Everybody in the engineering and manufacturing loves MS Excel. I had chance to write about it multiple times before. You can take a look on few of my previous talks about MS Excel and PLM- Why do I like my PLM Spreadsheets? and PLM Excel Spreadsheets: From Odes to Woes. The reaction of customers on using spreadsheets in PLM is always positive. In my view, there are few aspects why Excel is welcome in the engineering communities- flexibility, granularity and ownership. You can always define what you want, format it in the way you want and what is the most important piece – own it! Nobody will take your Excel file. You can keep it everywhere, you can access it anytime, and you can do with this everything. There is no special licenses, no training needed. However, the biggest disadvantage of such a way is NO collaboration. Yes, you can send your Excels back and forth via email, but this is not what I’d call collaboration in the modern world.
Real Time Collaboration and Spreadsheets
Google and Microsoft are two companies that understand the power of spreadsheets very well. These days both companies are working to take Excel and spreadsheets to the next level of collaboration. You can see recent announcement of last version of Google docs is presenting ability to work collaboratively on Google Docs. Together with new features that closing some of the gaps with MS Excel, you can see Google Spreadsheets as a decent tool to take care of PLM data.
In parallel, coming announcement of Microsoft SharePoint 2010 later this week will introduce new set of the functionality a-la Excel related to data handling in the spreadsheet and collaboration. Microsoft Excel Services is a very interesting technology started in SharePoint 2007 and getting many enhancements in the new version of SharePoint
PLM Big Spreadsheet
I see spreadsheet as a way to innovate in PLM. In the end, if this is the best way to collaborate between people in design, engineering and manufacturing, we can take it as a lowest possible denominator in our PLM applications. I found multiple time during meeting with customers, the capabilities of PDM/PLM products compared with capabilities of Excel or spreadsheets. Think about mapping all PLM data you have to a single big spreadsheet and give it to users.
What is my conclusion? In my view, PLM needs to shift strategies in achievement of sophisticated features. Low gear… The next PLM sophistication can come from the side of simplicity. Make all requirements, documents, BOMs, manufacturing plans available in Excel-like format and give it to customers. This will be One Big PLM Spreedsheet. I think it will be cool. What is your take on this?
Just my thoughts…