5 Attitudes that can kill PLM projects

March 16, 2015


In my experience, I can separate all manufacturing into two large categories with regards to what they want to do with PLM: those who don’t want to do anything with PLM and those who desperately want to implement that, but don’t know where to start. The border between them is blurred. Sometimes you can see two different groups of people in a company taking opposite opinions about how to deal (or not) with PLM.

I’ve been thinking about how company can build a right attitude to take on PLM projects. You can find many blog posts and analyst materials explaining how to implement PLM and not fail. I decided to try an opposite approach. Regardless on where any specific engineering or manufacturing company falls in the spectrum of their intent towards PLM project, I can identify several attitudes that can literally kill you PLM projects. Here are my selection of 5 attitudes:

#1 We don’t need PLM. We can do it differently.

The size of a company doesn’t matter. I’ve seen it in large and small companies. Usually, it happens with companies having established processes and/or systems. They are confident that they can manage everything they need using existing systems (CAD, Excel, ERP, CRM, etc.) and PLM as a concept is something artificial. My recipe to such type of company is to look for inefficiency of their processes and learn more about PLM. With some learning they can find a match between their problems and potential PLM systems can bring.

#2- This is only for big companies

A typical mindset of SME (small to medium) companies that afraid to see how many problems can be solved by organizing data about product and product development processes in a better way. Most of PLM companies are not spending enough educating small customers about how flexible and diversified approach in PLM can improve what they do.

#3- We want OOTB (Out-of-the-box)

This is a situation when customer wants vendor or service partner to solve their internal problems by bringing ready-to-be-used PLM systems. However, without learning about your own company, any PLM implementation will be a suicide. You can use OOTB as a starting point, but in no way to deploy system and change your company to operate accordingly. Such attitude usually ends up by abandoning of OOTB implementation and switching back to old processes.

4- We can do it as a side project

Another dangerous situation. Some people in a company can consider that PLM is an isolated project, which can be disconnected from rest of the company. As a result you can get PLM software installed and used for a specific group of people. It is obviously kills PLM value.s

5- It is for engineers only

A subset of previous attitude, which assumes PLM is only important for engineers. This approach usually downgrade PLM to basic set of CAD data management functions. Domains like BOM management, Change management, Quality, Manufacturing planning are going out PLM radar and it takes down overall PLM value for a company.

What is my conclusion? Think about PLM as a strategic approach to change the way you run product development. It helps to identify biggest pain points and find how to plan PLM implementation in a holistic way, but prioritizing on specific problems. It helps to build an overall plan, to discuss with people in all department, but build a gradual implementation. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

CAD companies and cloud storage strategy

July 7, 2014


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

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

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

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

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

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

Best, Oleg

Will cloud PLM develop PaaS options?

January 16, 2014


Last year I was writing about PLM and PaaS dilemma. As we move more into diversity of cloud PLM options, the question about PLM platforms and PaaS is getting more interesting. PLM vendors are full speed in the process of understanding what cloud strategy to following – more traditional hosting, IaaS, private & public cloud, multi-tenant public cloud. More about that in my article here.

Back in time to traditional on premise software, PLM vendors liked to present PLM as a platform for variety of solutions that relies on PLM data backbone. It assumes availability of tools and APIs to support product flexibility and adjustment to customer needs. The question if cloud PLM world will look the same and cloud PLM vendors will come with PaaS options?

Interesting enough, pure PaaS world looks not very bright according to some analytical reviews. I was reading Inforworld article – Is the PaaS market as we know it dying? The main point of the article is a squeeze SaaS and IaaS companies are putting on PaaS market. Here is my favorite passage:

"Is PaaS becoming just a feature of IaaS?" codified a growing theory within the cloud computing industry that the PaaS market — which provides a cloud-based application development environment — will be consolidated into the two other major cloud models, infrastructure as a service (IaaS) and software as a service (SaaS).

