CAD companies and cloud storage strategy

July 7, 2014

cad-cloud-storage-strategy

Cloud storage is changing fast these days. From relatively small portion of our life limited mostly by online email, cloud storage is growing into space where majority of our activities are happening these days. Email, photo storage, online documents, calendars, shopping – this is only a short list. Changes are coming to corporate world as well. New York Times article Google, Microsoft and Others Delve Deeper Into Cloud Storage for Businesses speaks about trajectories of cloud storage and business. Here is an interesting passage:

Soon, keeping your digital goods will also be the means for tech companies to understand who does what inside a business, just the way they understand consumers by watching what they do on the web. “Storage is where the stickiness is,” said Jeffrey Mann, vice president for research at Gartner. “It’s how they hold a customer. If they store your stuff, they get to know you better.”

So, you may think the strategy is to hold data and keep customers as hostages for storage. It might sounds like a strategy for short term. However, web giants don’t see storage as something that will hold companies strategically. The following passage can give you a feeling of direction:

“Cloud storage is a temporary market,” said Scott Johnston, director for product management for Drive, Google’s online storage, document creation and collaboration business. “In the future it will be about elevating productivity: How do we look for patterns? What does it mean if a document is read by 10 percent of the company? What does it mean if you haven’t read it yet?" It’s a strategy that Microsoft is also pursuing with its OneDrive product. Dropbox, a storage site popular with consumers, and Box, a storage and collaboration site specifically for business, are both also working on ways to turn data storage into something that provides greater insight into how people are working. Dropbox started a business offering last year.

This point of view made me think about what can be a potential strategy of CAD companies related to cloud storage and operations of CAD systems. The majority of CAD business today is not in the cloud. CAD files and related information is stored on desktop computers and local area networks. How big this data and how easy and transparently companies can move this data to the cloud (private and public) and make it available for collaboration? The demand for better collaboration is huge. CAD vendors are working on cloud CAD systems. But this work is just in the beginning. Cloud storage of CAD files and seamless access by existing desktop CAD systems can be a short term CAD file management strategy. The most interesting part is coming next. If I will follow Google’s logic, companies can make analysis of massive amount of CAD data and use it for future product design improvement and better work organization.

What is my conclusion? Data is a fuel for future growth. Whoever will capture CAD data these days will have an ability to run analytic work and make that data part of future design strategy. In most of cases today, companies have very limited capability to re-use design, make analysis and predict future improvements. Cloud storage can be a first step towards future data-driven design. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


Oslo & Office Graph – new trajectories in discovery and search?

June 18, 2014

microsoft-oslo-office-graph

Earlier today, Engineering.com article Search & Discover Solutions: A Google-Like Experience? introduced me to a new three letter acronym – SDS (search and discovery solution). Honestly, I don’t believe industry is looking for a new TLA. At the same time, the topic of information search is still unsolved for many manufacturing and engineering companies. Author pointing on two types of data – “structured” and “unstructured” and explains that the right solution should crunch both types of information to bring relevant results. Here is my favorite passage:

The sheer amount of unstructured data can be overwhelming, strongly suggesting administrative programs for improved searching, i.e., converting unstructured data to structured data. Then searching content in structured databases can be done with more precision; the time to find requested data is relatively faster.

What’s needed is analytic power to merge structured and unstructured data into one view, a task Google can do. Without an SDS, a company could replicate what Google does, using the same methodology as Google – but the cost would be huge. Google, however, achieves the perception of a structured view by using complex algorithms and millions of searches to present a structured view when no predefined structured view actually exists. Besides, there is simply not enough scale in a typical company to replicate this Google-like experience.

