Will PLM vendors work with Apple and IBM on Mobile First?

October 28, 2014

ibm-apple-mobile-first

Few months ago, I posted about potential for Apple and IBM to open a door for mobile PLM future. Blog raised lot of questions, but I haven’t seen any groundbreaking announcements from CAD and PLM vendors since that time. Maybe I missed some press releases or maybe companies are shy to announce and work in a stealth mode.

One more news about the same topic caught my attention again few days ago. Business insider article Apple And IBM Hope To Change The Way People Work, Starting Next Month. I noticed few snippets of information indicating interest and stating that some development work is under go. Here are few passages:

"Hundreds" of corporations worldwide have "expressed interest" in MobileFirst to Apple, which is "actively working with over 50 of them to become foundational clients for MobileFirst solutions in their industries," Maestri said. The apps mostly focus on analyzing business data. IBM’s Schroeter says the first dozen applications will launch this quarter. Some apps will be out next month, Maestri told Reuters.

IBM gets paid to write the apps and then host them on its cloud, and it also has the chance to sell other things, like security software, and so on. "We also know that the deeper the apps go in the enterprise, the more it opens up avenues in enterprise," Cook said. "And that’s a key part of the IBM partnership and what I think customers will get out of that, which is more important than us selling, is changing the way people work."

IBM Mobile First website is up and running. You can browse to get more information. I found few interesting use cases under build category.

Navigate to this link to Rohde & Schwarz cuts mobile development costs by 60 percent. This use case speaks about cross platform mobile application development. More specifically it was about creating mobile enterprise infrastructure to generate applications. To integrate with existing enterprise backend infrastructure was one of the challenges PLM vendors and manufacturing companies are experiencing today. Here is an interesting passage I captured from case study:

Rohde & Schwarz wanted to create a mobile enterprise infrastructure that enabled it to support multiple devices and generate required applications. Specifically, the company sought to build, run and manage a range of applications for customers, partners and employees within an aggressive timeframe. However, the organization had certain challenges, including a need for cross-platform development as well as integration with back-end systems such as SAP and an existing mobile device management infrastructure.

It made me think about potential of specific PLM mobile application development. One of my earlier posts -Mobile PLM gold rush: did vendors miss the point? I’ve been talking about the fact, successful "mobile" strategy requires development of application to support specific use cases and scenarios. I continue to discuss the same idea here – How PLM vendors can find mobile moments . Here is a passage from my older post, which I believe is still very relevant:

Consumers are moving to mobile and requesting more and more interaction with businesses via mobile devices. To make “all tablet” won’t work for product development software. To stop and think about a specific productivity apps that can solve a particular problem is the right way to go.

What is my conclusion? I didn’t find any trace of CAD/PLM companies working with IBM/Apple on mobile apps. However, I still believe, mobile experience is completely different from what customers in B2B spaces are experience with desktop or even web applications. To success in mobile, PLM companies need to find customer "mobile moments" that focus on a specific use cases where mobile device will provide a complete advantage. To replicate existing product into mobile devices won’t be a right path to go. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Image courtesy of IBM case study.


The future role of voice in PLM processes

October 7, 2014

mobile-voice-plm-process

Processes and workflows is a big topic in PLM. If you think about PLM as a way to manage a full scope of product development processes in organization, workflow is a foundation part of technologies and tools to implement that.

The definition of PLM process is usually complex and can come as workflow or rule-based. You may ask – why is it complex? Very often the answer is simple – enterprise organization is complex as well as communication between people is complex too. However, this is still not a reason to keep them complex in the future. In one of my earlier posts about PLM processes and implementation confusions, I shared my classification of PLM processes into design collaboration and change processes. People are still one of the most complex part of process implementations. Especially, if you speak about engineers. To manage engineering processes is like herding cats. Read more in my PLM and Engineering (task) process management post. One of my conclusions – we need to simplify process management.

In a real life, email remains one of the key players in process-driven implementations. There is nothing wrong in email and the requirement to integrate PLM processes with email is still on the top of PLM process requirement list. I honestly think that I need to update my workflow dream list.

The question how to simplify workflow and make collaboration easy is on the top of workflow and process management professionals. Some of PLM mindshare companies are focusing primarily how to improve process management.

