Why PLM Scares Me?

Following my previous post about how PLM can go to mainstream, I had chance to discuss this topic with some of my colleagues. We came to some initial conclusions that I’d like to share with my blog readers. Let me put upfront some assumption with regards to main trends I see happens in computer industry and enterprise software.

One of them is a trend for “simplicity”.  This is the biggest trend I see across many of the software systems during the past years. In my view, Google is staying first in the line and promoting the most simple user experience ever – single line. Following Google, I can mention Apple with their multiple products, also promoting simple approach. Almost in an enterprise software world, I can mention Microsoft SharePoint approach, as something maybe not very simple, but definitely less complex comparing to everything else you see around. So, my conclusion is that simplicity created strong trend toward user acceptance and understanding.

At the same time, Product Lifecycle Management became mature and prove success in companies and industries. The strategy of PLM was to move toward ability to support overall product lifecycle and because of that, PLM wanted to gather more and more processes, information, connection with other systems and people interaction. As a consequence of this PLM came to “maturity phase” and… overcomplicating. We got a system that can be deployed in global organizations, manage complex product structures, organization processes, supply chain and more. However, obvious price was big and complicated environment.

So, what happened as a result. Two trends “simplicity” and “PLM maturity” had actually different directions. User demands for simple and elegant solutions came in conflict with mature and complicated PLM deployments. What solution do I see for this situation? In my view, PLM providers understood situation and their immediate answer for short term was as following: 1/best practices; 2/industry approach; 3/education. We had chance to see these trends in strategies of all PLM providers. Would you ask me – is it enough? No, I don’t think so. I think a current “state of the art PLMs” are scaring users and prevent PLM from mainstream deployment.

Just my opinion.

Best, Oleg.


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  • Nawal

    I think this is a problem with all business systems. Particularly ERPs. I have never liked any ERP systems for its user interface.

    There is a particular problem, I see as the main reason.

    In old times, most major corporation designed and developed their own systems. Eventually, they got burned on upgrade cost. This led them to conclude that they want to stay as much out-of-the-box as possible.

    This intern has led vendors to design systems that are based on “One size fits all” principle. I think that as a solution, both vendors and customers need to recognize that though custom software of old times was a wrong paradigm, staying out-of-the-box at all costs is equally infeasible.

    They need to work together to make design and configuration of simpler user interface a mutual resposibility. Only relying on vendor to deliver a simpler interface with required breadth is not feasible beyond systems that google makes like email.

  • Nawal, I agree with you. Corporation and ERP vendors have been struggled to provide one-size-fits-all, but in the end each ERP implementation includes lots of customization and services. For smaller ERP situation is better, but still not perfect in my view. So, with goal “all-size-fits-all” they created complex enterprise software monsters. Today’s SaaS and Online Apps are beginning of the new era. But this is still in the early beginning. Corp. IT are part of the overall resistance, since they have lots of resources to support, maintain and develop today’s enterprise systems. In addition, for most of the system, programming is the only way to deliver flexibility.In the future we will much more flexible systems then today, in my view. Regards, Oleg.

  • It is human nature to desire simplicity, just look at the say “path of least resistance”. The way I would frame this is “Process” versus “People” centric. Current PLM solution are very process centric and really ignore the people or place the people in the process and this is why I would say they have been successfully deployed and used for release but have not been able to get up stream use in design. From what I have found speaking with customer PLM is used in the lat 10%-15% of the design process. The other 85%-90% of the process is very people centric, meaning people work together in a very undefined way to debate, trade-off and discuss option and direction. For me the solution that can deliver this is very different then a solution that manages release and configuration. The people centric nature of the development process is what makes it a good target for a social media based solution because it si all about how people interact, not files.

  • I wrote about this people/process point of view last week http://blog.vuuch.com/?p=448.

  • Chris, People vs. Process. I think this is what we are going to learn from “social product development” and “social innovation”… right? and, of course, all other experiments and ideas in social networking… Oleg

  • Oleg,
    I think to understand the future of PLM you have to consider:

    – PLM Maturity
    – PLM Simplicity
    – Social Computing

    I still view the maturity issue as one that SOA can solve (I know, now it’s me saying technology can solve problems, funny) and that we can’t afford as an industry to throw the baby out with the bath water. Why not leverage the underlying assets, rebuild the UI with composites and web services, and spend our time adding in social computing?