Already IaaS and SaaS vendors have rolled out PaaS-like features for customers to build applications on their services. Leading SaaS company Salesforce.com, for example, has Force.com for users to build custom applications based on data already in the company’s cloud. IaaS providers like VMware, CenturyLink and Verizon have adopted PaaS technologies so customer can build applications and then host them in their IaaS cloud.

It made me think about PLM PaaS opportunity. Clearly, none of PLM vendors is interested to become locked in one of existing PaaS platforms. At the same time, without development capabilities cloud PLM won’t be a viable solution for many companies and, especially, for larger PLM deployments from the cloud. Potential solution – to develop PaaS features as part of their cloud PLM strategies.

What is my conclusion? In order to move in the world of mature PLM implementation with cloud offerings, PLM vendors will have to understand how to deliver PaaS features to support configuration, customization and other system tailoring. It is also important to allow service and implementation vendors to sell services. I can see large PLM companies will be trying to adapt existing development platform features in the cloud or develop or buy cloud development platforms. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

How PLM let go of the banana?

January 14, 2014


How do you trap a big monkey in a small cage the size of a banana? Easy! You place a banana inside the cage and leave an opening large enough for the monkey’s hand, but not for the banana. As soon as the monkey grabs the banana, it’s trapped. The monkey can set itself free if it lets go of the banana, but it won’t! By not giving up what it has in its hand, it locks itself just outside the tiny cage.

PLM story is very similar. For a long period of time, PLM is trapped into “engineering cage” deeply connected with CAD roots. If you look on what PLM industry and top PLM players are producing, you can find a lot of similarities. Marketing messages, product names, functionality are similar, which can challenge customer decision process as well as business differentiation for vendors. At the same time, a potential span of solutions, purposes, business objectives, experience is huge as well as purpose of PLM – to help people design and manufacture “things”.

So, how PLM industry can be unhooked and develop new different approaches in beyond traditional PLM way to think and behave? While I don’t have an out of the box recipe, I wanted to mention few examples of companies and approaches that to looks like a change from a traditional mindset. There is no order and priority in this list. I picked up two smaller companies and two established vendors to create some parity in the story.

1- Aras. For the last five years, I’ve been looking on Aras Enterprise Open Source model for PLM. Don’t try to find a “pure open source model”. Aras is different from Linux. It provide a mix of openness approach, different business model and company state of mind that looks different and drives interest from many people in PLM industry. Aras is distributing their product free and making business from subscriptions. You can get more details about how Aras is doing that by navigating on this link.

2- GrabCAD. Started as website to upload 3D CAD files few years ago, GrabCAD is transforming into cloud platform and marketplace to sell product and services. It includes some interesting activities called “GrabCAD challenges” that drives crowdsourcing in design and manufacturing. In addition to that, GrabCAD Workbench provides a place for engineers to collaborate or just simply store their 3D CAD models. Al Dean of Develop3D just published a very interesting article talking about GrabCAD differentiations here.

3- Autodesk Cloud. PLM360 was announced 2 years ago as “cloud PLM alternative”. It goes together with massive cloud shift that Autodesk makes in all product development. Autodesk 360 and related set of “360 family” of products is a change in a mindset of how products and services can be sold, deployed and used. If you want to learn more about Autodesk PLM360, navigate here.

4- PTC IoT. This is one of the last news in PLM world. By acquisition of ThingWorx, PTC announced their interest in so called “Internet of Things” world. The IoT trend is interesting and clear different from what traditional “PLM banana” might looks like. Together with SLM (Service Lifecycle Management) strategies from PTC it introduces an interesting PLM shift. If you want to read more about PTC ThingWorx acquisition, navigate here.

What is my conclusion? Changes are coming. Established PLM vendors and startups are slowly freeing their hands from the cage with “PLM as we know” banana and moving forward. The new industrial revolution is coming. In coming years, we are going to see lots of new approaches in how to make things and do manufacturing differently. It will include new business models, new people, new products and new environments. 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

PLM 2013: What is your 7-years plan?

