Re-imagining PLM: One Business Process at a Time?

May 28, 2015

Mary Meeker of Kleiner Perkins shared her (almost) traditional presentation about internet trends yesterday. The presentation is available here – don’t miss that. In my opinion, if you follow technologies, this is “must see” piece of information.

Among different topics, there is a whole section of presentation focused on enterprise software. It starts from a very clear message of changing business process “one segment at a time”.


The following inspirational quote of BOX founder Aaron Levie made it even more clear – the shift from process improvements to the opportunity of software to change the work itself.


Next few dozen of slides are bringing examples of changing of work processes – Slack, Square, Stripe, Domo, DocuSign, Intercom, Gainsight, Directly, Zenefits, Anaplan, Greenhouse, Checkr, GuideSpark, Envoy. These are great examples of companies that bringing technology into existing inefficient processes and completely turning them around.

It made me think about segmentation of engineering and manufacturing software. The trend for the last year was to consolidate portfolios. PLM vendors were focused on making their portfolio broader and more integrated. For many of them, it was a very successful move. The portfolios were growing, which helped them to grow revenues and increase number of customers. And it was appreciated by customers that were looking how to decrease number of vendors and simplify IT management. The demand for vertical integration between tools was another factor. If you buy PDM/PLM system from the same CAD vendor, the chances are CAD-PDM integration will be better.

The domain of CAD, PDM, PLM and beyond is complex. Customers have high demand for integration. So, how to apply the idea of changing of “one segment at a time” can be even possible? So, I put few ideas below how to make it happen.

1. Cloud Applications

Cloud and SaaS applications are changing the landscape of enterprise software these days. What we have these days is second generation of cloud applications. The first one is clearly associated with first appearance of Today we can new apps leveraging from mobile and open source technologies delivering new services for engineers and designers. It took PLM vendors few years to recognize the potentials. There are leaders and more conservative vendors, but the trend is clear.

2. Unbundling Services

In my earlier post – Unbundling strategies in CAD/PLM almost two years ago, I’ve been giving the example of how Craiglist lists were disrupted by multiple companies providing services for a specific vertical niches. The same strategy can potentially work in CAD/PLM space.


3. Platforms vs Apps separation and Upgrades

Today’s PLM technologies and products approached their limits in terms of their functional capabilities and speed of ROI. As a result, the organic growth in PLM implementation was very limited, in my view. The upgrades and implementations are taking long time. Large manufacturing companies are not capable to move into new applications and versions.
The idea of split between “platform” and “apps” is not new. But today it became really critical. Large OEMs cannot afford platform changes more often than 3-5 years and it slows everything down. In my view, PLM vendors are working on how to make it happen.

Earlier this month at Siemens PLM Connection 2015, I’ve been watching examples of how TeamCenter strategies to deliver multiple releases and services packs to make adoption of new apps on top multiple platform versions. It is not a simple change for existing platforms.


Aras Corp claims that Aras Innovator model-based approach is solving upgrades problem for many customers. More about that is here. Aras subscription is including upgrade services,so it makes an upgrade transparent for customers.

PLM software delivered using SaaS model has some advantages because of platform, apps and upgrade complexity are hidden behind “cloud wall”. But it doesn’t make it less complex at the same time.

What is my conclusion? Enterprise software is going through the time of changes. The existing status quo cannot stay up to the demands of customers in terms of speed, agility and cost. So, we can expect new apps and services to disrupt existing segments. As we can see from Meker’s presentation it is already happening. How it will come to engineering and manufacturing domain. Will PLM segment survive as a “whole piece”? Are we going to repeat the trajectory of PLM software development again by reimagining CAD, Data Management, processes, BOM, change management, etc.? I don’t think we have an answer now. The changes are in front of us. The disruption can come from any place. In consumer segment, the innovation came from a garage environment. PLM vendors, watch carefully for garage innovators. The chances are competition will come from that place. Gradually and then suddenly. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Siemens PLM: Cloud Services and Big Data

May 27, 2015


You can say that buzz around big data is annoying. At the same time, organization are struggling with a fundamental challenge – there are far more data than they can handle. Some interesting facts about data growth around us. Back in 2000, only 25% of all data stored in the world was digital. By 2007, 94% of all data was stored digitally. Some experts has estimated that 90% of all data in the world was produced for the last 2 years.

