PLM Interest To Enterprise Search

PLM Interest To Enterprise Search

I can see a growing interest of PLM providers to explore the story of enterprise search. This morning I’ve seen a mutual press release of Aras Corp. and NorthRidge Software. I liked this passage in the press-release:

PLM solutions encompass a wide range of complex data and files in a variety of formats, including CAD files, quality data, regulatory specifications, requirements, BOMs and more. With the NorthRidge Search Solution, Aras Innovator users can locate drawings, documents and other information by searching on keyword terms, phrases in the content or metadata values.

What is specially interesting in this information is that Aras is trying to follow their Open Source strategies and adopting Lucene and Solr a well known Open Source enterprise search solution and search libraries. If you want to learn more about Lucene you still can register to Lucene Revolution, which will happen in Boston in the beginning of October.

Just to remind you the previous events in PLM fast ride towards enterprise search technologies. Earlier this year, PTC confirmed their OEM relationships with Endecca. Almost In parallel to that, Dassault Systems spent 135M Euros to acquire Exalead – a provider of web and enterprise search solution.

So, what means this enterprise search gold rush for PLM companies. I can see 3 main reasons why PLM solution providers can be interested in making their search and enterprise search arsenals stronger.

PLM Systems Complexity

This is probably the top interest. At the time that PLM concepts getting acceptance in the enterprise, complexity of the tools and implementation becomes one of the most critical showstoppers preventing PLM software vendors from going mainstream in organizations. Search as a paradigm seems to be an option to resolve this complexity.

Enterprise Software Competition

The competition among software vendors is growing. Mindshare PLM providers face a strong competition from other enterprise software vendors such as providers of ERP, Supply Chain, Manufacturing Execution and other software. Each of these enterprise application classes represents a silo of information inside of organization. Enterprise search can be a technology to find information in multiple silos.

Influence of Consumer Software

This is last, but very important. I can see a significant influence on enterprise software in general and on PLM specifically from everything that exists in the consumer software space and on the internet. Search is hugely popular because of the success of Google. It provides a significant impact on decisions of PLM vendors to follow these streams.

What is my conclusion? Enterprise Software and PLM are struggling with a “complexity disease”. On the other side, enterprise search software is struggling with the need to provide additional differentiation to their “boring” search stories. It seems to me as a perfect match between them. What is your opinion?

Best, Oleg

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  • Maarten Romers

    Oleg,
    Indeed this is a challenge. What I see is our keyword search in Teamcenter works pretty well using Autonomy. However only Teamcenter is indexed.
    There are many other shares with files, databases, intranet, etc what should be indexed as well.
    So for example bringing Google search engine into the LAN would still be a challenge to also access the data in all these applications/databases.
    The extra dimension of course then is knowledge protection. Even within the company security is a hot topic.
    The search engine might find more info the end user is allowed to see!

    So I’m curious on reactions from PLM suppliers here.

  • beyondplm

    Maarten, thanks for your comment! I think you are absolutely right. The security is one of the most critical topics when implementing an enterprise search solution. The worst if enterprise search will “discover” all unnecessarily required sources of the information. At the same time, this is an indicator of the “information health” of organization. Don’t you think so? Best, Oleg

  • Maarten, our PDXpert PLM database search has used the .NET port of Lucene for several years, and coincidentally our own press release about adding file content search was exactly a year ago. We serve small- to mid-sized companies, and found that the free-form “search engine” experience is expected more than more traditional structured syntax.

    To your question about security: we decided that PDXpert would only search files that were explicitly added to the PLM system. These files are controlled using the PLM system’s own file manager in the context of user permissions. As you point out, unrestricted crawling of all corporate data sources may have unexpected consequences. The search results can’t always be predicted, restricted or replicated — acceptable attributes for the Web, very unappealing in a PLM system.

    Kind regards.

  • beyondplm

    Ed,
    Thanks for this interesting information! Can you share Lucene NET link you mentioned in your comment?
    I found interesting your comment about data only controlled by PLM. I think, there is a contradiction with the concept of “data federation” promoted by some PLM vendors. I’ve seen PLM implementation federating data from multiple systems and then indexing it using Authonomy IDOL.
    Best, Oleg

  • pfnelson

    The Browser search default discussion has been an interesting battle to watch; the current state is that most browsers can configure your default search engine from any number of choices (Google, Bing, Dog Pile, etc.). It will be nice when PLM vendors get to this state where you can swap your system configuration to one of several industry leading indexers by a simple configuration. This allows a company to leverage their current standard indexing service for their PLM system. Our current PLM system provides a base level indexing service which is ok, but charges for plus service and is hard coded to this indexing service. Getting the Plus service integrated is a cost and no other options are provided for configuring.

  • Ed A

    Oleg, here’s the link you requested: http://lucene.apache.org/lucene.net/

    I’d suggest there’s no “contradiction” but there are basic differences in the needs and resources of large enterprises versus smaller companies.