December 31, 2012

I’ve been out of active blogging for the last week because of Autodesk week of rest. It is a perfect time to disconnect from day-to-day activities, stop and think about what happens in PLM from different perspective – customers, vendors, technology. Approaching the end of the year, we can see huge amount of blog posts with titles like "the most important things you need to pay attention in 2013". I’m a bit tired of these "predictions". I decided to jump over and think about longer perspective of PLM beyond 2013. One of the companies that always impressed me by their long term thinking strategy is Amazon. You can read a bit about Amazon long term strategy from the last year NYT article here. My favorite passage is this one –

“If everything you do needs to work on a three-year time horizon, then you’re competing against a lot of people,” Mr. Bezos told reporter Steve Levy last month in an interview in Wired. “But if you’re willing to invest on a seven-year time horizon, you’re now competing against a fraction of those people, because very few companies are willing to do that. Just by lengthening the time horizon, you can engage in endeavors that you could never otherwise pursue. At Amazon we like things to work in five to seven years. We’re willing to plant seeds, let them grow—and we’re very stubborn.”

It made me think about what I can see on a horizon pf PLM product and technologies for the next seven years. To make long term prediction is risky thing. Nevertheless, I will take a chance to put some of my questions, ideas, thoughts and the conclusion below.

What we do after "cloud" goes mainstream?

We are in the middle of the biggest technological transformation since PC-era. Think about consumer technologies and products. Cloud technologies went mainstream in many areas – email, photo sharing, social networks, video streaming. PLM cloud revolution is moving forward these days as well. Vendors are applying different strategies. Two main disputed topics – security and availability, will be resolved sooner or later. Today, you still have time to get prepared to a new level of access, openness, mobility and ease of PLM cloud adoption.

PLM business models

Customers’ demand is to have predictable business models that will allow to PLM to grow in organizations. Today, PLM business models cannot scale to the level of enterprise and beyond. You can hear lots of discussion about that. To provide simple and affordable pricing models is a next challenge in front of CAD/PLM vendors. It won’t happen fast. To change revenue model is one of the most challenging part for every organization. At the same time, I don’t see any other ways to make PLM for everyone.

The value of small communities

The idea of communities is going mainstream in social networking and media. PLM companies and few startup companies tried to apply it to engineers, manufacturing companies and product development. It had their successes and failures. There are few Facebook-copycats developed by startups and established PLM/ERP vendors. I believe, it was a right step for 2012. However, thinking about longer terms, the value of these communities is limited. PLM companies will have to explore the value of small communities focused on specific vertical, industry, segment, etc. These small communities will have a lot of impact and potential in the future.

How to build PLM open data?

The era of data exchange is about to end. No industry can survive under such a huge amount of data translators and data modeling best practices. PLM vendors need to discover a growing world of shared vocabularies. Dublin core, Freebase, Good Relations, RDFS, SKOS, SIOC and others. To leverage open vocabularies will be extremely important in order to build connected PLM services.

What is my conclusion? The world of manufacturing, engineering and product development is changing. It is not as fast as consumer world and web. In my view, many manufacturers are holding back now their plans about the future development of PLM initiatives. My favorite quote of Nathan Myhrvold (ex CTO of Microsoft) – If you want to have a great future you have to think about it in the present, because when the future’s here you won’t have the time. Manufacturing and product development is in the early beginning of adopting curve of technologies and methods developed by web during last two decades. It will take time to transform and adapt it to fit enterprise companies need, but once it came, "new PLM" will stay with us long time.