Manufacturing and engineering organization have to deal with a growing amount of data. Old fashion methods of handling data are not good anymore. You may want to look on some of my previous posts – Will PLM vendors will dig into big data? , Big data and importance of information lifecycle. Even more, the question of how to use data to improve product quality or design becomes important – PLM and big data driven product design. For many organizations data can become a very disruptive force.

Last week at PLM Connection 2015 conference in Dallas, I learned few interesting facts about how Siemens PLM is developing big data cloud solutions to handle large volumes of complex information for manufacturers. Steve Bashada’s presentation was about the work Siemens PLM did following the acquisition of Omneo, which was part of Siemens PLM acquisition of Camstar.

Getting back to Siemens PLM Omneo. The idea is to discover data patterns that can lead to optimal product performance. This is may sound too generic. However, if you translate it into more specific actions. Think about finding reasons why the last batch of hardware devices such as computer flash drive or wearable gadget was defective and track a supplier of faulty components. Inside Big Data whitepaper gives you an interesting perspective on Omneo solution. You can download whitepaper in exchange of your email address here. Here is the passage from the article I specially liked:

For a compelling example that illustrates how big data is affecting the manufacturing sector, we can consider Omneo, a provider of supply chain management software for manufacturing companies. The business need was to enable global manufacturers to efficiently manage product quality/performance and customer experience. Consequently, Omneo needed to collect, manage, search and analyze vast amounts of diverse data types, and it sought the right software and hardware infrastructure to support this effort.

  • Enables global-brand owners to manage product performance and customer experience
  • Delivers a 360-degree view of supply chain data
  • Searches billions of data records in less than three seconds
  • Scales to support 300 million records every month
  • Allows customers to quickly search, analyze and mine all their data in a single place so that they can identify and resolve emerging supply chain issues

The following slide can give you generic yada-yada about the solution.


Siemens PLM is working on a solution with few selected customers. Dell is one of them. The following slides gives you an idea how a specific customer problem can be solved.


The solution uses “search based” user experience to search, filter and navigate between bits of data.


What is the technical foundation of the solution? Omneo is using some elements of existing big data stack you might be familiar with – HDFS, Hadoop, Cloudera combined with open source search technologies like SOLR. Omneo brings meta data and unified data model to handle product information and uses HBASE to manage information. The following slide can give you some more information about technical stack and how product is handling data.


What is my conclusion? Big data is a hard problem to solve. But it brings very interesting business cases. Siemens PLM Omneo is an example of specific data solution targeting big data problems in manufacturing organization. So far, the most specific example I was able to find reported by PLM vendors. My hunch, other PLM vendors might be looking on solutions, but haven’t seen specific publications about that. I think, big data can be applied in a very interesting ways to handle different product development, customer and manufacturing issues. We just not there yet. Manufacturing organizations and existing vendors are too slow to discover them. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

picture credit Inside Big data article

Future PLM AI-machines: a dream for top V.C. firms?

May 26, 2015


One of trending online articles on my list was the article Tomorrow’s Advance Man from The New Yorker featuring future plans of Mark Andreessen to win the world. Take your head out of everyday routine of engineering and manufacturing and try to open your eyes for the future. It was a good reading for a long Memorial Day weekend in U.S. You probably heard one of the most Andreessen’s phrases – software is eating the world:

In “Why Software Is Eating the World,” a widely invoked 2011 op-ed in theWall Street Journal, Andreessen put the most optimistic spin on Silicon Valley’s tendencies. The article proclaimed that tech companies are consuming vast swaths of the economy, from books and movies to financial services to agriculture to national defense—which Andreessen saw as the healthful scavenging of a carrion way of life. On Twitter, he pursued the theme: “Posit a world in which all material needs are provided free, by robots and material synthesizers. . . . Imagine six, or 10, billion people doing nothing but arts and sciences, culture and exploring and learning. What a world that would be,” particularly as “technological progress is precisely what makes a strong, rigorous social safety net affordable.”

