PLM: Functionality, Usability, Cost. Pick any two…

July 29, 2015

project-management-constraints

My SmarTeam colleague and long time blogging buddy Jos Voskuil challenged readers with an unusual PLM dilemma. You should pick between usability and business benefits. Ouch… painful choice, right? Navigate to the following post How to measure collaboration? to read more.

The challenge proposed by Jos was the outcome of our PLM vs. Excel discussion. You might be interested to look few other posts related to the topic: PLM – Need for Speed and PLM vs Excel: Bullfight and Prohibition.

Jos brings all these “SAP-like” value proposition reasons for enterprise system. Jos is actually confirming enterprise systems are guilty to build bad user experience and brining SAP as an example. He acknowledges that it worked well for financial systems, but sort of failed in engineering domain. Here is my favorite passage (a bit long one) explaining about ERP and PLM selling points and how is that related to usability:

ERP systems have never been sold to the users for their usability. It is more that the management is looking for guarantees that the execution process is under control. Minimize the potential for errors and try to automate all activities as much as possible. As the production process is directly linked to finance, it is crucial to have it under control. Goodbye usability, safety first.

Why is this approach not accepted for PLM? Why do we talk about usability? First of all, the roots for PLM come from the engineering department (PDM) and, therefore, their primary data management system was not considered an enterprise system. And when you implement a system for a department, discussions will be at the user level. So user acceptance became necessary for PDM and PLM.

But this is not the main reason. Innovation, Product Development, Sales Engineering, Engineering are all iterative activities. In contrary to ERP, there is no linear process defined how to develop the ultimate product the first time right. Although this believe existed in the nineties by an ERP country manager that I met that time. He told me: Engineers are resources that do not want to be managed, but we will get them. An absurd statement I hope you agree. However, the thoughts behind this statement are correct. How do you make sure product development is done in the most efficient manner?

I like how Jos brings the idea of efficiency. This is where it come back to reasons why people mistakenly prefer Excel over complicated and well structured enterprise systems. It gives them a very brutal feeling of efficiency and ownership. This is why I love my PLM Excel spreadsheets. But this feeling of efficiency is wrong. There are many reasons for that – it gets complex within time, it is hard to manage, etc. I outlined all of them in my six years old blog – PLM Excel Spreadsheet: from odes to woes.

The real problem is related to complexity of enterprise systems. It goes to the point you are afraid of these enterprise beasts. You are afraid to do something wrong. In some situations, you want only highly trained people to do something, because you are afraid of making a mistake that will cost time and money. On the other side, engineering and manufacturing process is very iterative by nature. So, how to bring a flexibility of spreadsheet and protection of enterprise system?

There is an old saying of product development that it can sound something like this – “Fast, Good or Cheap. Pick two”. This is a translation Project Management Triangle where you actually balancing between scope, schedule and cost. Fast is a translation of time; good is a translation of quality and cost is a translation of resources needed to make it happen. The three properties are interrelated and it is not possible to optimize all three of them.

Here is my translation of project management triangle in the context of PLM – “Functionality, Usability, Cost. Pick any two”. Obviously, the enterprise thinking is prioritizing functional requirements. One of the most typical PLM selection process is to fill in blanks of RFP for PLM implementation with a very long list of functional requirements. Guess what happens if you have missed functions… You lose the deal. Usability requires lot of work. It is very hard (almost impossible) to make it usable for the first time. You need to increase your budget to get it done or to increase a development timeline. Which was a challenge for most of PLM vendors until now.

What is my conclusion? Unfortunately, for enterprise PLM, the decision to pick any two ended up with functionality and cost. Therefore we have gigantic complex creatures called Enterprise PLM systems with a long list of supported functions and questionable usability. And for the reason not to make costly mistakes people are forced to use them. Is it going to change? I guess it will change as enterprise UX paradigm shifts. Less is more in a new world of enterprise transformation. It doesn’t mean we will accept mistakes or make it less secure. Actually, the brutal efficiency with less functions will win the future. Just my thoughts..

Best, Oleg

picture credit Wikipedia article

 



Crowdhooking PLM to organizational processes

July 8, 2015

plm-get-hooks-app

To manage business processes across the manufacturing organization is not a simple job. This is a problem product lifecycle management (PLM) system is solving for manufacturing organizations of any size. Sounds great and compelling. PLM vendors can give you many examples of successful PLM implementations. Time for party? Actually not so fast…

The road to implement PLM is painful and requires a significant effort to be taken by a company implementing PLM as well as for PLM vendor and service provider. In my earlier blog – What’s wrong with “analog PLM”? I shared some of my thoughts on a traditional process of PLM implementations – mapping of existing company environment and processes into PLM data architecture.

