PLM and Almost Enterprise Apps?

April 29, 2011

The cost of development enterprise apps was one of the topics discussed among the people on Aras ACE 2011 conference earlier this week in Detroit, MI. Where the future is taking us? The development and customization of full blown PLM suite can be long, expensive and not very cost-effective these days. During the Beyond PLM panel discussion, I raised the question about the future of agile business apps that can provide value and won’t take manufacturing companies to the hell of product suites. The approach I discussed was introduced by Dion Hinchcliffe in hisNext Gen Enterprise blog.

On my way back to Boston I read Deloitte’s report “Technology Trends 2011. The Natural Convergence of Business and IT". Download this report, read and make your opinion. On of the topics of the report is about so called "Almost enterprise Applications". The idea resonated with my thoughts about how manufacturing organization can develop applications to be used by design engineers, managers, manufacturing planners, quality planners without taking organization into the two-year cycle of PLM suite deployment. I found the following example of "almost enterprise app" interesting:

A chemical products manufacturer had been an early adopter of Google Enterprise Apps engine – focusing on building almost-enterprise applications anchored in the productivity and collaboration suites. One example was a series of Gmail plug-ins that read the subject of emails and automatically retrieve CRM and HR workfl ow documents from SAP, with embedded controls for taking action that, in turn, execute back-offi ce transactions. Another was the ability to automatically update call notes in their CRM system with chat or voice transcripts, removing what was historically 90 seconds of low-value activity at the end of each customer service call.

PLM: Platforms and Applications

The notion of a platform in product lifycle management becomes interesting, in my view. The context of business apps can provide a new angle in a company strategy to develop a platform to serve the needs of product development processes. The focus on the platform will be in product data management rather than in business processes. Information services provided by a platform can be used to develop apps (Almost Enterprise Apps) highly focused on a particular engineers and other user’s needs.

What is my conclusion? The idea of "amost enterprise apps" is fascinating. It is easy to follow the concept of development apps based on any available services in the company. In the past, it led companies to the "excel hell". However, combination of a platform provided information services and agile practices of small apps development have in chance to develop an efficient solution. What is your opinion about that?

Best, Oleg

PLM Platforms and PLM Automotive Future

March 7, 2011

A couple of weeks ago, I posted PLM Platform Wars: Who is Right or Who is Left? The following short article in Dasssault 3D Perspective struck me to think more about the future PLM technologies and innovation. Watch the video and make your opinion.

Kate is asking: “Can the automotive industry build cars of the future with old technology?” In my view, devil is in details. PLM is a bit different from iPad 2. Despite some marketing presentations showing V6 as a PLM 2.0 technology, PLM technologies are not created from scratch every 2-3 years.

PLM Platforms

The notion of a platform in enterprise software is very specific, in my view. When we are talking about software platforms, we often can think about .NET, Java, iOS or similar stuff. Platform is an obvious target for every technology. By achieving the level of a platform, your technology can leverage value of all applications running on top of this platform.

However, the enterprise software created a special notion of “platform” in my view. In such a context, platform always becomes a set of technologies coming out of a specific software vendor successfully created a rich set of applications and dependent products. There are few enterprise software platforms that approached a high level of partner’s software development. However, enterprise platforms are controlling the ability of additional software components to run on top of so called “platform” in a strong way.

PLM mindshare vendors are often using the term “platform”. TeamCenter platform, Windchill platform, V6 platform. In my view, these solutions are more representing a rich set of vertical and horizontal applications rather than a software platform. The core of all these platforms is database-oriented software product. These products are supporting core data modeling capabilities of these platforms. Until the recent time, the integration between these data management components and CAD elements was very weak.

PDM in CAD Innovation

One of the innovations created by Dassault V6 platform was bundling of Enovia V6 (platform) with CATIA technologies. By providing CATIA with RDBMS based data modeling backbone, DS created few very interesting capabilities in management of CAD data as well as product development processes. Other PLM vendors approached a slightly different scenario. At the same time, the recent announcement about PTC Creo came with a definition of something called “common data model”. For me, it is not clear what will be relationships between “common data model” and Windchill platform capabilities.

