7 rules for selecting PLM software in 2014

January 17, 2014

plm-software-selection-rules

Enterprise software choice is a complex decision process. The time when you was able to buy a software from trusted XYZ vendor and sleep safe is over. These days IT and other software decision makers are facing challenges related to technological and business options related to new business models, cloud technologies, specific vendors, user experience and many others. You need to swim in a sea of changes in enterprise market in order to decide what software to choose.

Very often you can hear debates about what is Product Lifecycle Management – vision, business strategy or software. Whatever PLM means, companies and people responsible for PLM strategy and software need to make their buying decisions related to PLM software, vendor and implementation.

Last year I posted about how you can select PDM software in 5 simple steps. The last step was open ended and assumed that you need to make strategic PLM decision. Here is a quote from last year article:

"If you company is looking how to manage product development processes beyond controlling and sharing CAD (product) data, you need to evaluate PLM system. Don’t make a PDM choice without making your PLM decision first".

Today, I want to propose few rules that can help you in the decision process related to PLM software and vendor selection. It is not about how to build your overall PLM strategy – I will mostly focus on software and vendor choices.

1. Find real PLM use cases compatible with your requirements. Use trusted advisers that will help you to navigate to examples of PLM software usage. PLM software market place is opaque. There are lot of online information, analyzes, comparison and testimonials about PLM software. To make real financial, technological and product assessment of vendor is tricky. However, you should remember to buy a software that can perform according to your need.

2. Analyze your company engineering software (CAD and PDM) and enterprise environment (ERP). Regardless on grand PLM vision, you have to integrate PLM software with environment, which includes connection to CAD/PDM, interoperability with ERP system(s) as well as many other design, engineering and manufacturing system coming from other vendors including homegrown software developed by IT department and contractors.

3. Don’t buy immediate technological advantages. For most of PLM systems, technologies doesn’t change much for the last 10-15 years. Even if PLM software vendor claims some technological uniqueness today, it will be adjusted in 2-3 years by new development, another new technologies and technological acquisitions PLM vendors are making. If you want to make some tech-driven decision, do it ‘test based’ for a specific use case and/or process in your company.

4. Cloud PLM is first about software eco-system and IT strategy. Cloud can bring lots of advantages. However, if your company is still on premise and IT is conservative, think carefully before pushing into cloud PLM race. You can burn time and resource on convincing your company and solving "general cloud software obstacles" before getting PLM value pay off.

5. PLM usability is relative. Everybody wants (and claims) to be easy to use like Google these days. However, devil is in details and enterprise software is different from consumer web. Also, what looks simple for you will be different for your colleague. Test by yourself, but don’t underestimate software evaluation by people outside of IT ecosystem. There are few books and online resources for UX (user experience) passionate people – try them out. Start from Steve Krug’s book Don’t Make Me Think – it will help you to build a sense of simplicity and own guidance.

6. Don’t buy PLM vendor roadmaps. Most of roadmaps are aspirational. You must look on available software releases and community of users. Community will give you an indication of how careful vendor is following their roadmaps, promises and (mostly important) long term software compatibilities.

7. Open source software isn’t much different from functional and technological standpoint. Open source software is not cheaper and simpler – it is just a different business model. There are variety of open-source flavors and you need to read all legal provisions. Involve your legal advisers to help you to go through language and meaning.

What is my conclusion? In my view, PLM software domain will be turbulent in 2014. New companies, technologies and business models are coming to disrupt and change existing industry landscape. However, your PLM software buying decision will probably stay with you more than 1-2 years. So, my recommendation is to review available software, make trials, experiment and build use cases. These days software vendors are open to convert customers into their trusted advisers. Don’t afraid to be a part of the PLM vendors’ development process and decision making. In most of cases, it is fun and you will love it. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


Siemens PLM Analyst Event and PLM Public Cloud Strategies

September 10, 2013

Social tools can make your professional life much more efficient these days. I’ve been following Siemens PLM analyst event in Boston last week via twitter. The even is over, but you can still reach the tail of the information today by searching for #SPLM13 hash tag on twitter. Twitter search tool has a limited timespan, so run fast if you want to get the original tweet stream.

