PLM Technology vs Vertical Industries: Wrong balance?

April 14, 2014


Let’s talk about PLM technologies. Err.. PLM is not a technology. Even more, PLM is even not a product. So, what is that? Business strategy? Product development politics? For the sake of this conversation let’s leave these debates out. I want to speak about PLM technologies that allow you to manage product data, CAD files, bill of materials, rich set of related information as well as processes around it. This technology came to us about 20-25 years ago first as a very hard-coded set of tools. You had to build it literally different for every customer. So, it supported only large customers that were able to pay for software, infrastructure and implementation. Later on, PDM/PLM turned into software toolkit. The next step in PDM/PLM technology evolution was called flexible data modeling. The first flexible (dynamic) PLM data modeling tools were released back in 1995-2000 and… not much changed since then.

So, what happened since that time? PLM vendors went to develop out-of-the-box and vertical industry solutions in a massive way. David Linthicum’s article officially is out of ideas reminded me about the joke comparing technology vs. industry play. Here is the passage:

When you run out of new ways to provide innovative technology, you go vertical. That was the running joke among CTOs back in the day. It usually meant the market had reached the saturation point and you could not find new growth

I found this message very compelling to what happens in PLM industry. PLM vendors are trying to compete by providing more comprehensive set of data models, best practices, process templates. By doing so, vendors want to reduce TCO of PLM implementations. It is actually brings success and many customers are using these solutions as a starting point for their PLM implementation.

So, where is the problem? For most of the situations, PLM is still costly and expensive implementation. Services may take up to 50% of the cost. Here is the issue – core PLM data and process modeling technology didn’t change a lot for the last 10-15 years. Data models, CAD file management, product structure, process orchestration. All these things are evolving, but very little. The fundamental capabilities are the same. And it is very expensive to develop solutions using these technologies.

You may ask me about cloud technologies. Cloud is the answer. But only partially. It solves problems related to infrastructure, deployments and updates. Cloud provides clear benefits here. However, from the implementation technology standpoint, it is very similar to what non-cloud solutions can offer. Another interesting passage from Infoworld cloud computing article explains what is the problem new SaaS/cloud products can experience when trying to displace existing vendors:

So many companies have tried this approach — many times — but most found limited success. I can’t help but think the same will occur here. Salesforce will soon discover that when you get into vertical industries, the existing foundation of industry-specific applications is difficult to displace. Although Salesforce can always play the SaaS card, most of those industry-specific providers have already moved to SaaS or are in the midst of such a move. That means SaaS won’t be the key differentiator it was when Salesforce first provided its powerful sales automation service more than a decade ago.

What is my conclusion? Efficiency and cost. These are two most important things to make PLM implementation successful. So, the technology must be improved. Data and model capturing tools, flexibility and ease of use – everything must be more efficient to support future of manufacturing processes. How to do so? This is a good topic to discuss with technology leaders and strategiest. I’m going to attend COFES 2014 in 10 days. I hope to find some answers there and share it with you.

Best, Oleg

PLM Software and Open Source Contribution

February 11, 2014


Open source is a topic that raised many controversy in the last decade. Especially if you speak about enterprise software. The trajectory of open source software moved from absolute prohibition to high level of popularization. In my view, the situation is interesting in the context of PLM software. The specific characteristic of PLM is related to a very long life span of the software. PLM system developed and deployed 10-15 years ago are continue to be in active production mode by many customers. However, the question of how PLM software can leverage the value of open source software remains open.

Readwrite article Open Source Should Thank These Five Companies put an interesting perspective of the value of open source software for enterprise community. In my view, the article brings examples of software components that can be re-used by enterprise vendors. However, technology is not everything. People and culture is another important element of open source contribution. Here is my favorite passage from the article:

"To encourage excellence, you need to do things out in the open,” Kreps [Jay Kreps of LinkedIn] said. “Engineers are like everyone else—if everybody’s watching, they want to look good. Otherwise we’re building a crappy internal tool that’s just good enough to meet our immediate needs.”