    More thoughts here: http://tech-clarity.com/clarityonplm/2009/redesign-plm-people/

    Thanks as always for prompting a good topic,

    PS – Are you writing these from the beach in Jamaica? I can picture you with a frozen drink, a plate of jerk chicken, and your laptop…

  • Jim, Thanks for comment! Actually, you are almost don’t need laptop to comment/twitt/blog these days. You have all on the cloud (another topic to discuss :)). With regards to SOA, we still can believe this technology will solve issues. You remember 20 years ago we said, problem of enterprise software is usage of proprietary databases (it was before RDBMS came to mainstream). After we had RDBMS, XML and finally SOA… :):)
    The biggest problem I see is to make all transformation you need to change stuff that we have implemented for customers these days. And this is very expensive. This is conflict between today’s PLM maturity and simplicity trends, in my view.
    Regards, Oleg

  • Oleg,
    It’s funny, I just added a reply to your comment on my post on redesigning PLM http://tech-clarity.com/clarityonplm/2009/redesign-plm-people/comment-page-1/#comment-292 and I used the analogy of a net-book. It is simple, but less capable. I think I am saying the same thing that you are above with not needing a laptop. In fact, if you follow the analogy further it ties into what I am saying about composite apps using SOA – the netbook (or your phone, etc.) is a “simple” interface that calls web services. What happens behind the scenes may actually be relatively complex, but the interface is hiding that from the user. That is where I think we need to be. All of the capability (which is what I view as “maturity”) but with much simpler access.
    At the end of your comment you ask the big question – how do we get customers to transition? There are a lot of IT simplification projects out there, but ripping and replacing PLM is not something companies look forward to. I am curious to see how much of an “evolution” PLM companies will be able to make in moving their existing clients to their new platforms. We will all be keeping our eyes on DS and V6 in that regard, I am sure.
    Thanks for the discussion.
    PS – Welcome back from vacation, although it didn’t seem much like you were gone. Were you trying to prove your point about blogging with a remote device. 🙂

  • Jim, thanks! I’m just trying to prove that physical location and virtual presence can be absolutely different. You asked me what environment was around me at the time of blogging last week, so you are welcome to have a look – http://picasaweb.google.com/oleg.shilovitsky/BestOfJamaica2009#.
    Best. Oleg.

  • You can’t just hide the complexity… The release procedure requires complexity and if PLM desires to complete/deliver the promise then complexity is needed. The point is now when and when not complexity is needed. During Design simplisity is need and during Release complexity is needed. So can you deliver this in one system? PTC seems to say no, as they have released Product Point to address simplicity and WC to address complexity. It is not clear to me how the two are connected or when in the process you transfer from simple to complex… Or maybe Product Point ultimatly replaces WC, I don’t know.

  • You guy stink. I am leaving for Africa tomorrow (today doing some stunt work for Norm McDonald) and reading between the lines it seems I will be expected to blog while gone…

  • Chris, Frankly saying, I don’t understood very good what is difference between ProductPoint and WC. I put some questions about that in my today’s post – http://plmtwine.com/2009/08/17/how-plm-can-help-me-to-share-product-secrets-in-organization/. What I know is ProductPoint provide some stripped functionality of WC. So, is it what you call simplicity? Oleg

  • Chris,
    To your first point, I think what you are seeing with PTC with ProductPoint is:
    – A simpler architecture and user interface for PLM (at a lower total cost of ownership)
    – A simpler solution (today) than Windchill, but one that can grow over time to incorporate as much as Windchill (or more) – although this relies on SharePoint’s continued maturation
    – A platform to add social computing capabilities to the PTC suite of products (what PTC calls Social Product Development), including Pro/E, Windchill, and probably others over time.
    I don’t think that PTC would say that you can’t have a simple but complex (let’s say highly functional) solution. At least to me, that is not how I see the ProductPoint strategy.

    To your second point, you are getting paid to go on a trip to Africa and be in a movie, and WE stink? I think you might have things turned around a little bit. I don’t care if you blog, do you need an assistant?

  • Oleg,
    I don’t think that “some stripped capability of Windchill” is a good way to characterize ProductPoint. Yes, it is a simpler PLM tool. But I believe it will mature over time to give Windchill a run for it’s money (if the SharePoint architecture matures to support enterprise-level PLM needs, which will take a lot of time/work).
    I poked a couple of people at PTC, maybe they will respond here. I don’t want to represent their direction.

  • Thanks to Mark Burhop who (on Twitter) pointed to a post by Robin Saitz of PTC that starts to explain the positioning of ProductPoint and Windchill. http://social-product-development.blogspot.com/2009/08/yes-oleg-you-should-keep-secrets-from.html
    Again, better to hear the PTC strategy from PTC than from me.

  • Jim, this is exactly answer that confused me. Here are my question to Robin and other PTC folks – http://plmtwine.com/2009/08/17/how-plm-can-help-me-to-share-product-secrets-in-organization/.
    Thanks! Oleg.

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