Cloud PLM switch is under go and obviously, one of the topics of my interest was Siemens PLM software in the cloud. Few months ago, Siemens PLM announced about TeamCenter cloud availability and IaaS cloud strategy. I wanted to find some examples of TeamCenter cloud experience provided by customers. Cloud buzzworld wasn’t on the top of hype list for the event. It was very easy to catch the following tweet by Jim Brown:

Jim Brown @jim_techclarity. Sterling – Yes, Teamcenter is on #Cloud. 2 customers up. Working w/ partners vs setting up cloud #SPLM13 #PLM

One of the top differentiations in cloud strategies today is private vs. public cloud. The associate cost is one of the factors of the decision. The cost of data centers and services can easy go high and it will influence other decisions – availability, packages, price. I found a very interesting article speaking about cloud cost differentiations published in Wired magazine. Navigate to the following link to read – Why Some Startups Say the Cloud Is a Waste of Money. Make a read. The main point in the article is that public cloud and Amazon can be quite costly and not efficient in specific cloud configurations. The article brings multiple examples companies started with public cloud on the Amazon and moved towards private cloud within the time. Here is my favorite passage from the article.

“The public cloud is phenomenal if you really need its elasticity,” Frenkiel says. “But if you don’t — if you do a consistent amount of workload — it’s far, far better to go in-house.” Within IT departments, public clouds do tend to get more expensive over time, especially when you reach a certain scale.’

PLM vendors are following different strategies when it comes to public and private cloud these days. Arena Solutions (aka Bom.com in early days) is offering their software as public cloud. The same does Autodesk with PLM360. Dassault Systemes didn’t provide any information about how much cost their new cloud offering. Meantime, Siemens PLM didn’t provide any information about TeamCenter on the cloud as well. Here is the only relevant tweet from #SPLM13 I found about Siemens PLM cloud licensing and cost:

PJ Jakovljevic @pjtec4 #splm13 Interesting that in #SiemensPLM’s new go-to-market initiatives there are no mentions of #cloud & subscription licensing #JustSaying

What is my conclusion? We are getting into period of time PLM vendors will try to innovate by trying different cloud strategies. My hunch there are two main reasons here – cost and market differentiations. Public vs. private cloud will be one of the key differentiators. The elastic capability of public cloud is a huge advantage and it was proven by many internet and enterprise companies. At the same time, specific characteristics of PLM business can make private cloud and combined options attractive as well. The jury is still out. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


Multiple Facets of PLM Search

June 6, 2013

Disclosure: As a co-founder of Inforbix and responsible of PLM 360 and Autodesk Vault product development at at Autodesk, I understand that my opinion about PLM Search can be unintentionally biased. Nevertheless, I believe the topic itself is very important, so I decided to share the information and my opinion anyway.

Search is a fascinating topic. Last 10 years changed our understanding about what search can do. Google clearly made a revolution in search and made a revolution in people’s mind about what search can do. Enterprise software companies, in general, and CAD / PLM vendors specifically started to pay attention to search for the last 3-5 years. Getting back you can recall Microsoft / FAST, Oracle / Endeca, Dassault Systems / Exalead, Autodesk / Inforbix and some other events.

Couple of weeks ago, I’ve been talking about PLM Search and Findability. Product development content is complex and semantically rich. In many cases, it leads to the situations where person doesn’t even know what to search and where to search. Another very important topic connected to search is data reuse. Navigate to my previous post here to read more. In my view, search is one of the fundamental mechanisms that can simplify data re-use by allowing to find data and eliminate re-entering of data between different application silos.

I’m following different implementations of PLM search. Today I want to highlight three examples of different approaches on PLM search – Siemens PLM Active Workspace, Autodesk PLM360 search and Aras/Alcove9 search.

Active Workspace – complexity and visual experience

Siemens PLM came with Active Workspace last year. The complexity of existing PLM implementations raises the question of usability of PLM system. I’m sure you remember my post – Who will provide PLM for Boeing in 2015? Active Workspace is Siemens PLM answer to complexity of user experience.