At the same time, enterprise software is changing. The demand of many organizations (including manufacturing and industrial companies) is to make slow move towards agile and lean systems that won’t require “big bang” change with millions of dollar expenses. The idea of re-imagining PLM one business process at a time is compelling, but to make it happen is not a simple. How to make it happen?

Cloud and mobile are two magic words that often associated these days with a change in the way to enterprise and PLM software can be deployed and implemented. Unfortunately, these are not silver bullets. The challenge of enterprise companies is to avoid getting into cloud integration spaghetti with many new cloud applications and services.

It made me think about possible way to solve a problem of painful process capturing during PLM deployment. Today, it usually done by a team of application engineers getting together with customers to whiteboard business data models and processes. What if we can move it into hands of actual users? Sounds crazy?

My attention was caught by TechCrunch article – Hooks, The App That Lets You Get A Notification For Almost Anything, Lands On Android And Apple Watch. In a nutshell, Hooks allows you to bring notification from multiple mobile applications running on your iPhone or Android device.

Imagine a system that can help users to define hooks based on their existing work habits and processes. It can be events coming from CAD system or Excel spreadsheet. It can be notifications from your invoice ordering or even cloud ERP environment. Notifications will allow to people to take actions converted into a process. Sounds like a dream?

What is my conclusion? I can see a trend towards smart software and devices that can capture life and processes around us. I can capture what matters for me – it is probably not very complex job. “Crowdhooking” can be an alternative way to capture processes for organization. Think about it as an alternative to administrators to do hard work and define processes, which will be abandoned by majority of users in few month. We should leave old fashion administration work for smart software. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


Four P’s of future Product Lifecycle Management

July 7, 2015

four-ps-of-future-plm

Since I shifted my focus on PLM consulting, I had a chance to meet and talk to many people about PLM. Some of them are using PLM system and like it, some of them are hating PLM systems. And guess what, many of them have no idea how PLM can improve their work if at all. My personal statistic is not scientific to use it even in the blog post. However, I found that Jim Brown of TechClarify made a research – What do users really think about their PLM system? The data below is fascinating – more than 50% of people are either in love or like PLM very much.

plm-jim-brown-how-people-like-it

Amazing, isn’t it? But, not so fast…. The second part of the same research says – please change everything! The following passage was my favorite.

People asked to change ease of use, configurability, search, performance, stability, and integration with other systems (including design tools and enterprise systems like ERP). Pretty much everything. The feedback was clear, I would summarize it as “there’s a lot we aren’t happy with and we want it to change.”

I agree with Jim’s assessment – this is pretty much a wake-up call for PLM vendors. At least, it was a blog trigger for me to think about how to change PLM, so customers will love it in the future.

Over the weekend, I was looking for inspiration to find a new formula for PLM. I think, over the past few years, PLM vendors tried everything – social, cloud, open source… (maybe I forgot something, so please remind me in comments).

The inspiration came in a form of book – Hardware Startups by Rene DiResta, Brady Forrest and Ryan Vinyard. In one part it speaks about reasons why people are participating in crowdfunding projects and how to make them successful – it called 4 Ps of crowdfunding – People, Project, Participation, Perks. You can read 4 Ps of crowdfunding part by navigating to the following link. You can read more about it on Indiegogo blog – How to get your crowdfunded indiegogo campaign to the top.

If you’ve been in PLM industry for some time, you probably had a chance to hear many jokes about what is the meaning of "PLM" and, especially, what "P" means. The best joke was that PLM stands for "Politic Lifecycle Management", which in many cases very true when it comes to explain a decision process in large organization and PLM vendor selection. So, I wanted to rethink PLM "P"s… With "four Ps" in mind I came to think about how to change everything in PLM. Here are my attempt to bring four P’s of future PLM:

1- People. This is a key thing, in my view. Probably to emphasize all previous attempts of creating "social system", future PLM should be about people at first. Manufacturing world is global and distributed. People like to work from many locations – sometimes because they need to and sometimes just because they like to travel and be digital nomads.

2- Product. The main focus of product lifecycle management system is to delivery product. Without product it doesn’t make sense. People love products they do and to help people to develop successful products will make system successful too.

3- Project. To bring product in life takes time and effort. And schedule. And coordination. What makes people to deliver on time? Project focus. So, the ability to work on projects is critical.

4- Profit. Last, but very important. Companies are businesses and want to make profit out of their products. So, to help keep focus on profit is important. How to make profit in manufacturing company is a tricky thing. To focus on right information is absolutely important to make it happen.

What is my conclusion? I’m not pretending to solve a problem of PLM in a single blog post. There is no silver bullet. PLM is a complex industry domain with many Ps. However, to focus on right things is important. People, product, project and profit are top 4 things PLM should be focusing to be successful. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net


How PLM can avoid cloud integration spaghetti?