I’m not sure about how close is Google to crunch corporate data, product and part catalogs. At the same time, I found Microsoft is on track to bring some new stuff in the space of search and discovery tool. Called Oslo and Office Graph, this application and technology supposed to gather information from different “silos” and combine it together with intuitive user experience. What is very interesting is how Oslo anticipate the connection between different elements of data – websites, office documents, people, etc. and transforms it into connected explorable environment.

office-graph-plm

The following video brings a good review and perspective on what you can do with Oslo app (which is supposed to be available later this year):

Oslo/Graph took me back to my article – Will Microsoft Yammer Kill Social PLM? two years ago. It looks like Microsoft/Yammer deal starts to bring some fruits to evolving Microsoft Office /SharePoint ecosystem. The problem of information silos exists in all organizations – engineering and manufacturing are not the exclusion from the list. Oslo and Office Graph captures a significant portion of email and office social communication, which can be interesting layer for every IT organization to build solution.

What is my conclusion? I can see an increased amount of solutions focusing on how to capture graph semantics. More companies are discovering the way to capture a diverse set of data and relationships. Captured information can be used to develop new type of user experience. Will Oslo and Office Graph become a good foundation layer for CAD/PLM developers? This is a good question to ask. In the past some CAD companies had mixed experience with SharePoint based products. Time will show if Office Graph will shine as a layer to discover CAD and other product related data. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


Will Yammerized Office help to shape CAD/PLM social future?

June 17, 2014

yammerized-office-356

To connect relevant pieces of information is one of the long time dreams developed by many PLM vendors. The pieces of data in design, engineering, manufacturing are intertwined. However, in many situations they are managed by different systems and/or located in different places. Communication behaviors are applied on top of these pieces of information. Lots of communication behaviors and data sharing was captured by social networks these days.

I’ve been following what Microsoft is doing with social systems earlier in early versions of SharePoint and later with Yammer acquisition. Take a look on some of my earlier write ups here – Will Microsoft Yammer Kill Social PLM… Not yet. I’ve been reading CRN article Microsoft Deepens Yammer Integration With SharePoint Online, OneDrive For Business during the past weekend. The article speaks about an interesting feature – Document Conversation. The following passage explains that:

Microsoft Tuesday unveiled a new feature called Document Conversations, which adds Yammer conversations to more than 30 different file types, including Office documents, images and videos. When a user opens a document, image or video file in their browser from SharePoint Online or OneDrive for Business, a contextual Yammer conversation pops up. From there, users can talk with other colleagues to get more insight about the file…

You can get more details in the Office blog article. The following video shows a little preview how it supposed to work.

Office/Yammer document conversation feature made think again about how important to have the ability to add contextual features applied to a specific content. By doing that, you have the ability to step down on the more granular level of communication between people. In the past, I’ve seen similar features applied in CAD and 3D model viewers tools as well. Navigate to one of my previous posts – From design collaboration to CAD social tools shows similar functionality in AutoCAD 360, Dassault UC tools and Vuuch design discussion.

One of the most important element of discussion is to have the ability to apply it to a specific “context” in the document / file / 3D model. It will make collaboration more precise and efficient.

What is my conclusion? The idea to make a contextual conversation applied to a specific content is the one that will allow to user to have a better, granular way to communicate. In the past world CAD/PDM/PLM world, “file” was the most granular communication medium. It is clearly not enough these days. To apply “document level” discussion and having the ability to identify granular context is the key. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


Will PLM Vendors Jump into Microsoft Cloud Window in Europe?

April 11, 2014

european-plm-cloud

Cloud is raising lots of controversy in Europe. While manufacturing companies in U.S. are generally more open towards new tech, European rivals are much more conservative. Many of my industry colleagues in Germany, France, Switzerland and other EU countries probably can confirm that. Europe is coming to cloud systems, but much slower. I’ve been posting about cloud implications and constraints in Europe. Catch up on my thoughts here – Will Europe adopt cloud PLM? and here PLM cloud and European data protection reforms. These are main cloud concerns raised by European customers – data, privacy and specific country regulation. With companies located in different places in EU, it can be a challenge.

