Why “collaborative change” can challenge PLM platforms?

August 27, 2015

collaboration-plm

The only permanent thing in life is change. The same is very true for engineering projects. We are changing things all the time. New products are introduced as a modifications of existing ones. Customers are demanding improvements. Mistakes can happen. There are many situations when change is required.

Teamcenter blog introduced an interesting classification of changes in the article – The Future of Change Management. One of the issues mentioned in this classification caught my special attention and it is related to concurrent or collaboration. Here is the passage explaining specific "collaborative change":

Since products can have many interdependencies, it is not always good to stay isolated. Engineers must be able to coordinate their changes. Change systems will support several types of collaboration. If changes are tightly coupled, they will have the ability to work on the same branch, always seeing the latest working versions of content in that branch.

In other cases, more ad-hoc collaboration is needed. An engineer is working on a change when the system identifies that some reference content (maybe a connected component) has an open change. The engineer will be able to pull the contents of that change into the current working context to ensure there are no conflicts.

There is also need to share working content among several changes. Engineers will be able ‘promote’ their working content into a sharable space, where other users may access all shared content. This can be used for virtual reviews, where the latest working content of the product or a system must be integrated.

Collaboration is such an interesting word. We apply it to some many situations and it comes in so many flavors. The technologies for collaboration developed intensively for the last few years and it was driven by multiple factors. One of them is the demand for more connected application behavior – our life is getting more connected. We are applying modern web and social network behavior in our business scenarios. At the same time engineering and manufacturing business is demanding better collaboration between silos – engineering, manufacturing and supply chain to improve product cost and quality.

It made me think about some potential challenges for PLM platform in supporting highly demanded collaborative scenarios. A traditional data management approach assumed data locking that prevented data from being changed by more than one users. It is an efficient technique, but it potentially can result in not very pleasant user experience or limitation on how people can address changes collaboratively. Many applications in such situations are ending up with brutal "synchronization" buttons or similar behaviors.

Another complexity aspect is related to notifications. We like to be notified about changes. Notification is a challenge for many PLM developers trying to make it user friendly. However, in a highly collaborative environment, notifications can become a nightmare of users. Who wants to get thousands of notifications every day?

What is my conclusion? Business environment is demanding higher level of collaboration and coordination. It can improve business workflows, product quality and lower product cost. At the same time, it can create new challenges to PLM platforms that historically designed to work in a transactional way and can be not ready to support new collaborative application nature. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net



Will PLM vendors rethink toolkit approach?

August 26, 2015

plm-toolkit

Business models and technologies can come together and create significant and painful problems. The last few years, created lot of changes and new dynamics in engineering and manufacturing domain. 3D printing, cloud software, mobile – this is only a short list of examples. Product lifecycle management software is facing few interesting challenges and opportunities related to new demands of customers for faster ROI and lean implementations. Navigate to read more about it here – New manufacturing business models will influence PLM software.

Despite all changes, PLM still has some sort of “uncomfortable” price for many customers. It leads to future innovation in this space. One of the examples in this space is related to a new business formula from Aras that includes software upgrades into Aras Innovator subscription. More about it here – Aras and search for new business models. Aras subscription model is leveraging Aras enterprise open source model.

Open source is probably doesn’t sound as loud these days as it was few years ago. At the same time, open source innovation is fueling many new solutions and business models. My attention was caught by Techcrunch article – Custom Analytics Company Keen IO Goes Open Source With Its Data Explorer. Here is my favorite passage from the article:

But the Data Explorer, which launched earlier this year, isn’t just for programmers. Instead, businesses can use it to explore and visualize their data through a friendlier interface. In Wild’s words, it lets you “point-and-click your way to analyze data.” By open-sourcing the tool, Wild said Keen IO is allowing customers to embed the interface into their own internal websites and apps, customize the interface and potentially improve it and contribute back. Wild noted that Keen IO already open-sourced its dashboard templates and he said the company plans to make more available in the future.

I found it interesting because it emphases the importance of solving core fundamental data management and collaboration problems using open source approach. In a broad sense, PLM software is the same “data management toolkit” wrapped with layers of applications, configurations and customers. Here is the thing – none of PLM vendors didn’t think about converting core platform into open source and allowing to customers to develop their applications. Aras is probably half-way exclusion.

At the same time, 10-15 years ago, PDM / PLM platforms were actually advanced data management toolkits used by large implementation services team to develop highly customizable PLM applications for aerospace and automotive industry.

What if one of the existing core PLM platforms will turn into open source toolkit? It will allow to community of developers to build solutions on top of it and sell it to customers. Actually core developers of PLM platforms will turn their focus into providing of tools and technologies to support a consistent application experience. Salesforce can be a good example of providing UX experience that can be reused by developers. Take a look at Lightning Design System allowing to 3rd party developers to design applications with the same look and feel.

