How To Stop Searching for PLM Killer App?

March 12, 2011

Are you familiar with the "Killer App" syndrome? In my view, conversations about a "Killer App" are very popular when some technological device or broad technological innovation needs to be proven. Killer App becomes so popular that return on the technology becomes obvious. I can bring some examples of Killer Apps in the past:VisiCalc on Apple II or Lotus 1-2-3 for IBM PC. However, in my view, talks about "killer app" are also a good indication about problems with a product or technology.

The following article caught my attention yesterday: What is the Killer Application for a Modern Engineer? I missed it when it was originally published in January. Chad Jackson, my colleague in the PLM Blogosphere, is talking about CAD, Collaboration and Mashups as examples of killer applications for Engineers. Where I disagree about the "notion" killer application in the context of engineers, I found analyzes Chad made in his post interesting.

Examples of Killer Apps?

CAD App
Personally, I think CAD is a mainstream technology. It was proven by many years. I don’t think, somebody today is designing any product without CAD system. History of CAD passed many waves of technological innovation that moved CAD between 2D, 3D and different computers platforms. I found surprising the fact SolidWorks wasn’t mentioned in the list of CAD products, but the choice of CAD was always somewhat "religious" and Chad’s selection didn’t surprise me.

Collaboration App
The history of various "collaborative applications" in the engineering space, in my view, started by introducing of data management to a wider company audience and following trial to expansion into PDM and PLM. The discussion about what is the killer app for collaboration is on going even today. My favorite collaboration tool for many years is email. Since I moved to Google App, I found it as a good addition to my email experience. PDM and PLM applications are constantly trying to replace email without visible success, in my view.

Mashups
The story of mashup is funny in my view. The word itself came to us from the Internet and Web space where applications (mostly running in the browser) "mashed up" the web content and making it more valuable for end users. The most successful mashup application, in my eyes is Google Map. I wrote about mashup on my blog before (Will Mashup Grow Up in PLM?) In my eyes mashups are interesting, but too vague and unclear from the standpoing of end-user who trying to get a job done.

PLM as a Killer App

In the beginning of 2000s PLM was introduced as a next big thing for engineers and manufacturing. After almost a decade of debates and different technological and product development attempts, I can see Product Lifecycle Management more as a "business and technological strategy" rather than "application".

Product Development: One Size Doesn’t Fit All?

Now think about design, engineering and manufacturing. It is all so different from various perspectives. Industry specific needs, departments and roles are different. Finally, every manufacturing shop is developing their own strategy for how to compete in the modern world and what can make it unique. If you ask me what application can fit everything, my ultimate answer is simple – Excel. Yes, Excel rocks when it comes to the flexibility and user adoption. The cost of customizing Excel to fit your needs is huge and the cost to support it even bigger (remember my Do you need chief Excel officer to manage BOM?)

What is my conclusion? PLM software vendors and analysts need to stop searching for a next "Killer Application". Flexibility and granularity are two important directions software vendors need to follow to gain next level of PLM software adoption. Just my opinion, of course. YMMV.

Best, Oleg


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