7 rules for selecting PLM software in 2014

January 17, 2014


Enterprise software choice is a complex decision process. The time when you was able to buy a software from trusted XYZ vendor and sleep safe is over. These days IT and other software decision makers are facing challenges related to technological and business options related to new business models, cloud technologies, specific vendors, user experience and many others. You need to swim in a sea of changes in enterprise market in order to decide what software to choose.

Very often you can hear debates about what is Product Lifecycle Management – vision, business strategy or software. Whatever PLM means, companies and people responsible for PLM strategy and software need to make their buying decisions related to PLM software, vendor and implementation.

Last year I posted about how you can select PDM software in 5 simple steps. The last step was open ended and assumed that you need to make strategic PLM decision. Here is a quote from last year article:

"If you company is looking how to manage product development processes beyond controlling and sharing CAD (product) data, you need to evaluate PLM system. Don’t make a PDM choice without making your PLM decision first".

Today, I want to propose few rules that can help you in the decision process related to PLM software and vendor selection. It is not about how to build your overall PLM strategy – I will mostly focus on software and vendor choices.

1. Find real PLM use cases compatible with your requirements. Use trusted advisers that will help you to navigate to examples of PLM software usage. PLM software market place is opaque. There are lot of online information, analyzes, comparison and testimonials about PLM software. To make real financial, technological and product assessment of vendor is tricky. However, you should remember to buy a software that can perform according to your need.

2. Analyze your company engineering software (CAD and PDM) and enterprise environment (ERP). Regardless on grand PLM vision, you have to integrate PLM software with environment, which includes connection to CAD/PDM, interoperability with ERP system(s) as well as many other design, engineering and manufacturing system coming from other vendors including homegrown software developed by IT department and contractors.

3. Don’t buy immediate technological advantages. For most of PLM systems, technologies doesn’t change much for the last 10-15 years. Even if PLM software vendor claims some technological uniqueness today, it will be adjusted in 2-3 years by new development, another new technologies and technological acquisitions PLM vendors are making. If you want to make some tech-driven decision, do it ‘test based’ for a specific use case and/or process in your company.

4. Cloud PLM is first about software eco-system and IT strategy. Cloud can bring lots of advantages. However, if your company is still on premise and IT is conservative, think carefully before pushing into cloud PLM race. You can burn time and resource on convincing your company and solving "general cloud software obstacles" before getting PLM value pay off.

5. PLM usability is relative. Everybody wants (and claims) to be easy to use like Google these days. However, devil is in details and enterprise software is different from consumer web. Also, what looks simple for you will be different for your colleague. Test by yourself, but don’t underestimate software evaluation by people outside of IT ecosystem. There are few books and online resources for UX (user experience) passionate people – try them out. Start from Steve Krug’s book Don’t Make Me Think – it will help you to build a sense of simplicity and own guidance.

6. Don’t buy PLM vendor roadmaps. Most of roadmaps are aspirational. You must look on available software releases and community of users. Community will give you an indication of how careful vendor is following their roadmaps, promises and (mostly important) long term software compatibilities.

7. Open source software isn’t much different from functional and technological standpoint. Open source software is not cheaper and simpler – it is just a different business model. There are variety of open-source flavors and you need to read all legal provisions. Involve your legal advisers to help you to go through language and meaning.

What is my conclusion? In my view, PLM software domain will be turbulent in 2014. New companies, technologies and business models are coming to disrupt and change existing industry landscape. However, your PLM software buying decision will probably stay with you more than 1-2 years. So, my recommendation is to review available software, make trials, experiment and build use cases. These days software vendors are open to convert customers into their trusted advisers. Don’t afraid to be a part of the PLM vendors’ development process and decision making. In most of cases, it is fun and you will love it. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

The challenging face of dual PLM clouds

December 28, 2013


Cloud PLM is a not a new word any more. Established vendors and newcomers in PLM world are developing strategies and implementations how to embrace PLM cloud. In my article few months ago, I’ve talking about multiple faces of the cloud – public, private, hybrid, collocation. Jim Brown, well-known PLM analyst and my long time blogging buddies is covering different visions of PLM vendors in his Tech-Clarity blog these days. Two first articles covered Autodesk and Dassault. It is interesting to see a difference. Autodesk vision described by Jim in the following passage:

Autodesk is embracing the Cloud like no other PLM vendor – Autodesk has made big gets on the cloud. They introduced CAD on the cloud (Fusion360), simulation on the cloud (Sim360), and a host of other new “360″ products to join PLM360 on the cloud. As one of my analyst friends tweeted the Autodesk keynotes mentioned “cloud, cloud, cloud, and cloud.”