June 18, 2015

21-centure-spaghetti-integration

Enterprise integration is a messy space. It is always complex – applications, databases, new and legacy systems, complexity of requirements. People usually need to run at least dozen of applications to run things smoothly. It is never done out-of-the-box and it is always requires circles of implementations and professional services.

I caught the following picture tweeted yesterday by Stan Przybylinski of CIMdata. It provides an excellent view of integration complexity. Unfortunately, in many situations, integration is a major challenge in PLM adoption. To get full value of PLM, company should spend a fortune integrating data and processes – CAD, Bill of materials, ECO, etc.

data-silos

Cloud is coming to enterprise these days. In many ways it creates a new way to think about data, software, services and maybe integrations too. The new technologies and eco-system of services can make a difference. It also creates a significant demand for openness and interoperability. This is a main reason why PLM need to learn web APIs. Web services and REST APIs are changing the way integration can be done.

Technology can make a difference. However, integrations are still hard. Few months ago, I shared my thoughts how to prevent cloud PLM integration mistakes. It comes down to three main things – 1/ lost data semantics; 2/ limitation of data transfers; 3/ transaction management in distributed and cross site environment.

Unfortunately, cloud is not a silver bullet to solve integration challenges. The demand for holistic integration continuum is still in the future. In practice, cloud applications today are replicating bad siloed behaviors of on premise applications. I captured the following picture earlier this week at Boston New Technology meetup.

cloud-silos-apps

This picture is the great demonstration of how bad aspects of siloed on premise applications are moving to cloud environment. Migration of applications on cloud infrastructure such as IaaS can simplify IT’s life. However, it won’t make life of users simpler. From end user standpoint, applications will still run in a silo.

What is my conclusion? The danger is to move established on premise PLM paradigms to the cloud. Technologically new cloud systems can give an advantages in terms of integrations. REST API is one example – it is much easier to code integration scenarios using REST APIs and modern web based tools. At the same time, closed data paradigms and data duplication between silos can bring well-know data spaghetti from on-premise applications to the cloud. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


How many execs will be killed by Frankensoft PLM platforms?

June 17, 2015

plm-frankersoft-pic

I’ve been following CIMdata PLM roadmap for HTE event on twitter yesterday. Navigate to the following link if you want to see tweets. One of the topic that CIMdata put on the agenda was “PLM platformization”. You can take a deep look on what is behind CIMdata’s fancy definition of “platformization” by navigating to the following link – A CIMdata Dossier: PLM Platformization. According to Peter Bilello of CIMdata, platformization is the future of PLM.

plm-platformization

It made me think about the trajectory of PLM implementations in most of manufacturing organizations that already have some PLM experience. My hunch is that most of manufacturing companies in the world that are able to grasp the idea of PLM implementations already made at least 1-2 attempts to implement PLM. Some of these companies are probably running more than one PLM systems because of legacy, M&A or other reasons.

I cannot resist by placing the following “spaghetti” system picture below tweeted by Stan Przybylinski. I guess this is a very typical representation of how processes are managed using existing legacy software and bunch services.

plm-system-spaggetti

It made me think how “platformization” will solve a problem of PLM implementations. According to CIMdata, the challenge is a gap in PLM, which is created between vision, technology and implementation. I couldn’t agree more. The dilemma is always between vision and the next step. Some people want to see a big picture, some people just want to focus on the next step. PLM vendors clearly focused on a big picture and missed the next step.

ZDNet article Legacy tech can kill the CIO by Michael Krigsman gives you a very interesting perspective on how organizations are adopting new technologies. I like the following passage:

The cost of maintaining legacy infrastructures can crowd-out the company’s investment in new technology. Research from Forrester indicates that only 28 percent of IT investment goes toward innovation; the remainder supports old technology. Users may resist adopting new technology even when better alternatives are available. The so-called diffusion of innovation is an old problem, identified in a book first published in 1962, by Everett M. Rogers.

The former chief technology officer of Portugal Telecom, Manuel Rosa da Silva, said: Our legacy holds us back. Hiding all this legacy is like putting on cosmetic cream to hide wrinkles. Unless you take a machete to your legacy and kill applications, you won’t get anywhere.

