally, with huge respect to Amazon, I’m not sure how many CAD / PLM companies are interested in catholic marriage between cloud PLM platforms and AWS. To provide PLM solution independent from Amazon IaaS and to control data storage is an interesting option for many vendors and partners. How to do so? I think, this is part of strategy for every PLM vendor these days looking how to develop long term relationships with manufacturing OEMs and suppliers.

My attention caught Gigaom article – Want to beat Amazon in the cloud? Here are 5 tips. Read the article. It provides some interesting opportunities how to compete AWS. It raises the point that in 2014 AWS became an elastic service commodity competing on cost. This is an interesting quote explaining that -

But fast-forward to 2014: there are dozens of IaaS providers offering similar capabilities. The selling points — like self-service, zero CAPEX and elasticity — that once made the cloud look exciting are not as appealing anymore, and they are no longer the differentiating factors. In the current context, selling cloud for its self-service capabilities is similar to Microsoft trying to sell the latest version of Windows only for its graphical interface.

Cost is important. However, for enterprise, value is often even more important. Therefore, speaking from the perspective of PLM players, my favorite passage is related to how to support scale-up and shared storage:

AWS’s philosophy of throwing more VMs at an application is not ideal in many scenarios. It might work wonders for marketing websites and gaming applications but not for enterprise workloads. Not every customer use case is designed to run on a fleet of servers in a scale-out mode. Provide a mechanism to add additional cores to the CPU, more RAM and storage to the VM involving minimal downtime. The other feature that’s been on the wish list of AWS customers for a long time is shared storage. It’s painful to setup a DB cluster with automatic failover without shared storage.

Here is my point. I think, CAD and PLM vendors will have to discover how to provide a balanced and scalable cloud platform. This platform will have to answer on questions how to scale from the solution for small manufacturers and mid-size companies to enterprise OEMs and Tier 1 suppliers. The border between these segments is vague. It is hard to develop two distinct PLM offerings and support two separate platforms. It was hard in the past on premise software and it is even more complicated on the cloud.

What is my conclusion? PLM providers will have to discover how to grow up from AWS-based offering and develop scalable cloud PLM platforms. It must include diverse options for data storage as well as computing power. So, to beat Amazon can be not such a dream option for PLM vendors like it looks from the beginning. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


CAD Collaboration & Cloud: Chat With GrabCAD’s Hardi Meybaum

March 12, 2014

hardi-oleg-collaborative-collage

I had new kind of experience yesterday. It was on demand webinar. To me it was more like live blogging conversation. In case you following my twitter closely, you probably noticed Engineering.com webinar yesterday – CAD Collaboration & the Cloud: On-Demand Webinar with GrabCAD & Beyond PLM. I had a chance to meet and talk to GrabCAD CEO Hardi Meybaum. That wasn’t our first meeting. Hardi and I had many conversations in the past. The first one was back in October 2010 when we spent couple of hours in nearby Starbucks shop speaking about what GrabCAD is up to. This is an old post with my thoughts after that conversation. I’ve been blogging about GrabCAD and related topics such as CAD files sharing, Collaboration, Cloud and others a lot. Somehow, Hardi and I developed an intensive conversation via blogs and twitter. So, yesterday webinar was a first experience to turn our online social experience into live conversation.

If you want to listen to the record of our conversation, navigate your browser to this link with webinar recording. I found myself in agreement with Hardi about many related to CAD, Collaboration and cloud. I captured top 5 things to outline my agreement with Hardi:

1- CAD collaboration is very relevant and cloud is a right way to improve the collaboration among individuals in engineering and manufacturing companies. The fundamental questions related to how people can work together are still with us.

2- Globalization create an additional need to improve collaboration. Even small companies these days are not located in one place. Engineering and manufacturing can be done in multiple places to optimize for the cost. Individuals can work from home. This is an absolutely different environment and eco-system compared to what we had 10 years ago.

3- Expectations of people about collaboration, usability and speed of communication are changing these days. The reason is a lot of technologies and products developed in consumer, social and mobile space for the last decade.

4- Engineering workflow is absolutely important. CAD collaboration tool must be focused on how to make collaborative workflow painless and simple.