I have to admit, open source initiatives didn’t start in web companies only. During the past decade we’ve seen significant contribution to open source made by major software vendors like IBM and some others specifically if you speak about massive investment in Linux projects. Another Readwrite article is trying to establish balance in open source contribution debates. However, the main conclusion remains the same – web companies these days leads the way for open and innovative technological development. I found conclusion interesting:

"…old school" companies like IBM don’t get the credit they deserve. But it is the Web companies that are building data superstructure on the Internet".

I found the comment about data superstructure important in the context of our PLM software discussion. The replacement of Windows servers and other backend infrastructure by Linux and other open source software is just a matter of time. Also, I believe this is an active process for many enterprise IT organizations these days. However, the question of data management foundation for future PLM software remains hugely open.

What is my conclusion? Open source can re-shape the landscape and future technological trajectories of PLM software. Technologies polished and contributed by web giants to open source community can provide a solid foundation to existing PLM vendors and startup companies to develop future foundation of scalable enterprise product data management solutions. Open culture combined with public quality acceptance can be another major shift that to differentiate future enterprise software developers. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

PLM v BIM: Common or Different?

January 1, 2014


As a matter of fact, PLM and BIM domains are quite independent. Nevertheless, I can hear more and more voices recently trying to create a marriage between these two. The latest one that caught my attention just before New Year party was Jos Voskuil’s blog – 2014 The year the construction industry will discover PLM? It is a bit long, but very thoughtful article speaking about variety of topics related to history, development and perspective of PLM and BIM usage. Have a read. My favorite passage is the following one:

An intermediate conclusion might be that construction companies follow the same direction as early PLM. Standardizing the data (model) to have a common understanding between stakeholders. Construction companies might not want to implement a PLM system as ownership of data is unclear as compared to manufacturing companies every discipline or department in PLM might be another company in the construction industry.

Data collaboration between people having different ownership and purpose on working with data is something that clearly can provide PLM and BIM perspective. At the same time, as you getting down to the earth, you might discover so many differentiability.

Thinking about technology and data deliveries as we move from files on hard discs to data in the cloud, lots of "application specifics" can disappear in the future by providing single collaborative cloud data platform to run variety of calculations and processes.

So, I can see a point why technologically driven people can see how to combine PLM and BIM to provide a broader unified platforms. At the same time, going down to bits you can discover lots of differentiations in data, terminology, processing and more. All together made think about what are top 3 common and different characteristics of PLM and BIM.

Top 3 commons:

1- Data Sharing. Both PLM and BIM solutions have a need to share and access a combined set of 3D and 2D product and project data with different roles and access requirements. Data can belongs to the same organization as well as different organizations.

2- Project management. Whatever we do, we call it projects. You can find some specifics between discrete manufacturing and building projects, but we would like to organize people and teams around deliveries and timeline.

3- Visualization. Both PLM and BIM have a strong tendency to visualize the objects. It doesn’t matter what – airplane, building, car or just office design. We want to see and experience it virtually before making it real. It even come in commonality of processes such as clash detection.

Top 3 differentiations:

1- Single model. You can hear both PLM and BIM people are talking about single model. It sounds similar, but I can see a big difference in handling of variety of Bill of Materials (EBOM, MBOM, etc.) vs. different elements of information about building (architecture, construction, equipment, etc.)

2- Processes and changes. Even every definition of what is process in the world sounds similar, I can see significant difference in the way changes and data integrity should be maintained between manufacturing product development and construction projects. The variety of specific models, data definitions, reporting, updates and many other specific won’t allow to create a single solution to support both manufacturing (PLM) and construction (BIM) domains.

3- Tools, Apps and terminology. At the end of the day, we are talking about people. Both PLM and BIM are representing almost different set of programs for design, planning, etc. These two tool sets are providing specific language and terminology. Even if some techie people can see similarity between them, it is often goes very down to HEX code, rather than to practical similarity. People are regular to use their apps and terminology and to make them change their behavior for sake of PLM and BIM unification sounds like a crazy task and mission impossible.