Earlier today, I’ve heard some good news about cloud proliferation in Europe coming from Microsoft. TechCrunch article – Microsoft’s Enterprise Cloud Services Get A Privacy Thumbs Up From Europe’s Data Protection Authorities speaks about the fact Microsoft enterprise cloud service meets the standards of data privacy in several European countries. Here is a passage that can put some lights on details and what does it mean:

But today comes a piece of good news for Redmond: the data protection authorities (DPAs) of all 28 European member states have decided that Microsoft’s enterprise cloud services meet its standards for privacy. This makes Microsoft Azure, Office 365, Microsoft Dynamics CRM and Windows Intune the first services to get such approval. The privacy decision was made by the “Article 29 Data Protection Working Party,” which notes that this will mean that Microsoft will not have to seek approval of individual DPAs on enterprise cloud contracts. In its letter to Microsoft (embedded below), chair Isabelle Falque-Pierrotin writes, “The MS Agreement, as it will be modified by Microsoft, will be in line with Standard Contractual Clause 2010/87/EU… In practice, this will reduce the number of national authorizations required to allow the international transfer of data (depending on the national legislation).”

Majority of PDM / PLM providers are friendly with Microsoft tech stack. Some of them are completely relies on MS SQL server and other Microsoft technologies. Most of them are supporting SharePoint. Now, these PLM vendors have an additional incentive to stay with Microsoft technologies for the cloud. It can be also a good news for manufacturing companies already deployed PDM/PLM solutions on top of Microsoft technologies and developed custom solutions.

What is my conclusion? The technological landscape these days is very dynamic. The time, one platform worked for everybody is over. In light of technological disruption and future challenges tech giants will be using different strategies in order to stay relevant for customers. Will European cloud regulation keep PDM/PLM players with MS Azure and other Microsoft technologies compared to alternative cloud technological stacks? How fast will take to other players to reach the same level of compliance? These are good questions to ask vendors and service providers. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


How engineers find path from emails and messages to collaboration?

March 14, 2014

email-message-collaboration

We are really bad about managing ourselves. The natural people behavior is to create mess. Life is getting more dynamic these days. We are swamped into the ocean of information, data streams, social networks, emails, calls, etc. If you want me to do something, send me an email. I’m pretty sure you are familiar with such type of behavior? I’m sure you do. This is our way to get our of mess, so we can track everything. It is true for both private and business life. One of the most requested feature in all PLM workflow systems I developed was to send notifications via email. HRB article Stop using your inbox as to-do list speaks about why we should stop this bad behavior. I liked the following passage:

The reason so many of us fall into the trap of conflating email and task management is that email is inextricable from much of what we do in work and in life: many of our tasks arrive in the form of email messages, and many other tasks require reading or sending emails as part of getting that work done.

While there are those who solve this problem by simply tracking their to-dos using the task manager within Outlook (or another email platform), that approach comes at too steep a cost. Keeping your tasks in your email program means you can’t close that program (and its attendant distractions) when you want to plow through your task list. Having both activities as part of one application also means that you’ll still have to flip from one view to the other; even if you open a separate window for your task list, you risk losing sight of it in a sea of open emails. Most crucially, defaulting to the task manager that is built into your email client means you don’t get to choose the particular task manager that works best for your particular kind of work, or work style.

Email became the pile of all activities I need to do. It is a mix of emails, tasks, alerts and everything else that eventually comes to my inbox to distract me. I want to resolve this mess. At the same time we all panic when messages are starting to come into multiple channels, since we are afraid to miss them. So want both – to keep all messaging activities together and focus on what is important and what needs to be done. It is a time to come with David Allen’s Getting Things Done method. Such method and systems can work for individuals, but what happens in groups, especially when these groups are sharing common tasks? This is where we get social these days.

Social became such a buzzword for the last few years. How many times you’ve heard "Facebook for xyz" or "Twitter for abc". I guess a lot… One of the companies that comes to my mind in that context is Yammer. The idea of Yammer was simple – go viral by combining people messages in activity streams. Microsoft snapped Yammer for $1.2B few years ago. Now Microsoft is converging Yammer with SharePoint – an attempt to create social collaboration system. Mobile has very strong impact on our life these days. Does mobile+social is a future big deal? For some of people it is really big deal – especially when we speak about Whatsapp acquisition by Facebook. Companies are recognizing the importance of messaging platforms. Example in engineering and CAD space – Autodesk (disclose – my current employer) just released mobile group messaging application Autodesk Instant.