PLM 360 search – cloud and Google-like approach

Autodesk PLM360 is taking cloud approach to search to solve problem of information connectivity and reuse. PLM 360 search allows to search in PLM environment as well as in files sources located on shared network drives and local discs. By doing that, PLM 360 search enable ease of information discovery from the cloud regardless of where this information is located.

Aras Search – open source and existing UI paradigm

Aras PLM is following their open source strategy and partnering with Alcove9 to provide open source search approach. Alcove9 leverage Lucene and Solr to provide search solution. To simplify the use of search, Aras is embedding search in existing Aras UI.

What is my conclusion? PLM vendors will continue to innovate in search. Consumerization trend creates a significant pressure on IT department to provide a better experience for information workers. To get access to the right information at the right time is a reality of every product development organization these days. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


Why PLM is more complicated than Google?

November 16, 2012

Integration is a tough job. Especially when it comes to the enterprise software. The typical manufacturing company landscape is siloed it contains many systems – office application, email, content management, CAD, CAM, CAE, PDM, PLM, etc. Beyond that set of systems, every company has ERP and few additional enterprise systems. In my view, the demand of people these days is to have integrated environment. In PLM, the discussion about “integrated vs. best of breed environment” can get very hot. As an example you navigate to the following Tech4PD video debates by Jim Brown and Chad Jackson – Granularity vs. Integration: Suites vs. Best-in-class PLM.

Interesting enough, I found the web environment these days has near the same level of integration as enterprise environment. Google’s environment very often provides an appealing use case too. Think about Gmail, Calendar, Google Drive, Web and some additional Google systems. How to help people to have integrated and seamless environment? Integrated search is one of the ways to solve the problem. Google is trying to solve the problem by providing integrated Google personal search that capability to reach outside of Gmail and collect information from other Google applications. I submitted to evaluate this feature using my personal gmail account and hope to share my feedback with you later.

PLM vendors are experimenting with integrated search user experience too. You can see them in the different examples of technological and product announcements as well as acquisitions PLM companies made during past 2 years – Dassault Systemes Exalead, Autodesk Inforbix, Siemens PLM Active Workspace, Aras Enterprise search and some others.

However, integrated search is a complicated problem. Even Google – the absolute technological leader in a search domain is confirming the complexity of search beyond the web. Navigate to the following article to read more – Google Amps Up Personal Search to Combine Gmail, Calendar, Drive and More published by All Things D last month.

To me, the most notable passage in this article is related to the complexity of the integration and integrated search.

Back in August, Google noted its Gmail index is as large or larger than its Web corpus, but with much higher and more complicated privacy requirements. All of these personal search experiments are available only in English and for personal Gmail accounts.

What is my conclusion? Search and data is a difficult problem. Enterprise and PLM environment clearly provides a more complicated case compared to public web in terms of search, content processing, permission and business logic. Brutal computing force helps, but it is not an ultimate solution for integrated environment. You need to have domain knowledge and probably apply some advanced engineering to solve this problem. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Picture credit newmediaandmarketing.com


PLM Cloud Interest and AAA PLM Players

October 29, 2012

The interest to cloud PLM is growing these days. At the beginning of this year, I discussed future PLM business model during the PLM Innovation conference in Munich. You can navigate to my historical post here. You can see lots of conversations about cloud these days. However, until now, only one from major PLM players – Dassault, was playing cloud game. As it was mentioned by Bernard Charles during DSCC 2011 event, Dassault invested 2B into building of the unique online cloud platform. This is not true any more. Earlier last week, Siemens PLM announced the availability of TeamCenter on the cloud. Navigate here to read Siemens PLM announcement. According to Siemens PLM:

Teamcenter on the cloud enables companies to move some, or all, of their computing infrastructure to a third-party cloud service provider versus investing in their own hardware. This gives customers cost effective access to enterprise grade IT infrastructure and resources without the need for capital expenditure. Siemens now supports Teamcenter on three of the leading cloud services, Microsoft Windows Azure, IBM SmartCloud™ Enterprise+ and Amazon Web Services. The company has completed a certification and enablement program for Teamcenter delivered on each of these service provider’s IaaS offerings.