What is my conclusion? I can see some infrastructure commonality that can come in the future between PLM and BIM implementations. It will come first from tech and computing infrastructure. As much as we go towards cloud based solution, we might see some re-use of sharing of multidisciplinary solutions for data management, project organization, visualization, mobile access, etc. However, both manufacturing (PLM) and construction (BIM) industries will keep specific data organization, processes and terminological differences that will drive diversity in solution delivery. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

The future of invisible PLM is here – Google Location History

December 19, 2013


The technology can make a difference. What technological approach can make a difference in the future of PLM? This is a question many of us are asking these days. Ease of adoption is a problem for PDM and PLM from the early beginning. Existing technology created a levle of disruption engineers and other people involved into the process are not able to tolerate. Think about designer or engineer working on CAD model. The last thing engineer is interested in is how to check-in and check-out the design in order to keep the history of changes. Let’s think future about engineering processes. It is very inefficient to ask engineering and manufacturing people manually track every change to capture ECO and other processes related to changes of product structure and follow up decisions / actions. So, data management and process management shouldn’t be a burden on top of existing product development activities. Hidden data management, invisible PDM… these are thing that compelling as a future values of PLM technologies nowadays.

Techcrunch article this morning was a mind shake for me. Google’s Location History Browser Is A Minute-By-Minute Map Of Your Life. The article speaks about Goole ability to track you location in an absolutely transparent way using smartphone and your Google account. For those of your who remember Google Latitude, the fact Google can track your location shouldn’t be a big surprise. What was impressive is the level of transparency Google captured data.

I looked over my account and found quite precise history of my locations for the last weeks in variety places. Take a look on few screenshots I made.


The next picture shows my movement inside of Las Vegas Autodesk University venue.


What is my conclusion? The future of invisible PLM will be driven by the ability to capture information and processes in a transparent way. The transparency will allow to PDM and PLM technology to be adopted in a painless way to capture business processes and engineering changes. Context usage will play another important role in the future transparency of enterprise systems. Location context is just a beginning. Future context will include, people, department, calendar, product data and many others. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

How many PLM vendors disappear in disruption predicted by Gartner?

October 21, 2013


Shake-ups are not a surprise these days. It happens all the time and especially in technological fields. The last decade of web, mobile and consumer tech innovations established a solid feeling of something new happens all the time. This “something” will come and change a status quo. Disruption is a lovely word. Lots of major tech and web companies even didn’t exist a decade ago. Imagine you life without iPhone, Facebook, Twitter, Amazon and many others.

However, enterprise field is a bit different. Still, there are lot of innovation and disruption. However, old vendors are alive and keep dominant positions. Here is a question – for how long? I’ve been reading Computerworld report from latest Gartner technological symposium. The report provides an interesting prediction with regards to the future of established IT vendors. Patrick Thibodeau of Computerworld is wring up in his summary:

“We know that most suppliers don’t dominate from one generation of IT to the next,” said Peter Sondergaard, Gartner’s research director. “Many of the vendors who are on the top today, like Cisco, Oracle, or Microsoft, may not be the leaders in the digital industrial economy.”

It made me think again about the trajectory of PLM and other enterprise software vendors. I remember Gartner presentation about PLM trends during PLM Innovation 2012 Congress in Munich. I summarized it in my post – PLM Perfect Storm 2012. Gartner’s Marc Halpern presented the following PLM market dynamics slide.


Will tech upheaval happen in CAD/PLM domain? Who will dominate PLM space in 3-5 years? Gartner’s slide is only focusing on established vendors. Even if it looks interesting, the most important question to ask is who is not on the slide? Who is still “innovating in the garage” and out of spotlight? Computerworld write up speaks about that as well:

“Gartner analysts warned that a data explosion threatens to overwhelm, sensors will be everywhere, 3-D printing will change everything, and smart machines will replace people. CIOs that don’t adapt will become simple custodians of back-end systems. Companies that fail to change will join Kodak, Blackberry and Wang, each of which was slow to recognize new forces in technology.”

