Who will make PLM sexier?

July 24, 2014


Cool factor is trending in software these days. The time when software was ugly is probably in the past. Everyone wants to have a "cool app" – on the picture above you can clearly see the trend. Does it apply to enterprise software and PLM? It is a good question. Back in 2012, I asked it in my post – PLM: Ugly vs. Cool. While nobody specifically focused on how to develop cool PLM software, I can see an increased interest for improved user experience from PLM vendors.


UX magazine article Is there Room for Sexy in Enterprise Design? caught my attention few days ago. I found the discussion about emotional factor interesting and important. I especially liked the following passage:

The question enterprise technology companies need to ask themselves is “what does sexy mean to your enterprise customer?” Put another way, how do your customers want to feel when using your products?Every product, whether we realize it or not, produces an emotional reaction. As Donald Norman articulated in his seminal book Emotional Design, customers find aesthetically pleasing products more effective. Customers even “love” these products. Norman identified the commercial value in evoking some passion towards products, such as Gucci bags and Rolex watches. MailChimp’s Director of User Experince, Aarron Walter, took this one step further with his book, Designing for Emotion. He posits that the goal of emotional design is to connect with users and evoke positive emotions, which will make your users want to continue interacting with your product.

Article speaks about EchoUser research of emotions with enterprise customers. The following emotions are make sense to enterprise crowd – powerful, trust, flexible, calm, pride, accomplished. Cool and sexy are not in the list. So, is there a place for "cool and sexy" in PLM? For long time PLM was associated with "complex" and "expensive". At the same time, most of PLM commercial videos are cool and sexy. Sport cars, luxury airplanes, fashion shows, mobile devices. You rarely can see PLM video without such type of product examples.

I think, many PLM professionals these days are still trying to keep the association of PLM with complexity. My hunch, they are trying to justify expenses. Customers might think complex solution requires more budget, longer consultancy and service project. However, the other side of complexity is to feel absence of reliability and trust. This is not a simple decision for PLM consultants and software vendors.

What is my conclusion? People don’t like cumbersome software these days. There is no place for complex user experience even in enterprise software. What emotions should drive CAD and PLM software? How engineers should feel about software? I’d like to connect the results of engineering and manufacturing process with PLM tools. You cannot make good products with wrong tools. So, something should happen with PLM software. Complex PLM software is a wrong tool to build future cool products. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

photo credit MidoriShoes

Will Search Make PLM Cool?

April 26, 2012

search-cool-PLM.pngDisclosure: As a co-founder of Inforbix, I understand that my opinion about Search can be unintentionally biased. Nevertheless, I believe the topic itself is very important, so I decided to share my thoughts anyway.

Cool is clearly trending. First time I posted about my “FREE and COOL” theory in CAD/PLM about two years ago here. I can see many changes happened since that time. Cool stuff is not a joke any more. It went much beyond the level of geeks drinking coffee in Palo Alto downtown Starbucks. If you want to quantify the power of cool, the following numbers aboutApple 3Q financial results can be quite refreshing. Navigatehere to see that iPhone business is bigger than whole Microsoft.

In my view, the understanding of the cool trend is coming to engineering and manufacturing space as well. Accessing information in a meaningful way can be a very cool way to help engineers in their work. CAD and PLM companies are flirting with enterprise search vendors and search technologies already quite long time. You can read one of my write ups about that here – PLM Lifelike Search Injection.

I was reading a blog post by Aras Corp – Get Global Intranet Search From A9 For Aras Innovator. The sticker COOL STUFF caught my attention. Read the article, but more importantly, watch the video. A9 from Alcove9 using open source Apache Solr Search to power their capability to index Aras Innovator content.

Another video presenting Inforbix Search Tips can give you an idea how search of PLM and CAD content can come from Infobrix. Navigate to Inforbix Search Tip Video to read more. Inforbix is using semantic technologies combined with noSQL data-management approach to provide search and navigation capabilities.

What is my conclusion? Search is an interesting function. Since “Google” officially became a verb, many people consider a practical and intuitive search as absolutely important element of any system. At the same time, PLM and other engineering content are semantically rich and can provide difficulties to a traditional Google-search approaches. As we can see from both examples below, the special treatment needed to make it cool. The most important function of search is to solve noise vs. signal. Google approach works well for “lady Gaga” type of searches. PLM, Engineering and Manufacturing require some alternative approaches. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

PS. Next week, I’m attending ACE 2012 conference in Detroit, MI and hope to learn more about cool stuff from Aras.

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.

FREE and COOL Trends in CAD/PLM

February 2, 2010

I want to propose an unusual theme for our PLM discussion. Let’s talk about trends related to manufacturing and software development. Few months ago, I prompted about “Free” as a best future price. If you haven’t chance to see this post, you can find it here. During the past years, we can see significant changes in the market about how people are looking on consuming products and software. It drove me to think about two major trends we can observe these days: FREE and COOL.

FREE Trend
I think, Free became much stronger for the past few years. Internet played a massive role to the transition of market to different variants of “Free Models”. The biggest driver, in my view, is that Internet made a lot of things available for much lower cost. It is related to the ability to provide services, long tail market, freemium business models. If I’m looking on the software market, Free trend, developed a massive awareness toward “free software”. Google as an absolute leader in providing various types of free software and services created the perception for increased availability of “software for free” and alternative business models for business software.

COOL Trend
This is another, opposite to free trend. Market of “cool stuff” is growing and manufacturers of the product and services on this market drive significant attention. People want to use cool gadgets, software and other products. Part of this “cool” trend is increased interest to the market of custom-developed products, etc. It is absolutely clear, that manufacturers of cool stuff (doesn’t matter computer devices, other products or software) are getting increased market share and exposure. What is adjusted to the “cool stuff” is also premium price for all these products. The obvious leader of “cool” trend for me is Apple .

CAD and PLM Market
Now let’s back to CAD/PLM. On one side, everything that related to CAD and 3D is obviously and absolutely COOL! The potential of 3D is huge and software manufacturers drive people to additional exposure of cool 3D stuff. When it comes to the combination with cool devices (such as Apple computers) we can see a magnification of “coolness effect”. On the other side, market of enterprise software impacted by a significant influence of free business models. “Open Source”, not efficiency of today’s software production, deployment and maintenance, high cost of custom implementations and adjustments. Enterprises are looking for alternatives to today’s business models and Free drives their attention. Enterprise PLM is definitely impacted from this trend.

So, what do think? What will be leading trend for tomorrow’s CAD/PLM? Cool or Free? If you are listening to the company like Dassault Systems, cool is a clear leader. On the other side, Aras, providing free license (or open source) drives increased attention from customers and analysts in PLM domain. What will be the final combination of cool and free? I think we are going to discover it during the next few years and this is going to be COOL and FREE show :)…

Just my thoughts. What is your opinion? Are you on the FREE or COOL side of the world?
Best, Oleg



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