Opposite to that, Dassault strategy is quite different and focuses on strategic choice of private cloud (even if technically claims no difference between public and private cloud). Here is an interesting passage from Jim’s post outline Dassault vision:

My final comment on DS strategy is about the cloud. Given the SOA architecture behind DS’ solutions one might expect DS to embrace the cloud wholeheartedly. DS execs were clear in pointing out that they support the cloud – but that they believe the on premise cloud is the viable option for companies today. It’s an interesting stance given that they appear to have the technical capabilities required but are choosing to opt away from the public cloud. This is an area to watch.

The question of private and public cloud strategies is important. Even cloud is a new trend, PLM vendors can gather some experience from challenges that non-PLM vendors are experiencing with implementing different cloud strategies. ComputerWorld article Why Microsoft SharePoint Faces a Challenging Future speaks about SharePoint dual strategy to maintain existing SharePoint 2013 on premise version as well as developing new SharePoint Online. The article is worth looking and contains lots of interesting examples. The following passage is my favorite:

Many enterprises use and like SharePoint. Microsoft likes it, too, because it’s one of the company’s fastest-growing product lines. But making enterprises support separate cloud and on-premises versions and telling SharePoint app developers not to work in C# and ASP.NET may make for a rocky relationship as time goes by.

Customization is an important aspect of every enterprise deployment. PLM is not an exclusion. Existing PLM deployments are full of customization made using existing development tools. Even more, on-premise deployments can provide some customization flexibilities that hardly can be achieved in public cloud implementations.

What is my conclusion? Dual cloud strategy sounds very compelling and we can hear about it a lot. However, to achieve real "cloud duality" can be tricky. Another level of complexity is to maintain transparent private/public customization and configuration using existing and new PLM technologies and tools. IT managers, PLM advisers and customers should take a note. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

PDMish, PLMish and other CADPDLM bundles…

November 20, 2013


Engineering and manufacturing software is full of interesting TLAs that companies continuing to invent even these days. Only yesterday GrabCAD introduced Workbench enhancement under somewhat that can be considered as a very traditional name – Collaborative Product Development (CPD) Platform.

Chad Jackson, my long time blogging buddy published an article with fascinating title – ENOVIA Data Management: Less PDM-ish, More PLM-ish. Chad made a review of Enovia data management capabilities from Dassault System briefing. Read the article with multiple embedded tweet-quotes. Besides playing PDM vs. PLM naming game, article brings an important perspective of where Enovia data management architecture is going. Here is an interesting passage I captured:

CAD models have never been simple files. Lots of stuff have been, and continue to be, jammed into them. They contain far more than just geometry. They contain part numbers, so drawing BOMs populate automatically. They contain material properties, such that mass properties can be calculated. Over time, as more and more enterprise considerations needed to be taken into account, more non-geometry stuff has been jammed into CAD files. The problem with all this stuff in CAD files was that, unlike many other types of files, operating systems couldn’t understand the structure of information in CAD files.

So, what Enovia is doing differently? According to Chad’s comments -

Dassault Systèmes are trying to liberate all that stuff jammed into the CAD file. Here are some notes from my briefing with them. In short, they are taking non-geometric items in CAD files an turning them into meta-data that lives in ENOVIA. They are being turned into individual pieces of information that can be modified separately and independently from every other piece of information and the geometry. Of course, this meta-data is related and will live as a database item right alongside the file that contains the geometry.


It made me think about future trajectories of CAD/PDM/PLM integrations. I’ve been describing possible options in one of the posts last year – Multi-CAD PDM integrations: yesterday, today and tomorrow. The idea of CAD/PDM bundle I expressed there is in my view a reflection of what CATIA/Enovia is doing in data management. As I mentioned there, it solves the problem of version compatibility as well as provide a significant advantages in terms of functional richness. This is exactly what Chad demonstrated with CATIA/Enovia examples.

What is my conclusion? Integration remains a place where lots of innovation is happening. CAD, PDM and PLM integrations is a very challenging space. Customers have a huge demand to have vertically integrated product providing sufficient amount of features and what is mostly important a completely new level of user experience. It sounds like we can see more investment in this space coming from traditional vendors. CAD/PLM companies will try to integrate existing products into vertical suites connecting data and providing support for integrated product scenarios. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Will Tesla Motors build their own PLM system?

November 4, 2013


History of CAD and PLM development knows examples of home grown systems. 20-25 years ago, the idea to build their own CAD and PDM system was considered as an absolutely normal option. Since that time, many things changed. In my view, the last decade clearly demonstrated PDM/PLM trend towards using more OOTB (out-of-the-box) and ready to use solutions. I’m not sure what was a success rate (if somebody owns statistics, please share), but I can confirm a clear intent of manufacturing companies towards usage of packaged software provided by CAD/PLM vendors.