What is my conclusion? There are not many vendors in CAD/PLM domains. Few large and established vendors are dominating this space and playing strong M&A activity which leads to future consolidation and elimination of small vendors. Will technological upheaval predicted by Gartner apply for PLM space? Does it mean we are going to see new players in the design and engineering domain leveraging new digital eco-system to gain market share? This is a time for PLM blue chip advisers and PLM IT managers to keep up to speed with what is going around. Tomorrow can be different. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

PLM Paradigms Shift: Product, Process, Social… Calendar?

September 12, 2013

We are in the middle of significant paradigm shift. Consumerization, cloud, mobile. This is only a short list of influencing factors changing the way we develop PLM products these days. Paradigm is a “framework of basic assumptions, ways of thinking, and methods” held by its practitioners. New PLM development are triggering a paradigm shift because it is changing our worldview of how we interact, develop product, run processes and communicate.

I’ve been thinking about different paradigms PLM application used in the past. Here is my top 3 paradigms I identified – Product, Process / Project and Social.

Paradigm 1: Product

In my view, “product” is the original paradigm born together with CAD and other design and analytic tools. The big moment of product paradigm was development of digital mockup tools together with complex product configuration capabilities. These tools are not simple, but it solved critical product design and configuration problems.

Paradigm 2: Process / Project

As PLM tools development moved forward, the question of PLM adoption in organization came into focus. Organizations are run by process and to have the ability to us PLM process for such fundamental processes like ECO and others got traction. ERP and other business process applications success provided an additional input in PLM process development.

Paradigm 3: Social

Here is the newest paradigm shift – social. The latest innovation of social networks and web application provided new development perspective to PLM developers. To provide a Facebook-like user experience became a modern fashion, must-have features. We’ve seen it everywhere. The idea of social streams had some traction. However, from discussion with people and commentary on my blog, I’ve learned that adoption of PLM social application in real implementations is still very slow.

I don’t think old paradigms are dying. At least not so fast. The lifecycle of enterprise product development is probably one of the slowest among other software development domains. Old paradigms like product and process are here and provide mainstream sales for PLM products. However, what can be the next paradigm that provide an increased adoption of PLM applications by users in organizations.

One of the interesting places to innovate these days is calendar. Think about many everyday applications we are using – calendar remains almost the same as we know him for the last 10-15 years. I’ve been reading about Fastcodesign blog about new scheduling app called – Mynd (I’ve heard about this app as NeverLate app before). Navigate here and have a read. Here is an interesting video. Watch it to learn more about “calendar oriented paradigm”.

What is my conclusion? Attention span. How to get your application in front of the user and get him to use your application frequently? How to make it valuable for larger amount of users? Calendar is the application we use every day. For most of us, calendars are part of our every day activity. Here is the dream. Can I make my calendar to schedule right meetings with right people based on the project schedule, list of critical issues in development and even more? Sounds crazy? IMHO, not so much. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Why PLM vendors need to learn about hybrid mobile platforms?

July 10, 2013

Mobile development is skyrocketing these days. Everybody wants to be mobile. Enterprise vendors slowly discovering the power of mobile apps. However, to develop a robust and powerful mobile applications is not a simple thing. One of the biggest challenges many enterprise developers are facing these days is diversity of mobile platforms combined with high cost of development.

With high level of complexity required to deliver mobile enterprise apps like ERP, CRM and PLM, it is not surprising that software vendors are looking how to optimize mobile development. One of the potential challenges many of vendors are facing is so called "mobile web" vs. "native apps" development. I’ve been posting about it couple of months ago – Mobile PLM Native App Challenges. Mobile web can provide advantages of unified development, but limit the richness of native app development that most of users are regular to have on their iPad, iPhones and other mobile devices.

Complexity of mobile development created an interesting opportunity in mobile development space – hybrid mobile app development platforms. In a nutshell it means that you can develop your application using web development technologies (eg. HTML5) and it will be embedded via wrapper into native mobile app on iOS or other native mobile platforms. The following TechCrunch article gives you few references and examples of companies that embarked towards hybrid mobile development. Two names I captured from the article – PhoneGap and AppMobi. The last one was acquired by Intel few months ago. Take a look on the following video to get more info.