Do you feel like deep enough in V.C. world after reading the article? I have to admit it was long reading. The top V.C. firms want you to show them you can invent the future. I’ve been trying to find a shorter recipe…

Another (shorter) article from the last week can give you more practical perspective on what top V.C. firms are predicting as top tech trends for the next five years. Read the following Forbes’ article – Five Top Venture Capitalists Name The Top 10 Tech Trends Of The Next 5 Years.

My favorite prediction was about on demand ambient computing. Here is the passage:

On-demand ambient computing: Pishevar calls this “invisible computing,” driven by artificial intelligence. Example: You can move a car in China right now via Uber. But he thinks this kind of activity will be automated by AI-powered machines, not proactively done by people. All his fellow panelists wave green paddles, as well as most of the audience, so he must be wrong. Seriously, though, this one seems to break rule No. 1.

You may ask – how does it apply to PLM and manufacturing? Here is the thing… PLM is in many sense “hand made”. Even cloud PLM software today is leaving too much space to setup processes, make implementations, help people to use software. Imagine the world where the communication between PLM software and user will become obsolete. If I can move Uber car in China, I can imagine a world where I can move a manufacturing facilities to 3D print, run supply, make scheduling, plan production based on a product information. I’m not suggesting to remove designers and engineers from the design process process. But automate the rest? Possible? To eliminate many manual planning and processing work could be probably a good idea. AI-powered PLM machines will help you to decide about part selection and options for contract manufacturers in a similar way Waze GPS is making recommendation for your navigation route.

What is my conclusion? Imagine the software that will eliminate a pain of product lifecycle management and make it invisible. In the past, product data management was considered as inevitable things engineers need to spend their time. New cloud PDM systems combined with cloud CAD systems (Autodesk Fusion360 and Onshape) are eliminating check-in/out and makes engineers’ like much easier. I’d like to see a future where lot of hand-made PLM process management thing will become automated by AI-like machines. I don’t think it is a very distant dream… Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Image courtesy of ddpavumba at


Cloud PLM and SaaS sales mindset

May 22, 2015


I want to talk about PLM sales today. If you want to succeed in sales, a mindset is a right starting point. But, enterprise sales needs a special mindset. PLM sales is very special case. These days SaaS / cloud software is setting new rules for enterprise software. How does it influence and change PLM sales? What advantages cloud PLM can get compared to a traditional PLM products and sales model?

Few days ago, I posted about how to stop blaming engineers for PLM sales problems? In my view, engineers are on average bad sales people. Therefore, to put engineers in the spot of selling PLM and blame them for wrong articulation of PLM value is a bad idea. There are thousands of books and article on the topic of how to sell to enterprise organizations. It is a good reading for coming Memorial Day long weekend. Today, I want to talk about cloud PLM sales – a new category that has a chance to change the way we sell PLM.

I can see two aspects of cloud PLM sales. First is related to a new reality of our world – internet, online connectivity, social networks, virality. How does it help to sell PLM? It certainly helps to create a new level of awareness about what your product does. If you didn’t setup your product twitter account, blog and other social channel, do it now! But, it doesn’t change a fundamentals. Despite all social channels, selling to enterprise is still very much old-schoolers game. In my view, there is no PLM vendors that discovered a new way to sell PLM until now. You can read more in my earlier post – PLM, Viral Sales and Enterprise Old Schoolers.

Second aspect is related to the fact how PLM companies are managing enterprise sales process and new business models. My attention caught the A16Z blog post – If SaaS products sell themselves, why do we need sales? The article gives you an excellent perspective on the details of sales process. I like the comparison of enterprise sales to the process of getting a bill passed in Congress. Certainly true. Although PLM is not a new category in the market, I would consider PLM sales challenge to create a unique value for every customer as something real PLM vendors are facing every day. PLM sales are competing with many other activities in manufacturing companies and it is literally hard to take it through the all three steps of decision process – why to buy PLM, why to buy PLM from a specific vendor and why to buy PLM now.