Do you think combining of PDM and CAD is a fundamental PLM innovation of 2010s? Well, the CAD/PDM integration was always a complicated part of the game. The ability to achieve a successful integration was a critical element in most of CAD/PDM/PLM implementations. The fact PLM vendors decided to solve it by providing tighter bundling between CAD and PDM tools is extremely positive. However, as a result, we are going to see a larger amount vertically integrated product suites. It can make many customers happy. However, the same solution can make a lot of complications in case of companies’ mergers, usage of heterogeneous products, etc.

What is my conclusion? Building large vertically integrated product suites is not a new approach. It can be very successful. However, we cannot mislead ourselves- companies are running heterogeneous application set. In my view, this is a reality. To have the ability to implement a granular solution set, with the intensive support of Open Standards can be a key for a future success. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

PLM Collaboration and SaaS Wake-Up Call

January 18, 2011

I read on Forrester Blog about acquisition of Dimdim by T.J. Keits of Forrester is discussing various aspects of Dimdim advantages as well as Salesforce acquisition details. Last year, I had a chance to try out Dimdim and I found the environment very convenient. The following characteristics of Dimdim mentioned as very complimentary to Salesforce’s Chatter released earlier – tools for social collaboration. Here is the quote from T.J. Keits blog:

Dimdim’s real-time communications technology fleshes out the collaboration story Salesforce began with its social offering, Chatter, last year. This blending of tools will boost the collaborative power of some key Chatter features:

  • Profiles. On its own, this social tool is the foundation for information sharing and expertise location in an organization. Users can post information about themselves and their job and associate their profile with certain shared information in a searchable format. With added conferencing capabilities, employees can locate an individual and start a meeting with them, allowing the parties to communicate and jointly view data in real time.
  • Groups. Salesforce’s turn on team workspaces allows employees to share information and work together in a central location. Unlike a team space in SharePoint or Lotus Quickr, though, there was no integration with any tools that would allow for synchronous interaction. With the inclusion of Dimdim’s conferencing tools, information workers can now communicate within the context of the team space, allowing for real-time collaboration within a workflow.
  • File sharing. This is a recent addition to the Chatter offering, but an interesting one because it allows for content sharing within their activity stream. Of course, the real potential of this will be unlocked when the option to start a web meeting is included with that shared document, allowing a worker to start a live discussion with the individual who posted the content.

PLM, Social Collaboration and Platforms

Vendors in PLM space put a significant emphasize of “social aspects” of collaboration. Social Link of PTC, Social Innovation of Dassault and some others are best examples to present an interest of PLM vendors not to lose “social aspects”. However, none of PLM vendors didn’t decide to have a core collaborative functionality as part of their own portfolios. Most of the work PLM vendors are doing was about integration of existing collaborative features and platforms (i.e. SharePoint etc.).

What is my conclusion? Salesforce presented an interesting case related to the acquisition of platform capabilities. In my view, this is a very logical step in the future development of Saleforce’s platform. What it means for PLM? In my view, it makes Salesforce more competitive. Some of PLM vendors are thinking about their cloud / SaaS offerings. The wake-up call for owning some fundamental technologies can be too late. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

How Many Enterprise Backbones Organization Needs?

November 13, 2009

Picture 51Interesting post drove my attention yesterday. Reading about the role of PLM as enterprise backbone, I wanted to raise a question – how many of such “e-bones” do we need? My experience shows that in every enterprise implementation, discussion magically came to the point of “what will serve as a company/organization/product/enterprise or whatever else backbone. And I have to say, that I always got mixed feeling about that. I will try to put my pros and cons in the way enterprise systems can be organized to serve product lifecycle and enterprise resource planning needs.

1. One vs. Many
Thinking about a dream situation when all systems in enterprise will be magically synchronized around a single system (or bone), I came to the conclusion that we need to keep it as a dream. However, practical approach, in my view shows that enterprise organization will continue to have multiple systems serving their needs.

2. Enterprise Platforms
The interoperability between enterprise systems is killing enterprise organizations. Company’s IT is normally trying to develop their strategies around various platforms, but even so, they can rarely reduce the amount of systems and functional needs drive to additional system deployment.

3. Master Data Record
This is another place where “discussion” between enterprise systems becomes critical. Who is controling data and serve as a master? The data synchronization is an expensive. However, decision about master data control comes again and again with each next step of enterprise system development on the functional level.