One of my previous ideas around process simplification was related to mobile technologies. Earlier today, my attention was caught by Benedict Evans blogVoice is the next big thing in mobile. Article speaks about different form of communication – text messages, instant messaging and vocie. Here is the passage I liked:

…there is a lot of scope to innovate around the actual voice experience in much the same way that we have seen around messaging apps.In messaging we have seen two levels of innovation in experience. WhatsApp delivers ‘SMS 2.0′ – it does the things that telco technologies like IMS were supposed to add close to a decade ago, but not much more, so far. On the other, we have things like Line, Wechat, Kik and Snapchat that actually change what messaging is, even before you look at the platform elements of their offerings. I suspect (but no more) that it is harder fundamentally to change what voice is than to create alternatives to a snippet of text, and so the basic voice experience might change less – the innovation, like WhatsApp, may be more about the handling and routing and setup. That is, it kills the dialer. That’s one way to look at Talko – it rethinks what ‘dialer’ mean when there is no DTMF (or pulse), and builds value around that.

I specially like the idea of "setup simplification" to make a call. Sometimes, to make a dial is complex or even impossible. Imagine, you have engineers and service technician working on the same problem. They are located in separate places. Modern 3D collaboration technologies can share visual information between them. They can even share photos or camera. But "chatting" or "IMing" in such situation can be a complex thing. To be able to establish voice communication can be a killer function.

Another example can be related to "change process" approval. The description of problem is often complex and requires clarification. Very often it leads to going back and forth in approval process between people with messages and explanation. To setup one minute voice communication can solve a problem.

What is my conclusion? Voice and mobile can become a killer approach to simplify communication and streamline PLM process management. It can decrease number of messaging loops, speed up approvals or improve customer service. PLM vendors are very much behind in mobile innovation. Voice is part of this gap. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


How PLM vendors can find mobile moments

August 25, 2014

plm-mobile-moments

People are getting crazy about mobile apps these days. We are spending more time on our mobile devices. Nobody will argue about importance of mobile. We can see different mobile strategies among PLM vendors. At the same time, for most of them "mobile" is about developing "same version" of PLM suite, but for mobile device. Back in 2012 I posted about that – PLM gold rush: did vendors miss the point? Few months ago I was talking about "social" as a new mobile opportunity for PLM. I think PLM vendors didn’t crack "mobile" topic yet.

Forrester research put an interesting perspective on how to develop mobile apps. They called it "mobile mind shift". Navigate here to learn more. The following Forrester video gives you an idea about what is behind mobile shift. The most interesting part I found is related to finding so called "mobile moment". Navigate here to see an interesting table summarizing a potential list of mobile moments. I found some of them speaking very closely to potential mobile moments for PLM customers.

To succeed in your customer’s mobile moments, you must understand their journey and identify their needs and context at each potential moment. Then design your mobile application to quickly provide just what’s needed in that moment.

Here are few examples of consumer sale, business meeting or field maintenance.

Get information on a product while in a Best Buy store. Use a tablet to show a doctor a new Medtronic device. Retrieve maintenance history for a GE wind turbine.

These examples make sense to me. However, it made me think about complexity of finding these mobile moments. The situations where a specific customer wants to be involved into mobile context specific iteration can be very different. While lots of companies are moving to mobile these days, it looks like it will take time until overall B2B eco-system will be ready to mobile product and business related contextual scenarios.

What is my conclusion? B2C ecosystem is changing fast. Consumers are moving to mobile and requesting more and more interaction with businesses via mobile devices. However, B2B applications are not there yet. It seems to me sales and field maintenance operations can be two potential domains where PLM vendors can find mobile moments in the near future. We will see more mobile interactions coming soon with enterprise applications that will provide PLM "mobile moments". This is an early alert for PLM vendors and PLM architects. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


Will IBM and Apple open doors for mobile PLM future?

July 17, 2014

ibm-plm-apple-mobile

Enterprise software and Apple wasn’t much a success story until now. Don’t take me wrong – you can enterprise execs and even IT folks are using iPhones and other Apple devices. In my view, they do it mostly for mobile email and other cools apps. However, until now, the traction of iOS in enterprise was limited. I’ve been speculating about future of iPad for enterprise PLM in my previous writing PLM Downstream – Sent from my iPad?; iPad and Enterprise PLM; 3D/PLM and iPad: Future or Baloney? At the same time, I haven’t see many Apple devices in manufacturing companies and especially shop floor, maintenance and service departments. In many situations, IT remained a strong gatekeeper.

Some good news for iOS mobile PLM developers just came yesterday. Apple and IBM announced global partnership to transform enterprise mobility. Navigate here to read IBM press news . The amount of articles and reviews is skyrocketing. I picked few of them. PC World article – Why the Apple-IBM deal matters. My favorite passage speaks about "uniqu cloud services" for iOS.