However, the business dynamics and requirements are changing very fast these days. Therefore, I wasn’t very surprised when I learn about how Tesla Motors (probably one of the most hyping and progressive car company in the world these days) is building their custom IT solutions. Navigate to TechCrunch article – Being A CIO At Tesla Motors, A Startup That Builds Cars And Its Own IT. The short writeup is speaking about how Tesla Motors is focusing on building a unique set of IT systems. Specifically it was related to building their own, Tesla-tailored ERP solutions. According to the article Tesla is focusing how to build an environment compliant to Tesla’s speed, agility and e-commerce demand. Here is an interesting passage:

The speed and agility Tesla needed in an ERP environment could not be found in the market, Vijayan said. SAP’s ERP tech was clearly not working for other car manufacturers… In four months, Vijayan and his team of more than 250 built the ERP system, which serves as the foundation of the electric carmaker’s operations. Now every department is using the same system without the need for making custom connectors, so different systems can work together. The company also built a world-class e-commerce system that is designed to help people buy cars as seamlessly as possible.

Tesla needed to build its own IT and its own e-commerce system due to the fundamental difference in its business model. For decades, auto manufacturers have sold their cars through local dealers, a fixture of every town in America. But Tesla sells its cars directly to customers. All the materials, the processes and the features need an operation that is uniquely designed so Tesla can sell its cars online.

Such high level of difference with standard ERP behavior made me think about potential of Tesla to go and build a complete customized PLM system tailored to needs of Tesla designers and supply chain. TechCrunch article says nothing about PLM and other design systems. The public references related to Tesla and PLM confirmed what I knew back in 2010 Tesla made a strategic decision to move towards Dassault System Catia V5 and Enovia V6 solutions. The original Dassault System press release is here. The only video about PLM and Tesla online I found is highlighting Tesla use of Dassault System tools. Watch this short movie. You will clearly see CATIA and ENOVIA V6 Design Central and Engineering Central with BOM management options.

What is my conclusion? I have no clear answer on the question placed in the title of this post. The IT innovation in manufacturing companies is getting interesting these days. The dynamic of business, pace of changes and specific customer requirements will require IT managers to innovate beyond the level of OOTB tools. Thinking about PLM space, customer focused configuration options combined with complexity of supply chain can be very challenging these days. These days Tesla is practically building a single model car – Model S. However, with new car model (model X) is coming soon, I can see the level of complexity growing as well as the needs for specific unique PLM system. It would be very interesting to see the change in the future. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

PLM Data Tagging Is Getting Some Traction

October 3, 2013


Tagging is one of the most popular ways to classify information. Tagging became a mainstream way to classify information in almost every web application these days. Initially introduced on photo sharing websites, tagging expanded almost everywhere. Tagging is an important feature of every "Web 2.0" solution. You can read more on wikipedia here. Here is snippet of definition.

Labeling and tagging are carried out to perform functions such as aiding in classification, marking ownership, noting boundaries, and indicating online identity. They may take the form of words, images, or other identifying marks. An analogous example of tags in the physical world is museum object tagging. In the organization of information and objects, the use of textual keywords as part of identification and classification long predates computers. However, computer based searching made the use of keywords a rapid way of exploring records.

I can divide tagging solution into two separate groups – automatic (machine) tagging and user-driven or collaborative tagging. The second one became popular on the web and called "folksonomy". Opposite of predefined classification (taxonomy), folksonomy is a collaborative way to classify information mostly in social and web applications.

A folksonomy is a system of classification derived from the practice and method of collaboratively creating and managing tags to annotate and categorize content;[1][2] this practice is also known ascollaborative tagging,[3] social classification, social indexing, and social tagging…. [S]ome of the characteristics of folksonomies by identifying two types: broad and narrow. A broad folksonomy is one in which multiple users tag particular content with a variety of terms from a variety of vocabularies, thus creating a greater amount of metadata for that content. A narrow folksonomy, on the other hand, occurs when a few users, primarily the content creator, tag an object with a limited number of terms.

Classification is an important element of every data management and information solution. PLM/PDM systems are (obviously) included. In my view, tagging can reduce the complexity of information search and discovery. I’ve been pitching "Tagging" as an innovative way to simplify data access in PLM systems. Navigate to my historical blog from 2009 – How Tagging can prevent PLM from a Compulsive Obsessive Disorder Problem?

Until now, I haven’t heard about any implementation of tagging in PLM systems. Earlier today, I was reading CIMdata update about Dassault Enovia products – ENOVIA Product Update: A CIMdata Highlight. One of the snippet of this publication referenced to a new solution produced by Dassault – IFWE Compass. Here is a passage speaking about "automatic tagging solution":

The IFWE Compass user interface—This new face of the 3DEXPERIENCE platform was shown briefly at the June Industry Analyst event, but this daylong session allowed us to see it support many more use cases. The automatic tagging and indexing of all managed information (called 6W) should provide significant benefits downstream. This tagging approach is not seen in offerings from other PLM solution providers.