Best, Oleg

Image courtesy of [jscreationsz] / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

PLM, Cupcakes and Blind Spotting

June 19, 2012

Let me ask you this… Is there a connection between PLM and Cupcakes? I hope I’ve got your attention for a minute :). One of the questions PLM industry is struggling for a long period of time is awareness. PLM long time industry opponents ERPs are well positioned to get attention of CIOs and other executives in the companies. At the same time, speak to any PLM-related person about PLM awareness, and you will be immediately attacked by a long list of facts that supposed to convince you PLM is the first thing you need to implement in order to improve your business. Getting back to the original question about PLM and Cupcakes, one of my best blogging and twitting buddies, Jim McKenney posted in his PLM on my brainfew months ago an interesting blog post called – Who needs Product Lifecycle Management? The following passage is my favorite:

People seemingly cannot agree on who really needs Product Lifecycle Management, or PLM.  What is my response? EVERY business needs PLM! Why, you ask, well, let me tell you. Every business has a large pile of information that supports their products. It may be in the form of paper, but thankfully today, most businesses have a large amount of digital information that supports their business. Managing that virtual information is what allows the company to continue delivering products and support to their customers. PLM is all about managing virtual information to support physical products.

Later in his post, Jim is coming to the “cupcakes story” explaining why every company needs PLM. You can replace “cupcakes” with anything else – cars, airplanes, computers, food, etc. and it won’t change a story. The fact how people convinced themselves about the need of PLM is interesting to observe. As a result of this, PLM solutions’ appetites are growing, and many additional solutions become part of PLM portfolios.

Another thing that very often came in conversations about PLM is “change”. The company must change their processes, behaviors, organization, systems, etc. to successfully implement PLM systems. Another PLM blogger I admire – Jos Voskuil often writes about people’s aspect of PLM. In one of the last posts in his virtualdutchman blog – The State of PLM after 4 years blogging Jos is saying: I believe PLM requires a change in an organization not only from the IT perspective but more important from the way people will work in an organization and the new processes they require.

The aspect of change and the question about PLM awareness made me think about “blind spotting”. Everybody knows what is blind spot when you drive your car. However, this is not exactly what I want to talk about. I’ve got my exposure to the topic of blind spotting two years ago during COFES 2010 when I attended a lecture of Peter Marks about the same topic. I put a video record of this session. It is longer than a usual video I put in my posts. Keep it for coming 4th of July week and watch it. I’m sure you will learn a lot as I did.

Peter Marks lecture about Blind Spotting at COFES 2010

Just to capture an idea of what Peter Marks is talking about I want to refer you to the article where Peter is answering 3 questions about blind spotting. Navigate here and have a read. Here is the question that caught my special attention. Peter is talking about what blind spot will make a biggest difference to us:

It’s probably the extension of our innate territoriality to territories of belief. This often leads to irrational escalation of conflict. As with many other animals, we’re wired to defend our territories.  Home territories are where we find sustenance and protect our kin.   Over the millennia, we’ve evolved many biases to give us a “home field advantage.” Today, the notion of defending a physical territory has extended to “territories” of belief and culture.  The functional silos in most medium size and larger organizations are a mild form of this territoriality.

I found it resonating to the topic of PLM territory :). I hope you’ve got my point. It is about how to organize the territory of automotive manufacturing company, high-tech company and… finally, cupcake company with the way PLM is pretending to make their business. This is where a second blind spot mentioned by Peter caught my special attention –

Q: What is the biggest blind spot you overcome yourself? One thing I’ve become more aware of is how the “confirmation bias”  affects me.  Most of us, myself included, are confident in our own beliefs.   When challenged, we start looking (only) for evidence that supports our opinion.  Early in school and in my career, my knee-jerk reaction was to bury contrary opinions in an avalanche of facts.

What is my conclusion? I found “blind spotting” as an interesting association to look on what is happening around PLM these days. We’ve been very long-time believers of “know how” to make companies to use PLM software. I have to say, we’ve got certain achievements in how we did it. However, PLM software didn’t make it to the mainstream adoption similar to accounting, CRM and some of ERP functions. The market situation these days is very disruptive- cloud, social, different so-called “2.0 trends”. It is important to overcome traditional PLM blind spot in order to see what the shift PLM industry needs to take to go beyond its current potential. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


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