I found an interesting writeup about TeamCenter on the cloud made by PJ of TEC. Navigate to this link to read -Siemens Teamcenter Going to the PLM Cloud. PJ is analyzing what is behind TeamCenter cloud announcement. This is an important passage, in my view, which explains that:

While the benefits such as faster time to value, dynamic scalability, and lower TCO are indisputable, this is just the typical first cloud-enabling step of moving the infrastructure to the cloud. Certainly, there is also the benefit from accessing the PLM system from the Internet, and at the analyst event, we also saw a demo of a mobile user interface (UI) in the cloud. But our understanding was that Siemens is not yet going to provide a subscription model or a multitenant cloud.

At the same time, PJ concludes that despite cloud announcement, TeamCenter is not adopting ‘cloud PLM’ business by moving towards subscription model. I didn’t find any mentioning of subscription prices as well as information about future announcement. Siemens PLM press release mentioned only “business flexibility”, as was mentioned by TeamCenter cheif Eric Sterling. Here is the quote:

“The key benefit of Teamcenter on the cloud is the business flexibility it provides,” said Eric Sterling, Senior Vice President, Lifecycle Collaboration Software, Siemens PLM Software. “In today’s ever changing global landscape, the flexibility to dynamically manage infrastructure on the cloud gives customers the ability to scale up computing resources with demand and more importantly, scale down costs if demand decreases. This enables organizations to effectively manage IT budgets as an operating expense versus capital expense which can improve profitability.

AAA PLM?

I learned an interesting term in PJ’s article – “Triple A” PLM players. As I mentioned in my earlier article, Open Source and subscription-based model used by cloud PLM apps are two major PLM business disruption forces. PJ summarized it by calling three vendors – Aras, Arena Solutions and Autodesk PLM (AAA):

Siemens acknowledged that its main interest is still the perpetual license play. The vendor admitted that the so-called Triple A PLM players—Arena Solutions, Aras Corp., and Autodesk 360 PLM— are disruptive forces in terms of PLM deployment and licensing. Siemens pledged to be responsive to the market—i.e., it is constantly reviewing its practices—but everything needs to be good for both the vendor and its customers. Term-based licenses and Siemens Finance Services were suggested as possible options in the meantime.

PLM cloud awareness

I usually do my “reality check” on Google trends. You can see that now “PLM cloud” is now a visible trend. At least, you can see it on Google’s trends, which confirms the growing cloud interest from players and customers in engineering and manufacturing space. Even it is not saying much to prove the adoption and customer experience with cloud PLM, it is a confirmation of the trend and strategic direction.

plm-cloud-google-trend.png

What about PTC / Windchill?

After TeamCenter cloud announcement, PTC Windchill is the only product (vendor) that didn’t refresh their interest in a cloud PLM play. Windchill has long time an agreement with IBM about hosting of Windchill on IBM servers. You can see this offering is available here, but I PTC didn’t provide any recent updates about that offering as well as a preview about future availability of Windchill on the cloud. You can only see IBM application on demand delivery model here.

What is my conclusion? In my view, customers are starting to recognize the value of the cloud technologies for PLM. It comes in multiple aspects – IT infrastructure optimization, business models allowing to pay for services as you need them, global access and many others. It would be interesting to see how cloud technologies and product offering will be developed by PLM vendors in coming years.

Best, Oleg


PLM Innovation: Who will provide PLM to Boeing in 2015?

October 25, 2012

I’m in Atlanta these days attending PLM Innovation Americas conference. Today is the first day, and I’m still expecting many things to come. Nevertheless, here is the thing that made me to blog. I’ve been attending first keynote made by Kevin Fowler or Boeing Commercial Airplanes . The name of the presentation – The sky’s the limit? Reaching for the value of PLM at Boeing Commercial Airplanes. The presentation provided a very interesting retrospective on how PLM developed at BCA (Boeing Commercial Airplanes) for the last 20 years. In my view, Boeing is one of the companies that stands at the root of PLM development back 25 years. Boeing fundamentally influenced the way PLM tools were developed by vendors like Dassault Systems and Metaphase (now Siemens PLM).