What is my conclusion? The next innovation turn might require rethinking multiple aspects of PLM software – business and technical. In the past, toolkit approach proved to be successful to sell complex PDM / PLM solutions to large companies. Today, a combination of open source and toolkit approach can fuel next step of innovation in product lifecycle management. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Image courtesy of dan at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 


PLM and enterprise silos in networked age

August 24, 2015

plm-and-linkedin-rolodex

Our everyday business life is changing. Remember sales people with rolodexes that helped you to find right contacts? I’m sure some of my friends in sales are still using them. But, be honest, how many times for the last week you checked LinkedIn to get information about company or person? According to published statistics, LinkedIn has 107 million users in United States and 97 million unique visitors every month. LinkedIn is a great source of information to find right people.

Here is an interesting news – LinkedIn Built Its New App to Replace Your Office Directory. I found it interesting. Until now office directories were part of IT stack in every company. It usually stuck between email service and abbreviation like LDAP. It was mixed and messed up with you contact lists on your multiple devices and never worked properly (at least for me).

The following passage from the article explains the problem.

“Most companies have some crappy directory service that either they’ve created themselves or they’re [paying for],” said Ankit Gupta, project lead for Lookup. “People don’t really update their internal profiles. People don’t even add a photo. So they’re actually turning to LinkedIn [already].”

You could already do this sort of searching within the main LinkedIn app, but it required a little more strategy with filters and search terms. Gupta says that people check out their colleagues’ profiles more than you’d think — when searching for people on LinkedIn, users click on a colleague’s profile about 30 percent of the time. This app is intended to simplify that search and keep it company-specific, he added.

There are a lot of tools already out there that serve a similar purpose, including Slack, which is benefiting from Silicon Valley’s propensity for sky-high valuations. Facebook is testing a business offering, too. Gupta says he doesn’t see this product as a competitor to those because Lookup is more of a directory than a communication service. (My guess is that LinkedIn may one day change its mind.)

It made me think about how companies developing social networking, communication and collaboration software are getting to the point where their functions will become operation critical for every company. Think about directory of suppliers and contract manufacturers. You may think about it as a bunch of business card in a rolodex of your “supply chain” manager. You can also think about it as a list of vendors in your ERP system. But, at the same time, you can think about it as a list of companies with contact information on LinkedIn. This is where things can get interesting, because it will have a potential to redefine boundaries of enterprise software functions.

LinkedIn might not be a software to manage contract manufacturers tomorrow. But it provides a valuable set of information that can be used and “linked” to other applications. Remember my “PLM: from sync to link” article last year? Here is the thing. In a networked era, we can stop thinking about how to get all information in our own proprietary system. We can start using existing systems and rely on other sources of information – a real paradigm shift in the way we operate.

What is my conclusion? Traditional enterprise software created silos of information. For years, vendors tried to protect the information in each and every silo- it gave them a protection from competitors tried to eat a bigger slice of enterprise software pie. The real change is coming with systems that are operating globally as a network. LinkedIn is a good example. People and companies are connected using LinkedIn. This information is valuable and can be linked and reused by other systems. Are we ready for such a significant change? I’m not sure, but it feels like the direction business will take tomorrow. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

picture credit [Re/code] article.


PLM and integration business

August 19, 2015

plm-integration-business

Integrations. Enterprise software implementations are heavy depending on the ability to integrate different pieces of software. Each and every PLM implementation I’ve seen required some sort of integrations. It might be integration of CAD and PDM packages, which is relatively straightforward in many situations. But it can be also very challenging one, such as integrations between PLM and ERP functionality which can bring many organizational and technological difficulties.

Most of PLM integrations are doing by integration and service partners. It removes many problems with licensing of competitive software from different vendors. The integration business is tricky. As an example of turbulent character of integration business you can read news about Informatica buyout few weeks ago – Microsoft And Salesforce Join In $5.3 Billion Buyout Of Informatica. Not directly related to PLM world, but it gives some impression about business of integration software (related to both Informatica and Tibco):

But Informatica couldn’t ultimately find a better option for its $1 billion in annual revenue business, which grew just 10% on constant currencies in Q2 of 2015 on software revenue growth of 13% and subscription growth of 44% year-to-year. That rate of growth was essentially flat from the year before. Like competitor Tibco, Informatica had fallen into a low-growth, mature sales cycle after seeing its stock soar and then crater when the dotcom bubble burst. Both had eventually regrown into multi-billion valuations, but after years of sales growth to get back where they were. Tibco was taken private in December for about $4.3 billion, $1 billion less than Informatica.

After some thinking, it occurred to me that large enterprise PLM implementations are essentially integration projects. It combined from very typical set of integration steps – analysis of data processes in the organization, data modeling, defining flows of data, reporting and monitoring tools. PLM platforms are essentially data integration toolkits allowing to handle very specific set of information. Which connected me to one of my previous articles – How PLM can avoid cloud integration spaghetti. As PLM industry moves to the cloud, it must find a better way to deal with PLM implementations and its essential part – integrations.