So, social chat, social messaging, social networking are good. However, where is the line that turns emails and messaging into collaboration? The difference is big. What can differentiate between social email facilitating communication and system that allows people to collaborate (work together)? I posted Will Microsoft-Yammer kill social PLM? Not yet… The topic differentiating messaging and collaboration is context (piece of data). This data is presented in a contextual form allowing people to make operations and activities together. The simplest "collaboration" is commenting on Facebook photo. In the context of engineering activity, it can be more complex. What about drawing or 3D model? This is a good context for common work. So, collaborative nature of the system is first of all to allow access and common activity on the contextual data. Technically it can be done by sending email with link to the file on FTP site. But it is so 95…

What is my conclusion? I don’t think there is a clear boarder between email,messaging and collaboration. It is blurred. However, access to contextual information and data representations such as photo, spreadsheet, drawing or 3D model is the most important thing that differentiate between any type of fancy email / messaging and collaboration. By accessing these pieces of information together people can work together and get job done in an organized form. Engineers are surrounded by huge amount of complex information. So, collaboration is clearly way to go. However, don’t underestimate simple messaging, especially for some downstream tasks. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


The future battle for PLM upfront cost

November 5, 2013

PLM-zero-upfront-cost

Transformation of business models is one of the most important trends that happens today in the industry. Take a deep breath… it doesn’t mean companies don’t want to be compensated for the work they do. These days it is just about how to define the right business model that reflecting the relationships between all participants in the business.

The last tsunami related to the software price happened after recent announcement of Apple to make lot of their software including their OSX free. Over the weekend, I’ve been reading Forbes article – The Upfront Software Price is Now Free. Read the article and draw your conclusion. Even if the majority of the focus is related to what happens between major software giants – Microsoft, Apple and Google, in my view, it will have an impact on enterprise software too. The following passage is important.

With software being distributed either as web applications or through models that required a connection to the internet, software gained the ability to be distributed on a subscription basis or subsidized through advertising. Over the past few years, application software has increasingly moved to an initial price point that edges closer to zero on a consistent basis.

It made me think that changes of distribution model can be an additional driver to transform them way PLM (and other enterprise software) will be distributed and licensed.

The discussion about PLM software price, licenses and total cost of ownership is not new. First time I raised the question about coming business model transformation on my blog back in 2009 – Is Free the future of PLM? Since that time, the discussion went in different directions. You probably remember the Future PLM business models panel discussion I moderated during PLM Innovation 2012 in Munich. Another post, which is actually very co-sound with the idea of transformation as a result of changes in distribution model – PLM Cloud and Software licensing transformation.

However, in addition to cloud, SaaS and Web, there is another driving force behind changing PLM software business model. It is open source. Take a look here – PLM: Open Source vs. Free. In my view, open source is another powerful opportunity to change PLM business model status quo. In PLM business, Aras Corp. is driving this change since 2007 by promoting a very unique "Enterprise Open Source" model. Navigate to another article just published on Aras website – PLM Licensing is so Old School. Here is an interesting passage:

If your PLM software deployment gains wide-spread adoption (a goal of every successful PLM implementation), you will need to purchase more licenses. PLM license expenses can be huge up-front, but broad, global roll-outs are where the costs absolutely skyrocket. Effectively, the PLM project becomes a victim of its own success.

The last point about PLM upfront licenses preventing wider adoption of PLM software in the organization is interesting. PLM vendors are looking towards how to make PLM products available downstream in manufacturing organizations as well as in the supply chain. The high end-user cost is clearly not helping to make this dream come true.

What is my conclusion? In my view, PLM cost future trajectory is going towards "usage" and not "upfront cost". It is true in other places, but for PLM it can be a significant change that energize future increase in PLM software adoption and… consumption. It will be driven by major factors such as internet distribution channels as well as open source and service engagements. I don’t see big difference here – both strategies basically removes upfront cost and focus on usage. The changes are unavoidable. Business transformation train left the station. It is just a question of time. In my view, all PLM vendors are actively researching what does it mean for their current businesses and how to act (or react). Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


How to stop comparing PLM and SharePoint?