Growth of PLM system was driven by the need to support development and manufacturing processes. The ultimate request was to provide additional features to product development processes. Boeing moved from spatial integration (777) to build integration (737-next-gen) and functional integration (787). It means more and more features. The following slides show a very interesting trend related to Boeing PLM Value.

As you can see, functionality is growing. However, total cost of ownership is growing too, which is not very good sign. The most disappointing factor is related to usability of PLM systems. The usability of PLM tools is going down, which confirms the fact PLM is struggling from complexity and user experience. The level of information complexity at Boeing is impressing – 1B (Billion) parts to manage during the release of aircraft, Boeing has 12000 aircrafts in service and operation, Boeing employees are sending 63M (Million) emails during the month. Boeing engineers need to use multiple tools during their working day.

However, the most important message I captured from Boeing presentation was related the future evolution of PLM system. According to the Boeing, all PLM systems Boeing is currently running are approaching their end of life. Take a look on the following slide presenting four generations of Boeing PLM systems. Actually, it represents only three generations. Boeing put a question mark on the generation of PLM tools that need to come in 2015.

What is my conclusion? It is very interesting to see how large companies are turning towards usability of PLM tools. In the past, usability wasn’t a big deal for enterprise companies. Nowadays, end users cannot tolerate bad user experience. According to Boeing, their users are opening about 19 user interfaces to get data. Future PLM systems need to come with a different level of usability and user experience. The expectation level will be set by iPhone, Google, Facebook and other consumer tools. PLM vendors need to make a note. Important. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


What is the future of PLM databases?

July 12, 2012

Let’s talk today about databases and database technologies. Everybody these days understands what is that… Database technology became an essential part of every application. Practically, everything we did in the past in enterprise software was dependent on databases. Specifically talking about PDM and PLM, databases and data modeling became a crucial part defining the border between "possible" and "impossible" worlds. Here is the definition of database from Wikipedia:

A database is an organized collection of data, today typically in digital form. The data are typically organized to model relevant aspects of reality (for example, the availability of rooms in hotels), in a way that supports processes requiring this information (for example, finding a hotel with vacancies).

PLM Expansion and Database Tech

Product Lifecycle management were pushing the scope and limits of implementations for the last 5-7 years. It is very naturally, since one of the objectives of PLM is to cover full cycle of product development from early idea and requirement management down to support and EOL (end of cycle). High demands set by PLM requirements made a significant push on database technology by challenging different parts of it – scale, flexibility, capacity and performance.

PLM, Database Tech and Single Point of Truth

The topic of Single Point of Truth is connected tight to the database technologies. You can take a look on one of my previous posts about that – PLM Network effect and single point of truth. The idea of database containing all information about product and its lifecycle is problematic. It was quite popular in the mid of 2000s. However, within time and understanding of the scale and complexity most of PLM vendors unofficially gave up on telling that all information should reside in a single database. When discussion comes at that point, most of PLM vendors today are talking about various forms of data federation.

Where database technologies are going?

You can think most of "database conversations" are about technology – network, object, relation, document, relation algebra, data models and schema, joins and normalizations, ACID, etc… Actually, I don’t think database technology is about that. The fundamental interest of database technology is about information aggregation, transformation and sharing. Think more about information discovery and less about the control. This is where, in my view, database technologies are going.

In the past, the power of IBM was built on top of big database engines running business applications and mainframes. IBM was the most powerful information company back that days. Nowadays, Google redefines the notion of database by indexing the internet as a new (and powerful) storage of data. This is a very interesting change in the basic concepts of data management.

Existing PLM platforms and database technologies

Traditional RDBMS technologies are core part of all existing PLM platforms. Dassault Enovia, PTC Windhcill, Siemens TeamCenter and others use relation databases to form core data management technological stack. The power and scale of these platforms are near the capacity from the standpoint of logical and physical scale. The cost of maintenance and expansion of these platforms is high. It resulted in a high cost of changes in everything related to existing PLM implementations.