4. Role of SaaS
In my view, cloud services (or SaaS, if you will) is playing disruptive, but positive role in discussion related to enterprise architecture and various “enterprise bones”. The disruptive role of SaaS is to show to the organization, the reality of no-single system controlling all data and processes in enterprise.

I’m interested to discuss and listen about your experience? What is your opinion on that?
Best, Oleg

PLM and Collaboration Platforms: Partnership or Buzzworks?

November 3, 2009

Collaboration is very important for product development including different phases – design, engineering, manufacturing etc. “Collaborative factor” is playing a very important role in development of CAD, PDM, PLM etc. I have to admit that engineering activities are very much different from areas like accounting and some others. For many years, development of capabilities to collaborate, was a very interesting and innovative factor related to development of CAD and PLM system.

However, time is moving forward together with technologies and collaboration is coming to our everyday life together with internet, mobile devices, office automation and other innovative technologies. So, everything becomes very “collaborative”. Question I want to ask today in simple way – should CAD/PLM related product think about wider adoption of collaborative capabilities coming from non-specific engineering and manufacturing world.

I was looking on the latest report in this area made by Forrester “Forrester Wave(TM): Collaboration Platform Q3 2009“.

Picture 34

According to the Forrester, the following functional areas considered as primary criteria to include vendors into their research:
-Collaborative workspace capabilities. This includes the ability to store and manage multiple
artifacts with the space, not just the ability to share content over a network.
-Basic content management capabilities. These capabilities allow users to access a single copy of
an artifact through the network.
-The ability to customize the space for specific business purposes. Personalized dashboards,
workspace templates, and workflow capability are examples of customizability.
-Enterprise capabilities for security and authentication. Access-control lists (ACLs), single-
sign on through Active Directory or LDAP support, and enterprise rights management
capabilities (ERM) are some of the key components for enterprise security and authentication
offered by these vendors.
-A development environment for building custom collaboration applications. The evaluated
vendors provide development options for firms with very specific internal needs or for power
users who want to self-provision custom applications.

From the standpoint of Product Lifecycle Management and Collaborative Product Development, I can see a lot of things are missing in this list to allow designers and engineers to collaborate. However, mentioned above capabilities fit very well tool. Special interest, in my view, also need to be done on the latest focus of collaborative platforms on the intersection between a content creation, traditional collaboration and social elements.

So, what is my intermediate conclusion? Collaborative platform’s evolution brings them more and more in the space of traditional product design and development collaboration.  Is it relevant and make sense to marry them, or we are just talking about “yet another collaborative buzzworks”? Is there overlap in platforms and functionality provided by PLM vendors? Do you think a notion of collaboration is so different in product design and development that make appropriate to develop specific platforms?

Just my thoughts.
Best, Oleg

Big-Bang PLM Dreams – should we move away from monolith approach?

September 4, 2009

For years, PLM and not only PLM, but also other enterprise systems like ERP supported idea of a single backbone system that can solve all problems. Enterprise PLM platform, in general, follow this approach by proposing platforms and systems focusing on supporting concept of single point of truth, common view and unified modeling. This approach clearly stated in all last major releases of PLM systems coming from both CAD-based and ERP-based origins.

So, discussion I want to have is quite opportunistic. I want simply put – is it really good and beneficial to follow “a centralized approach” and believe a single system will solve all problems business have around Product Lifecycle Management? Let me explain what I have in my mind by figuring out few important trends:

1. Modern enterprises have tendencies to agile organization and outsourcing for product development and manufacturing.
2. Single vendor platform will be “a functional compromise” in terms of specific niche application and services.
3. Establishment of a single system is a source of very significant investment and business organization.

In addition to these organizational trends, there are few important technological trends I want to mention.

1. Development of OnDemand services and applications
2. Usage of Internet as a platform for social and organizational communication

All these trends together bring me to the point to ask – what will be next platform for PLM? How this platform will be able to adopt to fast changed word of business and communication? How future enterprise and PLM platforms will be able to manage “change” concept and become transportable for changed organizational and technological landscape?

I don’t think I have all answers to state how change will happen, but I see PLM system  different from monoliths applications and platforms we’ve built today.

What do you think? How do you see future agile enterprise PLM platforms and applications?

Best, Oleg


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