SaaS sales are facing the same level of sales difficulties. At the same time I’ve been thinking how cloud PLM can get some advantages over a traditional PLM product sales. And the point of "customer facing activity" form A16Z blog is clearly resonating here. This is a passage to pay attention in my view:

SaaS is a winner-take-all market involving a “land-and-expand” sales strategy. However, landing doesn’t necessarily mean expanding and winning. Staffing your startup with customer-facing resources — professional services, customer support, etc. — at this stage is an investment that will pay off not only in expanding your footprint inside that account, but in building the most powerful sales tool there is: a good reference. And while new clients are great, the best place to sell something is where you’ve already sold something.

You may ask me how is that related? Here is the thing… Landing should be an easy process in SaaS PLM compared to a traditional PLM sales process. And this is where cloud PLM can provide a clear differentiation. A traditional PLM approach is to sell on a premise of changing the way customer is doing business and manage product development processes. When it is done, you can setup PLM system and prove it. But it is a very lengthy process. Opposite to that, you can think about cloud PLM first sale as a "land" process. Do it for the most painful problem customer has. This is why PLM sales should be more technical. Land it to the customer for a cost of zero dollars. After all, you can leverage elasticity of the cloud as a biggest advantage. After you done, work on expand option. New subscription business models will help you to provide a new way for customer – pay per use.

What is my conclusion? Moving to the cloud, doesn’t mean PLM can sell itself. After earlier attempts, it looks like wrong sales strategy. At the same time, landing small feature to solve the most painful problem for a customer can be a right step to start. The challenge is to have enough customer facing resources that can help to discover it and land an initial solution with very low cost and super fast ROI. In my view, it is a completely different mindset from what we had before in PLM and enterprise. It is a time for PLM vendors to retool sales teams with new skills. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Image courtesy of Kittisak at

Why PLM is failing to manage multi-disciplinary BOM?

May 21, 2015


Products are getting complex these days. Look on every small electronic gadget in your hands. It is actually combined from multiple pieces – mechanical parts, plastics, electronic and software. Traditionally you are using separate tools to design these parts – MCAD, PCB design, software tools. Then it gets tricky a bit – you need to put together right information about the product, manage changes, coordinate with suppliers, etc. PLM tools are here to help. But, for some reasons, it is a difficult problem to handle. article In High-Tech Electronics, Managing Three Lifecycles As One is a New Key to Product Development by Laila Hirr speaks exactly about that problem. Here is my favorite passage from the article explaining the problem:

HTE’s need for PLM is straightforward—a firmer grasp of the information generated before and during product development and subsequently “in the field.” Many information needs go unmet when products go into assembly operations of original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and built into other manufacturers’ components in complex supply chains. Users and system integrators may also be slow to share information.

For many reasons, PLM has repeatedly fallen short in this industrial sector. At CIMdata, the reason we see most often is a lack of integration with the full information set that defines the product. Achieving this integration is a multidisciplinary challenge and in PLM’s twenty-plus year history with the high tech industry, the challenge has yet to be resolved. This largely accounts for the scarcity of compelling PLM successes in HTE and the ongoing skepticism about PLM.

Article speaks about absence of integration between tools and dependencies on homegrown spreadsheets to manage bill of materials and change. Which made me think about core problem in PLM tools – management of multi-disciplinary BOM. I addressed this problem in the keynote presentation at ProSTEP iViP Symposium few weeks ago – PLM and ERP: separated by a common Bill of Materials (BOM). PLM systems today are addressing BOM management. Most of them are taking an approach to manage multiple bill of materials view. However, these tools are not efficient enough to manage a BOM which contains mechanical, electronic and software pieces together. The complexity of BOM is driven by multiple disciplines, change management and product lifecycle as I presented on the following slide


What is my conclusion? Technical difficulties and disagreement between people often can lead to problems in establishment of cohesive BOM management solutions. PLM fails to provide a way to manage multi-disciplinary BOM and changes. High-tech and electronic industry is specific because of high diversity of design tools – mechanical, electronic, software. PLM tools are not integrated well with design tool, which leads to poor BOM management. There are several reasons why it happens – limits of BOM management tools, complexity of integrations between design tools provided by multiple suppliers, UI complexity. Just my thoughts..