What is my conclusion? The complexity of product lifecycle problems brings the need of new concepts in data modeling and data management. One of the main questions – how to break the boundary of a single database? This is a key question, in my view. It will solve the problem of logical scalability and provide a platform for future information discovery. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


PLM for smaller companies: Oxymoron or Another Round?

June 11, 2012

PLM is not for small companies. It was a typical statement popular 10 years ago. Smaller manufacturing company is a fascinating place to innovate. CAD / PLM companies always wanted to crack this market segment. It was done first with CAD systems that were moving from UNIX to Wintell machines. With PDM/PLM things were different. In my view, first wave of PLM scaling down to smaller manufacturing companies was introduced in the first half of 2000s. However, with the recession of late 2000s PLM companies were more focused on their core business and came back to stay focused on larger companies. Companies like Siemens PLM, Dassault focused their work on introducing and validation of their new PLM platforms staying away from SMB market. One of the most visible PLM SMB shutdowns was PTC retiring their Windchill ProductPoint. I can also see companies like Aras are more focusing on competing with high end PLM offering and giving away PLM for smaller companies.

How to scale down PLM?

Despite the lack of commercial success with small manufacturing companies, PDM / PLM for SMB topic was always actively discussed by the industry community. Jos Voskuil (known as virtualdutchman blogger) often writes about and PLM and SMB. You might be interested to navigate on one of his writeups – What if SMB as a vision for PLM and PLM vendors don’t understand it back in 2008. Another interesting conversation about the same topic was recorded at COFES 2010 – Recorded Audio Roundtable: PLM for SMB Discussion at COFES 2010 published by Chad Jackson on hisengineering-matters blog.

The Renaissance of PLM for SMB?

Two announcements about future products and product enhancements made me think, PLM vendors are getting back to SMB market. One of them was made last week during PlanetPTC 2012 conference. During the Windchill roadmap presentation and also separately during Q&A session, PTC mentioned the new version / configuration of Windchill product for SMB. Below is a slide I captured from this session recorded video materials. It came as part of future Windchill version called X-24.

Another announcement is expected this week during SolidEdge University 2012 in Nashville, TN. Siemens PLM is planning to announce SolidEdge Insight XT. SolidEdge Insight is not a new product. It was created quite many years ago on top of Microsoft SharePoint. Siemens didn’t retire this product, and it co-existed with TeamCenter Express (another product focused on introductory segment of market part of Velocity product line). This year Siemens is planning to introduce a new version called SolidEdge Insight XT.

What is my conclusion? 60-80% of CAD seats in industry not connected to any data-management software provided by CAD/PLM vendors. This is the well-known fact. To be able to capture this market is a long-time dream by everybody in the CAD/PLM industry. However, here is the problem, in my view. To scale down something is probably the wrong way to do business. Toyota is successfully selling Prius to many people that can afford BMW. The focus should be on the product. PLM vendors never focused on how to create the right product for these companies. Will it happen now? Let’s wait for new products to come to market. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


PLM, ERP and enterprise cloud race

May 22, 2012

I was reading GIGAOM article Amazon and SAP put All-in-One in the cloud few days ago. According to the article SAP will soon make an appearance on Amazon EC2 cloud. Interesting enough it is connected to the fact almost all software of SAP rival Oracle is already available from the cloud.

Another interesting point is related to the fact Amazon is working to support product customization on the public cloud. It will remove another big barrier for deployment and implementation of enterprise software. Here is a very interesting passage:

The conventional wisdom is that big companies are wary of running ERP and other enterprise applications in a public cloud — because they tend to be quite customized and tied into other applications, which makes them difficult to forklift into the cloud. But Amazon is working to change that perception.

PLM and ERP: cloud race

In the past, CAD / PLM vendors lost the competition of C-level and IT visibility in the organization. PLM was considered as Engineering tools, and it took many years and significant effort to improve this perception (still not accomplish in full, from my standpoint). These days a typical “PLM on the cloud” discussion usually runs in too many questions about cloud PLM viability and security. At the same time, we can see how ERP vendors run their products on Amazon cloud.