What is my conclusion? Despite visible simplicity, tagging is hard task to accomplish. It required significant amount of data processing, computational power and sophisticated algorithms. It is hard to get it done automatically and it requires specific "collaborative" effort to apply it in a "folksonmical" way. My hunch Dassault acquired tagging technology from the acquisition of search vendor Exalead few years ago. The precision of tagging (especially when it done automatically) is a key. So, it would be very interesting to see implementation of this solution in a specific customer data corpus. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Dassault IFWE and PLM Cloud Switch

August 2, 2013

As you know, cloud is one of the topics that near and dear to me already long time. I’ve been covering PLM vendors and their cloud strategies for few years now. Maybe you remember my very old post from 2009 speaking about How will PLM applications change when they move to a cloud? Today it is almost history. Couple of other historical posts related to different phases of CAD and PLM cloud development – PLM Vendors, IT and Cloud strategies, PLM Cloud: Differentiations and anti-cloud rant? and Will Enterprise PLM embrace hybrid cloud?

While I was taking few days off with my family on Cape Cod, I found the following announcement made by Dassault Systems quite significant. Navigate to the following link to read more. In a nutshell, Dasasult announced new cloud portfolio of products available on premise, public cloud and private cloud. Here is my favorite passage explaining what cloud means for Dassault:

…the cloud is more than infrastructure and a delivery mechanism. The cloud is a way of working. It is where consumers voice their needs, their ideas, their feedback. It is where innovation is fostered and ideas take hold.

Dassault released the following video previewing IFWE Compass presenting the cloud portfolio in interconnected way. Take a look – the video is inspiring and provides compelling messages. I’d be very interested to see products when they will become available.

Dassault announcement made me think about PLM cloud switch. Looking on a perspective of cloud technologies and PLM trajectories for the last 4-5 years, I can confirm that PLM cloud switch actually happened. Practically all leading CAD/PLM companies confirmed in a certain way their commitment to have cloud strategy. Aras cloud, Autodesk cloud, Dassault cloud, Siemens PLM TeamCenter cloud. It would be interesting to see potential future announcement coming from PTC about their cloud strategies sooner than later.

What is my conclusion? PLM Cloud Switch happened. The devil is in details now. PLM comes to the phase when cloud/no-cloud won’t be a decision point anymore. Customers will have to explore the differentiation of cloud strategies, functions, implementations and make a decision. Functionality will be important, but implementation speed will make a difference as well. In the past, PLM implementations took long time. It was bad, but on the other side it locked down many customers from migrating to another (sometimes competitive) solution. It is interesting to see how new cloud switch strategies will make a difference now. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Will IBM return to PLM software business?

March 4, 2013

It is almost 2 years since Dassault Systems completed the transaction to acquire and integrate IBM PLM operations into DS. The historical IBM/DS press release is here. At the same time, IBM is continue to focus on product innovation. Navigate here and may learn about IBM product development innovation, system engineering and lifecycle support. In parallel, the adoption of PLM software is growing. More companies in the world are implementing PLM and requires more products, systems, solutions and services in PLM. For the last 3-5 years we can see how IBM is pumping infrastructure software companies… Does it mean we will see again IBM services and services solving manufacturing and product development problems? I’ve been reading Seeking Alpha’s article “So What Does IBM Mean When It Says It’s In The Solutions Business?” explains what type of solutions IBM will be providing in the future:

“It is not individual packaged products per se, but groups of related software products, services, and systems. And we know at very high level where IBM is going to focus its solutions efforts. IBM has always been about software, services, and systems – although in recent years the first two have taken front stage. The flip side is that some of these solutions areas are overly broad. Smarter Analytics is a catch-all covering the familiar areas of business intelligence and performance management, predictive analytics and analytical decision management, and analytic applications.”

I found the following video about IBM usage of system engineering to streamline smarter product development quite interesting.

During the last PI Congress in Berlin 3 weeks ago, CIMdata was talking about the need of integration between configuration management, PLM and system engineering. Peter Bilello of CIMdata mentioned such integration as an absolutely needed element of future of product innovation.


What is my conclusion? Business intelligence, decision support, system engineering and integration. These functions are quite desired by manufacturing companies to solve prod development problems. Large companies these days are looking how to streamline product development processes. Enterprise PLM business seems to be impossible without system services and integration support. IBM is collecting a significant software stacks that can be used for this purposes. Maybe we see IBM renaissance in PLM soon? Just a thought…

Best, Oleg


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