It made me think that development of hybrid mobile apps can be an ideal option for many CAD and PLM developers looking how to combine the power of rich user experience and beauty of native mobile application. Another video captured from TechCrunch article shows how TradeMonster created very powerful and rich user experience for iPad using hybrid HTML5/Mobile app framework.

What is my conclusion? To optimize enterprise software development on mobile platform is an interesting opportunity. With a pressure to deliver more apps with rich user experience in short time, PLM and CAD companies can think about hybrid platforms as almost ideal choice to optimize their software development cost. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Why PLM needs to shift focus from buyers to users?

June 3, 2013

Enterprise systems for long time are well-known as a place where IT plays the role of the king on the road. ERP, CRM and many other enterprise systems and implementations proved that. If you want to sell to enterprise organization, you need to focus on key IT people, preferable on CIO, Chief of Engineering, Manufacturing etc. Earlier this year, I had a healthy debate about this topic following my blog post – PLM, Viral Sales and Enterprise Old Schoolers.

The disruption in Enterprise IT is one that I see as one of the most interesting trends these days in enterprise space. The following presentation caught my attention yesterday – The challenges and opportunities of business in the disruptive tech era. I recommend you to take a look on this even the presentation is 56 slides. However, the following slide stands out and resonate with the point I wanted to make about IT.

Let’s get back to PLM domain. In the existing ecosystems, there are two major ways to sell and implement PDM/PLM projects. One can be made indirectly mostly via CAD vendors channels. The complexity of these implementations is limited and these implementations (with some small number of exclusions) are limited to catch the level of enterprise IT. Another one is a direct channel developed by PLM and ERP vendors selling PLM implementations to top level management in IT organizations. The higher level of IT people is better.

I can see multiple reasons why existing IT is not getting excited about technological disruption in PLM and other enterprise organization. The disruption means changes and changes are usually come with the lost of control and existing status. For example, cloud means no servers need to installed, implementations can be done remotely and product development has a better chances to focus on user experience and business needs rather than on how to implement and run enterprise deployments.

What is my conclusion? The future of PLM implementation will shift focus from PLM buyers to PLM users. At the end of the days, people need to get job done. PLM needs to focus on user needs, user experience and the ability of systems to help people in everyday business life. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Do We Need a Delete Button in PLM?

May 14, 2013

Delete is a special function. In the system dealing with the live data, the meaning of delete is interesting. My first lesson about <delete> function in PDM was 25 years ago. In one of very first data management systems I implemented we used a special flag to mark deleted parts. Later on, I was discussing delete functionality with engineering managers of one of the firms. Think about parts used in production. How you can delete them? They can be not effective for usage, out of stock, discontinued, etc. However, you cannot literally delete them. Back 20 years ago the technology was different. We marked parts and revisions as "obsolete", but we didn’t keep them forever.

Yesterday, in the airport, the following CNET article caught my attention – Google’s Schmidt: The Internet needs a delete button. Schmidt is discussing the nature of internet to absorb data and information that cannot be deleted. Here is an interesting passage:

Actions someone takes when young can haunt the person forever, Schmidt said, because the information will always be on the Internet. He used the example of a young person who committed a crime that could be expunged from his record when he’s an adult. But information about that crime could remain online, preventing the person from finding a job. "In America, there’s a sense of fairness that’s culturally true for all of us," Schmidt said. "The lack of a delete button on the Internet is a significant issue. There is a time when erasure is a right thing."

Well, privacy has a different angle, of course. People are not Part Numbers. However, think about technology behind the internet these days. Think about Gmail. You can be doing email forever without deleting them. I’ve heard some rumors first version of Gmail had no delete functionality. Storage is cheap these days. You literally can keep all information created by design, engineering, manufacturing all the time without deleting this information. Isn’t it fascinating. It can change the way people design and manufacturing things.