Apple and IBM announced an “exclusive” deal on Tuesday in which IBM will build a new line of enterprise-specific apps from the ground up for Apple’s iOS, aimed at companies in retail, health care, transportation and other industries. IBM will create “unique cloud services” for iOS, including tools for security, analytics and device management. It will also resell iPhones and iPads to its corporate customers, and Apple will roll out new support services for businesses. In other words, Apple and IBM are putting a full-court press on the mobile business market. And they’re doing so in a tightly wedded fashion: The companies used the word “exclusive” four times in a statement announcing the deal.

Another article from Forbes Apple – IBM Partnership: Enough To Solve Enterprise iOS Fears? caught my attention speaking about Apple relying on enterprise partners to do heavy lifting needed to sell mobile solution to enterprise.

As enterprises increasingly look to make more use of business applications on mobile devices – for a competitive advantage in flexibility and productivity – manufacturers such as Apple will rely on enterprise partners, he notes, “to do the heavy lifting that will increasingly be required in areas such as mobile application development, lifecycle management and systems integration”. Apple is likely to seek other partners, similar to IBM, that can also provide enterprise capabilities and support.

Let’s go back to PLM vendors and mobile development. Until now, I had a mixed feeling about PLM mobile story. All PLM vendors did something for mobile and iOS. But, in my view, it was some sort of checkmark – "yes we have it". In my view, one of the mission points was absence of specific apps to solve productivity problems. Most of mobile PLM apps did the same job as non-mobile software did, but on iPad. In addition to that, 3D viewer app was very popular. Most of these application came as an overlap to existing software. At the same time, key advantage of mobile app is to provide productivity apps for situation when users are off desks on the road, workshops, manufacturing and service facilities. Some of my thoughts about that are here – Mobile PLM gold rush: did vendors miss the point?

What is my conclusion? Apple and IBM agreement could be a big deal. IBM have a very good past record in enterprise PLM deployments. Even manufacturing industry was not specifically mentioned in the press release, I’m sure it will influence decisions of many IT managers. So, sounds like an opportunity. iOS developers can start looking for jobs in PLM companies. It is also a good opportunity for startups. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


Social PLM and Mobile Dribbling

May 6, 2014

Once “social” was a hot topic for PLM developer and analysts. In my view, the hype went down. Ask PLM people about social applications and be prepared for very neutral response. I asked myself – why so? Social applications can improve the way people communicate and should bring value. Nevertheless, social revolution in PLM is kinda “postponed”. You might be interested – will social apps back, when and how?

My attention was caught by WSJ.D article – Data Point: Social Networking Is Moving on From the Desktop. These numbers made me think about potential benefits between “social” and “mobile” in PLM.

social-network-mobile-social

Similar to social apps, the popularity of mobile PLM application is not skyrocketing too. Once excited about the ability to run “everything from iPad”, users got back to their desktops, CAD workstations, BOM Excels and browser applications. Did PLM vendors miss the point of mobile? I asked about that two years ago here. The confusion between “mobile web” and “native app” is probably only part of the problem. When world is going to be even more distributed than today, the efficiency of mobile PLM applications and intuitiveness of how mobile app can present the data becomes absolutely critical. However, mobile app will be used only if it is easier and brings additional value. The best example is taking picture during the presentation and sharing it via Twitters and/or Facebook.

Now I want to get back to social PLM option. I just read about new feature – you can tweet to Amazon to put a specific article or item in your shopping cart. Navigate here to read more. There is nothing very special here. It is all about efficiency. Imagine you found something you want to buy at the time you browse your twitter stream in the morning. To stay in the same environment and put an article to the Amazon shopping cart is all about efficiency. So, here is my guess. Social PLM can reinvent itself via mobile option.

What is my conclusion? The efficient interaction is very important when out of the office and not connected to your well-organized desktop. So, specially designed “social PLM” function can be very demanded on mobile devices. However, the fine tuning of functionality and mobile experience is a key. Efficient user interaction combined together with valuable scenario. This is a key for mobile PLM and social PLM to be successful. Without these two elements, customers will keep walking from social and mobile links to desktop. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

photo source – WSJ-D article


Do We Need Engineering Note App?

March 27, 2014

engineering-notes-app

Yesterday’s post about how engineers can collaborate in the office, made me think about another aspect of collaboration – taking notes. You may argue… Taking notes isn’t specifically collaborative activity. However, I can see it very tightly coupled with our ability to communicate and collaborate.

There are lots of applications for notes taking these days. Just to mention few of them – Evernote, OneNote, Word processing applications such as Microsoft Word and Google Docs. You can see a comparison of some popular applications here. Mobile is another interesting platform today for notes taking and it created a separate niche. Take a look here – Five best mobile note taking apps. Expanding even more, Evernote is transforming into platform and allows to other development specific note taking apps – The Best Evernote Apps for Organizing Even More of Your Life.