It made me think about few possible ways PLM vendors can change a trajectory of traditional integrations and business strategies.

1- Open source PLM data toolkits. Open source software has a strong presence in a modern software eco-system. For many software vendors today, open source is a natural way to develop products. I’ve been watching few PLM open source initiatives, but most of them were lack of product maturity. Turning part of existing PLM platform into open source, can trigger a change in the way PLM implementations can be done. Aras Corp is the most closed example of such initiative. Although Aras Innovator core module is not open source, most of solutions developed on top of Aras are open source projects.

2- Automation platforms to trigger and action based integrations. You might be familiar with integration automation services such as Zapier and IFTTT. Both are extremely efficient to automate variety of integration activities between cloud applications. These automation services are providing development platform for other companies to create specific integration connection points and services. Jitterbit is probably the closed example of automation services in PLM ecosystem.

3- Integration businesses as part of cloud hosting services. In a growing eco-system of cloud PLM software, hosting providers can play a role of implementation and integration service providers too. In my view, it is a very dynamic space. All large manufacturing companies implemented on premise PLM as of today will start looking how to bring cloud PLM solutions – integrations will become the most challenging part of making transformation happen.

What is my conclusion? PLM implementations are complex. And "integration" is the most complicated part of it. The traditional PLM implementation approach is holding back PLM business. How to turn PLM implementations into agile and lean process? PLM integration improvement can be a good step to clean the mess of PLM implementations. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


3 ways to break PLM social intertia

August 18, 2015

social-plm-inertia

You might think "social trend" is over for enterprise product lifecycle management. PLM companies are not buzzing too much about social PLM these days. In my earlier post back in 2012, I shared my thoughts Why Social PLM 1.0 failed? One of my conclusions was that "social PLM" had low value for single user and provided too much focus on enterprise-wide value proposition such as improved collaboration, streamline processes, etc. Nothing wrong with that, but it failed.

At the same time, I think, the fight for social enterprise is not over yet. My attention caught E(E) blog Antisocial Enterprise V: the final Facebook by Ed Lopategui. The article brings few very interesting points related to failure or success of social systems inspired by analysis of Google+ trajectory and his own experience of moving from G+ to Facebook. He summarized it with 3 points conclusion: First movers inertia, network competition and users fatigue, technology is irrelevant. Ed is asking for a system for both – work and play. The following passage can give you an idea and reason in a nutshell.

So it should be rather plain right now that Facebook is eating the world. People want to leave it, but they simply can’t. Lots of upstarts appear to dethrone them, they languish for a while, and are crushed. The only meaningful exodus is younger people who are leaving, not necessarily for a better experience elsewhere, but merely to escape a system that ties them uncomfortably close to their parents. What does that mean for enterprise networks? Competing in this environment may not be an option. It may be high time to change strategy – turn to the Trojan horse approach perhaps. Integration encapsulated within a robust security model to slowly build the inertia necessary to ween users off Facebook altogether, without having to directly give up Facebook. Until it’s too late. That would require a system designed for both work and play that understands and can transparently enforce the needed boundaries between both.

Here is the thing. I’m not sure agree with the approach of building a social system for both play and work. It sounds not realistic to me. But I captured one thing, which is important to understand – inertia. This is a huge deal. Many manufacturing enterprises are operating under high level inertia assumption. It means that they have no real reason to make a specific change decision. Business is operating as usual, until something really bad happens. To take a decision and introduce a change is risky and people are afraid of making mistakes. This is what happened with social systems. Systems such SharePoint took enterprises by storm. It means that IT managers discovered one day that all employees in a company is using SharePoint, but central IT has no idea where servers located and who installed them.

So, how to design a Tojan horse that will solve a problem of social inertia. I think, a deeper look at Facebook story as well as experience with other systems. Here is a potential options of how to make it happen.

1- Ease of data capture. The massive success came to Facebook with availability of camera on every mobile device. We can think about ease of capturing data for social PLM system. If a "social Trojan horse" will be able to capture data in the organization and help share it with other people can be a good way preventing people to leave a system.

2- Open – to prevent data locks. People are afraid of data locked in a specific system. Each time they think, that social system is another silo to lock data, they will run away. Make it easy to get in and out can be another way to eliminate initial inertia.

3- Innovate in business model to make it available for a whole organization. Social software brings value when it used by many people. The more people you bring in, the better is system behavior and more substantial is value proposition. Lucrative licensing and business models of PLM vendors are not very much appealing to most of social PLM software to be used by all people in an organization.

What is my conclusion? Social inertia is a big deal. Few tricks like real identity and pictures made a change for Facebook and allowed to spread across communities and people. Looking for something similar for enterprise can be a key to unlock the future of social enterprise PLM system. Who will find that key first, will have it all. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Image courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net


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


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