What is my conclusion? Manufacturing companies invested tons of money and resources in the implementations of PLM systems. It allowed to gather experience and learn from mistakes. I think companies achieved great results too. I know many examples of brilliant PLM implementations. However, what is not clear for most of manufacturing companies today is how to make a next step into future of PLM and new platforms. For many companies it sounds like one more commitment to invest 5 years and millions of dollars into replacement of existing PLM assets. The question about platformization is coming exactly here and it look likes big picture is still not connected with the next step. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Picture credit ZDNet article and Workday


New enterprise software reality for PLM vendors

February 21, 2015

enterprise-software-new-reality

I’m planning to attend PI Congress event in Dusseldorf next week. As part of the preparation, I’m taking a look back on past events. Back in 2012, I was presented at PLM Innovation 2012 event in Munich about PLM and consumerization. You can navigate and see my presentation. One of the topics I discussed was related to enterprise software and future impact on enterprise IT. The changes were coming to enterprise IT and we can see it clearly now. Business insider article Today’s IT department is in fight for its life can help you to understand the significance of changes.

enterprise-IT-on-fire

Changes in enterprise IT made me think again about what changed in enterprise software. I want to come with top three significant changes comparing to 2012 – Distributed, Connected, Cloud.

what-changed-in-enterprise-software

1- Distributed. Nothing happens these days in a single place. Regardless on what type of company and industry sector are you working, you have to deal with the situation when you customers, partners, suppliers, engineers, manufacturing facilities are located everywhere. This is a new reality and it is getting reflected into enterprise software.

2- Connected. Another thing. People need answer now, at the right moment. People are expecting a different speed from business and enterprise software must provide an answer. Social networks and web disrupted the way enterprises are operating nowadays. Everyone is staying connected.

3- Cloud. Enterprise moved from discussion about cloud into practical implementation of cloud software. It is not about why to implement cloud. It is about how to do it right. Enterprise software vendors and their customers are looking how to find a right solution for today and tomorrow.

What is my conclusion? The reality of today is distributed enterprise software. Essentially, there is no single location for any organization. If you developing PLM software today, take the distribution factor as the most fundamental requirement. Second is communication – the information is flowing between people at high speed and frequency. The right information is in chat, messenger, shared content. How to pickup this information and make it connected to people decisions is a critical aspect. The last one is cloud. There are lot of confusion about what is cloud and how it can be done for organization. But, every organization is going to discover how cloud is impacting what enterprise IT is doing. No escapes here. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Image courtesy of KROMKRATHOG at FreeDigitalPhotos.net


What is PLM software replacement cycle?

December 13, 2014

plm-recycle

PLM selection is complex process. It takes time to make a decision, evaluate, build a pilot and implement PLM system. I’ve been thinking about how this process can change in the future. Navigate to my Future PLM selection post to catch up. One of my discoveries was the following data point about age of ERP system.

Bluelinkerp blog – When should you replace your ERP software brings an interesting diagram – the majority of ERP implementations is up to 7 years old. The chart based on data provided by Aberdeen study – Aging ERP – When your ERP is too old.

erp-system-age

This data point is not scientific, my I can predict that company is replacing ERP system every 7-10 years. This number is actually aligned with similar numbers I’ve heard from ERP resellers in the past.

It made me think about replacement cycle of PLM systems. I guess we can probably see a similar trend in the PLM market too. PLM systems are aging and we can probably discover lifecycle of PLM implementations. Sort of PLM recycling. I’ve been trying to find some information to support it, but didn’t find much references online.

Joe Barkai’s blog – Product Innovation Congress 2014 San Diego brings some interesting fact about PLM system replacements. Here is the passage from Joe’s blog.

There appears to be much activity in selecting, replacing and upgrading PLM software. Some were first time PLM buyers, but there were a surprising number of companies expressing dissatisfaction with the exiting solution and seeking a “better” PLM system. I did not conduct a structured survey, but anecdotally it appears that a good number of those in search of a PLM replacement are users of ENOVIA SmarTeam and ENOVIA MatrixOne.

My observation: The continued search for a “better” PLM system will continue to drive activity and put pressure on PLM vendors to deliver greater value in enhanced functionality, lower cost, faster deployment, and new delivery and ownership models. The move of reluctant PLM vendors such as Oracle Agile to offer a cloud delivery model is but one recent example and I except other PLM vendors are in the process of following suit. This dynamic keeps the door open for vendors such as Aras PLM that continues to challenge the hegemony of the incumbents.

That being said, buyers should realize that the PLM software itself isn’t a substitute or remedy for flawed and suboptimal product development processes. For each dissatisfied PLM user company you will find many others who are highly successful and are able reap the full potential of the very same PLM software. It isn’t the SW. It’s you. Don’t blame the vendor.

My hunch most of large manufacturing companies already made few PLM system implementations. They made mistakes and probably want to fix them. In addition to that, businesses and systems requirements are evolving. People turnover is another factor. Enterprise systems lifecycle can be triggered by new people coming to the role of managing enterprise and engineering IT. So, 7-9 years, is a good time period to make analysis, fix problems and re-think PLM implementation and strategy.

What is my conclusion? Understanding of PLM software replacement cycle and lessons learned from an implementation can help to build a better PLM industry eco-system. It is less about blaming vendors of companies for software problems. It is more about understanding of business, technologies and implementation needs. Just my thoughts….

Best, Oleg


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