What is my conclusion? Delete is a very specially functionality when it comes to systems dealing with a lifecycle. Internet is very much change our horizons in understanding what potentially can include a "total lifeycle" management. It also change a perspective of how to manage lifecycle for a particular eco-system such as PLM. The increasing lifespan covered by PLM systems can improve decision making and provide additional insight in the areas of product development, quality management and others. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

“PLM journey” and thoughts about technology

April 3, 2013

PLM implementations are complex. How many times have you heard about that? I think a lot. Last 15-20 years of PDM/PLM business demonstrated that PLM and ease of implementations are not coming together. If, in addition to that, you ask for low cost, people might be thinking you are joking. I’ve been sharing my thoughts about PLM implementations and improvement of PLM adoptions earlier. The core problem that exists in PDM/PLM is complexity. Navigate to my old blog – Complexity Kills or Three Ways to Improve PLM Adoption to read more. In addition to that, I outlined 3 main factors impacting fast PLM adoption – massive customization, legacy data and integration with ERP. Read more here - 3 main factors of mainstream PLM adoption. PLM implementations are big, expensive and take long time. I called it "big mono-PLM projects". Customers are implementing PLM products that become legacy faster than an implementation ends. The investment made into this system deployment keeps them with old technologies and products and preventing customers from moving forward. Read the following article – PLM Implementation Lifecycle Challenges to get more confirmations and data points.

One of the opinions about PLM implementations is related to so-called "PLM business transformation". My blogging buddy Jos Voskuil refered it as "PLM journey" in his co-named blog post PLM is a journey. According to Jos, PLM requires significant effort including promoting PLM values to the minds of management in companies. Here is the passage, which explains it -

You would assume that the value PLM brings would make it a no-brainer. However for successful implementing PLM there is no standard approach (and definition). Often people believe PLM as an IT-solution. And the common sense is that you buy an IT-solution, you implement it and continue working in a better mode. That’s where the implementation fails as PLM is different. So let’s start our journey

Another aspect mentioned by Jos is related to the role of IT in PLM implementation. Because PLM, according to Jos, is a business transformation, IT cannot successfully manage this project. At the same time, it is hard to get people from specific functional units to be focused on the overall product development process improvements. This is how Jos explains that -

But when it comes to implementation, there is usually only one cross-disciplines unit that can accomplish this assignment: the IT-department. And here is the crucial mistake discovered time after time where PLM implementations fail. PLM is a business transformation, not an IT-system implementation. Business should lead this transformation, but it is very rare you find the right people that have the full overview, skills and availability to implement this transformation across departments. People from the business side will be primarily focused on their (small) part of the full process, leaving at the end the project to be done to IT.

PLM technological challenges

I would like to provide an alternative view on why PLM adoption is slow. It is a technological fault. The technology to solve complicated multi-domain data management problems and cross functional process improvements are not good enough and not ready to mainstream deployments. It requires extra effort and extra understanding how to deploy it successfully. Implementation take long time and, automatically, making technology outdated. Significant investment made by companies in long lifecycle technological products is not allowing to make agile improvements going up to speed with technological changes.

Most of PDM/PLM technologies and products these days were developed 10-15 years ago and it is not reflecting modern state of development coming out of new platforms, web, open source technologies, cloud and many others. It reminded me the initial phase of tablet computer development. Do you remember the early tablet computers? Refresh your memories by navigating to the following wikipedia link. I think some of your might remember this clunky device which require some extra effort to operate as a table and even touch using specially supplied pen interface.

It took time, effort and technological shift to deliver a modern generation of tablet computer – iPad. The spec of iPad was significantly different from early tablet laptop combos. The discussion about iPad limitation back almost 3 years ago reminds me some conversation about modern PLM technologies.

What is my conclusion? The realities of PLM implementations today are high cost, extensive need of services and expensive implementation. Which can be solved by hiring an army of consulting people to take a company through the "PLM transformation" period. That would be a "PLM journey" as we know it now. A potential alternative it to bring new level of technology that will provide new user experience, device independence as well as plug-n-play technology that eliminate needs to people to be involved into long implementations . Do you think it is a dream? I don’t think so… just my thoughts.

Best, Oleg


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