Do you think engineers are taking notes? I think, they do. I have to admit that I do… I also know few other engineers that taking notes. Now think about engineers using CAD systems and many other engineering and manufacturing applications. Do they need a special application to take notes? Maybe CAD should develop "note function"? Maybe new social collaboration tools will provide it? I don’t know. Nevertheless, I want to outline some specific functional requirements for engineering notes app:

1- Engineering context support. When you take notes, you want to be able to capture snippet of a specific content coming from CAD and maybe other engineering content creation tools (analysis, bill of materials, etc.)

2- Integrated camera for 3D, photo, voice and video capturing. It is very important to be able to capture real world content. Engineers can take this app to field trips or use it at shop floor. Ability to take photo, video or even capturing 3D model is extremely useful.

3 – Integrated measurement tools. Measurement is another aspect of engineering activity. To have ability to take measurement in the field or check dimensions can be extremely important.

What is my conclusion? There are lots of general purpose application for taking notes. Nevertheless, I think, customization is important. To have note taking app tailored for the needs of engineers can be an interesting option. Especially, if this app will support a specific engineering context. If you know one, please let me know. I didn’t find it yet. How to make this app? This is a tricky question. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


PLM Return on Mobility Challenges

March 20, 2014

plm-return-on-mobile-tech

Almost two years ago I posted my Mobile PLM gold rush – did vendors miss the point? post. Mobile usage is skyrocketing. It is hard to imagine our lives without mobile devices. Is it a good time to get back to the conversation about PLM, engineers and mobile? What is a special purpose of mobile applications for engineers and product lifecycle management?

I was reading The Future of Enterprise Mobility article earlier this week. Article focuses on the research done by 451 Research and Yankee Group about mobile applications and enterprise. I captured two main challenges – data and device type. First one is easy and complex at the same time – too much data is flowing through mobile devices these days. IT cannot protect the environment from mobile devices- this is a reality. Another one is related to a diverse number of mobile developers – Apple, Samsung, Nokia (Microsoft) ,Blackberry. Here is my favorite passage:

Among the changes Yankee Group looks to take place is that mobile applications will move front and center. It’s only in fairly recent times that the tools to help companies affect this shift have been available. Tools that are both enterprise-grade and that offer the type of agility, scalability and flexibility for enterprises to innovate in a truly mobile-world have not long been a reality. They are beginning to emerge, but enterprises are still being sold either the false promise that traditional approaches have all along allowed this capability or the false compromise that you can’t have both.

Another market change is mobile cloud platforms will look to become the new mobile middleware. New mobile cloud development and infrastructure platforms have emerged during the past 18 months with a steely gaze on the enterprise, on the proliferation of internal and customer-facing applications being considered, and on becoming the new mobile enterprise middleware. By abstracting much of the traditional back-end engineering complexity to cloud-based services, these vendors offer a compelling approach, one that will continue to have market-wide impact and be key to helping enterprises scale not only their applications and projects but also their innovation.

So, what are potential problems and issues vendors are facing developing their mobile strategies. Is it just "another screen" with a little bit different user experience? From my view, many of enterprise people including engineers, this is how mobile devices was perceived for the last few years. Mobile applications for engineers and PLM, specifically, used mobile coolness factor, but didn’t deliver much value. Thinking about that, I thought ROM (Return on Mobility) topic introduced in the article is a good parameter to manage before deciding about future mobile options for PLM and engineers.

The Return on Mobility scorecard is a new research methodology that calculates the value enterprises achieve from their investments in the platforms they use to develop, deploy and manage mobile technologies and services. It’s an ROI specifically for mobility. With the increasing importance of mobile, social and cloud technologies enabling business success, it’s crucial for companies to make the right, informed decisions concerning the solutions and platforms they use. – The focus of the RoM scorecard goes beyond total cost of ownership to measure ROI for enterprises through benefits such as application integration, employee productivity and customer experience.

It made me think what can be an easy ROI from mobile technologies in product development and manufacturing. Here is my guess. Process speed. By increasing and optimizing processes, we can improve decision making and information flow. An example can be ECR/ECO process. Cost of ECO is one of the highest for every manufacturing and development organization. One of the opportunity to get ECO process faster. Email and messaging are two top scored mobile applications. We use it everywhere. It must be a very good way to get people involved into the process and speed process up. For the last years we gathered lots of experience in mobile email. To connect mobile email to ECO process with right context can provide high ROM.

What is my conclusion? In my view, we came to the end of "mobile for the sake of mobile" story. ROM is an absolutely right approach that must be taking into account before every mobile application for engineers will be developed. PLM process speed and specifically ECO/ECN turnaround can be a good application for mobile platforms and tech. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


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