5- IT and other parts of organization must be focused on how to simplify communication and collaboration and stop behave as "police force" and focus on policies and restrictions to make collaboration more complex.

One of the feedback I’ve got after webinar is that it went too peacefully. It was also final Hardi’s conclusion – we need to disagree more. So, to inspire future conversations, I wanted to bring top 5 things to outline my disagreement with Hardi:

1- Hardi: File is primary things people are working on and file will be still important.

I think by keeping "files" in focus, we’re increasing the complexity of user workflows. If you think about social tools and web today, files are getting less and less important. Think about photo sharing. It was complicated when the scenario required to download files from SD card and publish it on the website. With development of modern mobile applications, photo sharing skyrocketed. One of the reasons – the ability to bypass "file" representation and publish directly from phone/camera. So, file must disappear and software vendors must do it by deep integrating with CAD and other tools.

2- Hardi: There is no technical challenge to get CAD data to the cloud.

The challenge of getting files to the cloud is significant. CAD and engineering data is very complex. Today it is resided on PCs and corporate network drives. It is huge (in size) and complex (in terms of dependencies). To make this data available online for collaboration via slow speed connections is one of the major competitive differentiation specialized vendors can develop against mainstream collaboration tools like Dropbox, Box.net and others.

3- Hardi: Goto market & price is a challenge

Price is not a challenge- cost is a challenge! The challenge is how to keep cost of CAD collaboration services low. Despite the common perception of web as a free resource, cloud is expensive. Storage, viewing, communication, global access, etc. – this is only short list of factors that can push cost of CAD collaboration services up. Dropbox and other mainstream vendors will use scale as a factor to bring cost down. So, to succeed in CAD collaboration and compete with mainstream vendors, every vendor needs to develop technologies to keep cost of the solution down.

4- Hardi: To develop tools with good user experience sounds like an ordinary development task.

User experience is never easy. To get data to the cloud seamlessly is very complicated tasks. Most of CAD engineers today are using Windows based desktop CAD tools. Majority of people are saving data locally. Asking engineers to bring data to the cloud can be a challenge. Another challenge is how to make desktop based design tools seamless connected with cloud environment without disrupting traditional engineering CAD desktop workflow.

5- Hardi: Local PDMs are not allowing to non-engineers to use the data.

I want to defend existing PDM technologies and products. So-called "local PDMs" developed multiple tools to allow people outside of corporate firewall to stay connected with data. Most of them developed web clients or mobile apps. In SolidWorks community, e-Drawing is another successful tool to share and collaborate on CAD data. Yes, these tools are not ideal. But companies are using them a lot in production these days.

What is my conclusion? I think CAD Collaboration is very interesting and still very relevant. There are lot of challenges and lot of opportunities. Seamless communication and efficiency are clear priority for companies and individual. The demand for new business models and pricing will push company to develop cost-effective services to support it. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


Who will create Google Sheets BOM (Bill Of Materials) Add-On?

March 11, 2014

bom-google-add-on

For the last few years, I’ve been chatting about the opportunity to use Google infrastructure and tools to innovate in PLM, engineering and manufacturing. Google enterprise apps influence on PDM/PLM market is still minor these days. However, I believe, Google cloud infrastructure and tools are consistently inspire established vendors and new companies to develop better solutions.

Earlier last week, I was discussing about how PLM can take over Excel spreadsheets. For long time, PLM tools have love and hate relationships with Excel. MS Office applications are very popular in every organization for collaboration. Think about SharePoint, Word, Excel. Specially Excel spreadsheet is a king tool in everything that related to BOM management. My old article “My Excel Spreadsheets: From Odes to Woes” speaks about pains related to the use of Excel for collaboration.

Online tools can solve many problems people are facing when use standalone Excel spreadsheets. Earlier today, Google informed about launching so called “add-on store” for Google Docs and Sheets. Read more here. One of the killing aspects related to Google Sheets Add-on is a transparent way to integrated application user experience within spreadsheet. Watch this video to see more.