PLM and Cloud / IaaS

When Amazon is considered as a definite leader in IaaS race, Aras PLM is thinking differently. During the ACE 2012 conference earlier this month, Aras announced Aras Spectrum – soon to be available on Microsoft Windows Azure platform. You can take a look on my post-ACE conference blog post – Aras PLM, Microsoft Azure and Cloud competition.

Autodesk (new PLM vendor these days) is playing with lots of “cloud toys” in the portfolio. One of the toys is PLM 360 -recently announced “cloud PLM alternative”. It is not clear what IaaS platform is using for their cloud development and deployment, for the moment.

What is my conclusion? Amazon is pushing to the enterprise by supporting major ERP vendors. Autodesk is playing with new cloud offering and probably going to make their IaaS choice later. Microsoft is experimenting with Aras PLM to provide Aras Innovator up and running on Azure Cloud. Dassault, Siemens, PTC… Are you watching?

Best, Oleg


PLM Competition Toolbox

May 14, 2012

Normally, I’m trying to avoid the topic of PLM competition. Not very often, readers or attendees at conference are approaching me with the blunt question – what is better? TeamCenter vs. Enovia? Aras or Windchill? My typical answer – there are no “absolute advantages” for a specific PLM system. Enterprise and manufacturing companies are complicated environments. The level of complexity, strategy and current context can create a situation where each specific product will have his own advantages and disadvantages.

However, today, I want to talk about competition from the standpoint of PLM vendor. In other words, what can make PLM vendor competitive strategy more successful? To make this discussion interesting and provoking, I will use some examples of what happened in PLM market for the last 10 years. In the world where PLM buzzwords are getting very similar, I will try to answer on a single simple question – what can make PLM vendor competitive nowadays?

I can see four major strategies that can be used by vendors – discontinuity, marketing and branding, partnership and competitor’s mistakes. These are not specific characteristics for PLM companies and can be used for everybody. However, I will try to fill them with PLM context.

Discontinuity

Enterprise software is a complicated beast. PLM cannot be excluded from that list. It is complex, requires long time planning and implementation cycle. Once implementation it works for a long time,  replacement cost is high too. Add to this last 10 years of acquisition in this field and large vendor platform transformation and you will have a perfect place to play with discontinuity. Formally, nobody is discontinuing PLM/PDM products. Pro/PDM, Eigner, SmarTeam, Metaphase – all these products are supported and maintained by vendors on a certain level. Practically all PLM vendors are building a support network to deal with customers running outdated and retired systems. Therefore, these customers can become a strategic asset for competitors that will be able to propose them an interesting offer. Once the decision made, to change it will be even more complicated because of long processes, politics and corporate ego. Therefore, discontinuity play can be powerful and dangerous.

Partnership

To have good partners in business is like to have good friends in your life. If you have trusted and powerful partners, you can use it as an advantage in your competitive war. In PLM business, I can see two types of strategic partnership – service and sales channel partner (eg. IBM was such for many years in business with Dassault Systems), the parent company (eg. Siemens for Siemens PLM) or another business division (eg. SAP, Oracle, Microsoft). To develop and keep right partnership is very important. To know how to drop partnership is also one of the elements of a competitive game.

Marketing

To build a perfect marketing and branding story is another way to beat competition. Yes, I know… you are smiling and maybe even thinking – who is buying marketing PowerPoint presentations these days. Believe me or not, it happens all the time. If you are powerful and strong brand with billions of dollars in revenue, your marketing story can be very compelling. It will take time, resources and effort to sort it out. Yes, you are in danger to buy a dream. But it can be a very nice and well packed marketing. So, take it seriously. It can be 3D Experience, High Definition PLM, Instant On – dreams is an important weapon too.

Competitor’s mistakes

Last, but not least- the mistakes (or in this context – presents) made by your competitors. You need constantly and permanently watch your competitors. Low quality of a release, compatibility failure, channel problem – all these mistakes are weapon in your arsenal to build your marketing expansion.

What is my conclusion? The PLM competitive landscape becomes more dynamic than before. I can see some movements done by large companies (eg. Autodesk), smaller established companies with very innovative strategies (eg. Aras) and startup companies. As I said in one of my previous posts – PLM is a fun place again. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


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