October 29, 2013

compare-sharepoint-plm

SharePoint is a long debated topic in PLM ecosystem. Starting from the early success of SharePoint back in 2006-2007, many companies are asking question about SharePoint and PLM system comparison. SharePoint took a significant market share using a successful licensing policy to embed the introductory version of SharePoint into Windows Server license. Another strong point of SharePoint was a very good integration with Microsoft Office. At the same time, despite a significant mainstream success, SharePoint still raised many questions about how manufacturing companies can leverage SharePoint to manage CAD drawing, collaborate and share engineering data.

I addressed SharePoint point on my blog many times. If you never had a chance to read my SharePoint related articles, maybe you can start by Why PLM should care of SharePoint? Another post that will help you to learn more about SharePoint and PLM could be this one – PLM and SharePoint Technical Definition.

Microsoft and PLM vendors had long debates about how to partner about SharePoint. The results of debates and partnership was mixed. Some of vendors (eg. Siemens PLM) made a long commitment by integrating between TeamCenter and SharePoint. The examples are TeamCenter Community, SolidEdge Insight (SolidEdge XT, SolidEdge SP). Other vendors like PTC, tried to establish multiple products that re-using SharePoint infrastructure (Windchill SocialLink, Windchill ProductPoint, etc.). Some of them succeed and some of them failed. You can read more here. Other vendors tried to investigate more into service contracts to integrate SharePoint with PLM products and infrastructure.

Microsoft SharePoint business is big these days. At the same time, it started to show some indication of weakness that might be typical for enterprise type of solution. In a nutshell it became complex, hard to deploy and costly (especially in the situations when organization required to scale up SharePoint to a fully blown enterprise solution). Read my article SharePoint got infected with PLM disease. Microsoft is trying to react on the new SharePoint status. From what I see, Microsoft is transforming SharePoint from product into infrastructure. You can find more information about this activity in my post – Will PLM Benefit From “SharePoint Death”?

Recently, another interesting information about SharePoint deployment came to my attention. Navigate your browser to ArnoldIT blog – SharePoint Not on the Radar. The writeup quoting some research surveys made by AIIM. I found the following passage important.

AIIM conducted a survey and found that only 6% of its respondents found their deployments successful, while 43% are struggling with implementing SharePoint, and another 28% say that progress has stalled in their SharePoint projects. That only touches the shallow end of the SharePoint pool. Many companies are also running multiple versions of the software, which can only lead to compatibility issues.

Another interesting publication research made by consulting outfit – Razorleaf. Navigate to the following link to access Razorleaf’s PLM and SharePoint white paper. Here is an interesting passage from Razorleaf article:

SharePoint is poised to become an ubiquitous document and content management system with great capabilities for ad hoc collaboration, whereas Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) is a similar but more structured system focused on product development content. By integrating SharePoint and PLM (the Product Data Management (PDM) components of PLM), users can blend the benefits of both to enable ad hoc collaboration on top of rich, structured product data and information.

Another similar conclusion is coming from Aras PLM blog – Why Can’t We Just Use SharePoint? The discussion in the article is about why SharePoint is not capable to replace PLM software. Aras blog is mentioning two significant capabilities missed in SharePoint – context / relationships management and missing workflow capabilities. Without agreeing on specific elements, I have to admit that general conclusion in the following passage seems to be right:

SharePoint is a powerful tool that has a very useful place in your PLM strategy, however, unless you are ready to invest significant time and resources into customization (i.e. building all the PLM functionality), it is not a replacement for choosing and deploying a real PLM system.

What is my conclusion? Back in 2006-2007, SharePoint provided an interesting and easy to deploy set of tools perceived by everybody as something that might have a potential of PLM system. Since that time, SharePoint gravitated more towards "platform". At the same time, PLM is more focusing on cloud vertical solution and business application. Will their paths meet in the future? This is a very good and important question to ask. I’m doubt about that. Meanwhile, the difference is so obvious, in my view. So, to stop comparing PLM and SharePoint should be a clear goals. The complimentary paths are possible indeed. Just my thoughts…

Best,Oleg

PLM-sharepoint.pdf


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