Several applications were announced together with Google Sheets Add-on. I selected few of them that can make a lot of sense for engineering collaboration – Project Sheet (from forscale.project) and Workflows (from letterfeed.com). The following passage from TechCrunch article is my favorite:

With the help of add-ons, Google is clearly hoping to create a developer ecosystem around Docs. But maybe more importantly, these integrations will also make it more competitive in a landscape where Microsoft is now finally taking the online versions of its Office productivity suite seriously. For many desktop Office users, the ability to bring add-ons to the desktop versions of Word or Excel remains an important selling point

What is my conclusion? Eco-system or how it is now called “community” is an important element of future success. Microsoft relied on openness of Office and ability to develop add-ins very long time. In a modern world, Google Apps is a good infrastructure foundation for collaboration. It is still not clear if manufacturing companies are ready to trust Google as IT provider for their needs. I believe, a critical mass of application can be one of the factors that can influence future CIO and engineering IT managers decisions. Another obvious alternative is Office 365. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


Does PLM have a chance to win over ERP dominant position?

March 5, 2014

plm-erp-cloud-compete

PLM and ERP have long "love and hate" relationships in manufacturing world. You can find lots of materials speaking about complementary roles of PLM and ERP. This is of course true. However, integration between PLM and ERP never been easy. Despite many technologies, systems and solutions available on the market, customers are often skeptical about ease of integration between these systems. My hunch, ERP and PLM are clashing over the data that both system supposed to manage such as Bill of Materials. One of my older articles speaks about The ugly truth about PLM-ERP monkey volleyball. I think beyond specific data and process management aspects both ERP and PLM vendors are competing for "CIO priority" in the company.

In my view, the net-net after almost two decades of competition: ERP more often is taking dominant position in the company. At the same time, PDM and PLM have more challenging position to expand system usage beyond engineering and R&D organizations downstream. The situation is obviously different between larger and smaller companies. The problem of integration between ERP and PLM is dominant for large OEMs and suppliers. The problem of PLM cost and decision to use both PLM and ERP among departments is more critical for smaller manufacturers.

Cloud computing is one of the largest and most disruptive technological trends these days. Cloud certainly disrupted many existing domains. We can see a lot of cloud disruption in enterprise domain these days. CMSWire article Will Disruptive Cloud Computing Kill Enterprise Resource Planning? is specifically focusing on how cloud tech can disrupt ERP domain. Read the article and make your opinion. Article references Gartner study – Predicts 2014: The Rise of the Postmodern ERP and Enterprise Applications World (you need to pay to get access). Here is an interesting passage:

According to the report the problems that are impacting on ERP are historic. In fact, they go back nearly 20 years. From the mid-1990s, enterprises invested in ERP solutions because they addressed problems that had been inherited from the 1980s, when systems were not reliable enough and did not integrate with newer applications. However, many of these service provides went beyond implementations. They provided extensive customizations on top of the work that was outlined on the licenses, with many setting up software factories with thousands of programmers to provide those customizations. The net result of 15 years of continuous customization, the report added, are ERP implementations that are now "arthritic," incredibly slow and expensive to change

Gartner is also making prediction about future development of ERP solutions and transforming of large monolithic suites into set of smaller and flexible application services:

Longer term, over the next 10 years and more, we envision a scenario where more of the market ‘flips’ to the cloud. Instead of having on-premises core solutions that are complemented by innovation or differentiating processes being supported in the cloud, some organizations will move all their ERP functionality to the cloud. These won’t be single vendor mega-suites but instead will be loosely coupled suites of cloud functionality,” Nigel Rayner, co-author of the report said.

This prediction made me think about potential transformation in the balance between PLM and ERP systems (or maybe services in the future). The focus on smaller adaptive services can give an opportunity to PLM vendors to provide solutions in functional areas that raised controversy and competition in the past – change management, item master management, BOM management and few others. By providing new modern cloud manufacturing applications PLM vendors will be able to takeover inflexible legacy ERP suites and integrate with other ERP services.

What is my conclusion? The disruption time is good for changes and revisiting of old status quo and decisions. The historical balance of PLM and ERP is one of them. By providing flexible and agile product lfiecyle services, existing PLM vendors and newcomers can win over the existing status in many manufacturing companies. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


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