Best, Oleg

Image courtesy of Toa55 at


Active Workspace: The transformation of search user experience

May 21, 2015

To access product information is one of the most important roles of PLM system. Time ago, organizing data in folders was good enough solution. Not anymore. Google changed the way we think about accessing information. Searching engineering and manufacturing software is tricky. There are many things that influencing the way you search for information – access rights, context, dependencies. The following picture summarizes top obstacles in finding information according to the Enterprise Search and Findability Survey 2013 published by FINDWISE.


I wrote few posts about search in PLM in the past. Navigate to one of them to read more – PLM search and findability. For the last few years, PLM vendors put significant focus on improvements of user experience and search functions. There are examples of search driven user interfaces in Aras PLM, Autodesk PLM360, Dassault / EXALEAD and others.

Earlier this week at Siemens PLM connection in Dallas, I had a chance to watch newest updates Teamcenter team made around Active Workspace. The first time product was presented back in 2011. Here is my original post about that- Siemens Active Workspace: PLM next big thing. Since that time, product evolved into rich user experience focusing on providing role-based, information search and navigation client. Siemens PLM Active Workspace is available in a browser and provides a way to search, filter and visualize information. In the example below, you can see an interesting combination of search, filtering and bar-chart visualization.


Product information is usually intertwined with many dependencies. The following example shows the ability to navigate between interconnected pieces of information.


The same UI is providing an access to the viewer.


One of the new functions I found is an access to the information such as Bill of Material in a spreadsheet-like way with the ability dynamically select column, filter and sort.


And finally you can annotate and comment on the pieces of information together with other people. It can give you some sort of social experience


Search became the most important element of UI when it comes to access of complex information. Search is playing a significant role in the transformation of PLM user experience towards more simple and intuitive UI. Many users will appreciate a better search driven navigation. PLM vendors are paying more attention to search and you can find search functions in other PLM systems too. At the same time, Active Workspace is probably the latest example of search-driven UI in PLM.

What is my conclusion? I found interesting the evolution of Active Workspace for the last 4 years since it was originally presented. The UI became completely webish, many new functions were added. However, the core function of search-driven user experience is there and it provides differentiation to traditional folder-based navigation and browsing interfaces. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Bill of Materials (BOM) and product lifecycle open loops

May 19, 2015


It is hard overestimate the importance of Bill of Materials for product development. In my keynote at ProSTEP iViP symposium in Stuttgart earlier this month I’ve been sharing my thoughts why developing of single BOM across multiple disciplines in critical for organization. I wanted to bring few examples that can demonstrate why having a single BOM strategy can bring benefits to product development and manufacturing organization.

Earlier today, at Siemens PLM connection event in Dallas, I captured the following slide demonstrating an integrated approach in design, manufacturing, planning and production. What is really interesting is how as-design, as-planned and as-build views in PLM are integrated with design, manufacturing, planning and production.


Few days ago, I the following article by 3D CAD World article caught my attention – Progress in closing the product lifecycle’s loops  by Peter Bilello, president of CIMdata. The article speaks about the importance of collaboration across diverse enterprise groups.

For many years, the PLM industry has greatly benefited from a steady stream of improvements in collaboration among ever more diverse enterprise groups—in data interoperability, for example, and in the transparency of workflows and processes. The development, manufacture and support of globally competitive new products are, however, still hamstrung by the remaining open loops new and old.

Later in the article it came to the topic I was looking for – Bill of Materials. According to article, BOM is a biggest remaining challenge to make integration running smooth. Here is the passage, which explains that.

Between engineering, manufacturing and finance, a big remaining challenge is the bill of materials (BOM) in its many forms—the as-designed BOM, the as-engineered BOM, the as-manufactured BOM, and so on. Generated and managed with PLM and often executed by enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems, BOMs themselves are loop closers. PLM-ERP connectivity and interoperability are steadily improving, but some open-loop issues are resolved only after time consuming face-to-face meetings.

What is my conclusion? Single BOM could be a great thing if vendors will figure out how to implement that. As you can learn from Biello’s article, PLM-ERP has open-loop issue and BOM is a tool to close that. However, companies are concerned about bringing single BOM strategy since it can raise lot of organizational challenges for them. At the same time, the demand for better integration and collaboration can put companies in front of decision to bring single BOM to close open loops between engineering, manufacturing and production anyway. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at



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