    In the markets we serve, there’s often no training budget, no dedicated PLM staff, and very limited IT infrastructure. Strategic IT decisions are made “on demand” — less than half of our customers have a CIO. PDXpert software reflects these constraints. Our free-form text search was required earlier than most enterprise PLMs because Google is our customers’ principal (and perhaps only) experience with search. There is no way we’ll change anyone’s mind about how search is supposed to work.

    Our customers are often moving from ad hoc Excel BOM spreadsheets and shared file servers. Simply consolidating product data into a single system is often a huge step forward. Searching for data across multiple PLM systems is irrelevant, and data transfer between heterogeneous computer systems (for, say, BOMs into an MRP) is usually all that’s needed.

    Kind regards.

  • beyondplm

    Ed, thanks for the link! I agree with you. Small companies have no IT and limited budgets to implement PLM. I understand what you said about a search. It seems to me everybody discovered the weakness of small manufacturers to implement PLM vision (no IT, small budgets, no resources). However, what is the differentiation of your solution compared to those coming from PTC (i.e. ProductPoint)? Best, Oleg

  • beyondplm

    pfnelson, thanks for commenting! I think you are right. There is an interesting option to a vertical search into a browser. In my view, it is what Autonomy, Endecca and others are trying to do… right? Best, Oleg

  • Oleg, it seems that enterprise PLM suppliers view small and medium businesses (“SMB”) as Fortune 500 enterprises-in-training. However, we believe SMBs require quite different PLM solutions. Perhaps surprisingly, our smallest customers often present the most difficult constraints that inspire innovative technical solutions and business practices.

    Fundamentally, SMBs require that our pricing is just as reasonable to the two-engineer start-up as to 350-user companies. Since about 40% of enterprise PLM revenue goes to support the initial sales process, this expense had to go: we sell PDXpert only on the web. This one decision has driven the complete software investigation, purchase and support experience. PDXpert’s benefits must be obvious by inspection: downloadable evaluation, demos & tutorials, perpetual & subscription licensing options, published pricing / discounts, on-line ROI calculator, remote technical support, webinar training, etc.

    SMB PLM has many differentiators, so consider one simple but under-appreciated example: installation. Simple & fast installation is essential, so PDXpert has one of the most sophisticated installers in the PLM industry. We automatically detect the computer’s Windows and .NET versions, install the correct 32-/64-bit native PDXpert application server, decide whether the system prerequisites allow (32b or 64b) SQL Server 2008 R2, 2008 or 2005, and download the correct database from Microsoft. It’s entirely automatic and takes just 15 minutes, most of which is the unattended installation of SQL Server.

    Similarly, a PDXpert upgrade appears to be simple, yet contains a fair bit of technology. Our server installer carries updates for any older release’s server code, client auto-update, and database schema; yet an upgrade typically takes less than 3 minutes. Recently, an enterprise PLM vendor proudly announced that system upgrade services were now included in their support contract, many years after their product’s initial release. We were stunned because, in the SMB market, an easy in-place upgrade is a basic system requirement, not a newsworthy differentiator.

    A simple installation merely allows a prospective user decide whether to evaluate the software. In contrast, a “small business” product that’s built on SharePoint assumes that the evaluator (a) is willing to pay for SharePoint in addition to the PLM software, (b) has the IT skills to install, configure and maintain SharePoint, and (c) agrees that SharePoint is a reasonable prerequisite for evaluating a PLM system. These are poor assumptions for many SMBs.

    The many other differences between enterprise-class PLM and small/mid-sized PLM are as noticeable as between a bus and a car. Both solve a somewhat similar problem, do their respective jobs well, but aren’t interchangeable.

    Here’s a bit more information: http://www.buyplm.com/small-medium-business-plm-software.aspx

  • beyondplm

    Edd, thanks for your insight! I can get what you are saying about SMB 500 Fortune. This is probably correct for IBM and similar organizations. I think companies like Arena are selling to smaller customers. It is interesting what you are saying about installations. The sophisticated and smart installation can improve an initial experience of customer with PLM. I think, the future belongs to web based products. Installation is going down to zero… Don’t you think so? Another significant component is cost of sale. Here, in my view, the future belongs to “social networks”. I don’t see if you have a blog in PDXpert. Send me a link, if you have one., please. Best, Oleg

  • I agree that Arena is selling to smaller companies, yet SaaS PLM presents a difficult decision for most engineering managers. “Do I want to have my company data hosted off-site or on-site?” The primary reason for answering “yes” is the perceived complexity of managing a PLM on-site. So we directly address that complexity, and give them a simple product – available as a subscription, if that’s also an important benefit – which lets them keep their mission-critical data under their direct control.

    I’m sure it won’t shock you that we also have a web page devoted to the on-site versus off-site debate: http://www.buyplm.com/best-plm-software-license-decision.aspx

    Sorry, no blog yet, I always doubt I have enough interesting to say. Have a great week!

  • beyondplm

    Ed, thanks for pointing on the on-site/off-site debates. I will take a look on this and maybe will come with my observations. I think the statement “SaaS is an expensive solution” is already a very good start for discussion. With regards to the blog, my perspective is that the purpose of the blog is “to listen”. Just curious if you had a chance to hear that BLOG means – Better Listening On Google :)… Great conversation! Thanks for your time. Best, Oleg