PLM SharePoint: Silver Bullet or Fierce Criticism?

PLM SharePoint: Silver Bullet or Fierce Criticism?

It was a long time I didn’t talk about Microsoft SharePoint. I tried to recall and found that my previous significant thoughts about Microsoft SharePoint are going back almost one year ago to Microsoft SharePoint conference. Back that time, Microsoft presented their future SharePoint 2010. Few messages and publications yesterday made me think about what happens in PLM and SharePoint happy world. Aras announced Open Source PLM for SharePoint. You can read more about this in the interview with Aras CEO, Peter Shroer here. Use the following link to get directly to the solution. I’ve got a note from Jonathan Scott of Razorleaf about the same release. You can read Razorleaf announcement.

SharePoint – PLM Silver Bullet

Microsoft reported a tremendous success with SharePoint starting from version 2007. The reports presented numbers showing that SharePoint becomes “a new Windows” from the standpoint of the ability to change a current status quo in user’s mind and organizations. It caused a specific interest of PLM companies that started to see SharePoint as a vehicle that can diffuse PLM downstream in organizations. Siemens PLM reported that they have formed already long term relationships with SharePoint (i.e. TeamCenter) many years ago. On the other side, PTC introduced a complete vision of how to leverage SharePoint by introducing a whole new product line – Windchill ProductPoint. When I read PLM vendors announcement related to SharePoint and PLM, I always have been feeling of SharePoint representing a kind of “silver bullet” to solve all existing problems related to implementation and deployment of PLM. I specially liked the following passage from the blog post about recent Aras/Razorleaf SharePoint product development:

The solution enables product data assets normally contained within a Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) or Product Data Management (PDM) system to be shared throughout the enterprise, as well as with its customers, suppliers, and partners globally, improving collaboration and cycle times by fostering speed to decision – visually.  The Collaborative Product Development solution combines the capabilities of Actify’s DesignShare, including a new Microsoft Silverlight-based 3D viewer, and Aras’ Innovator suite, by utilizing SharePoint Server 2010 Business Connectivity Services, PerformancePoint services, workflow, and search to form an end-to-end companion for PLM and PDM.

SharePoint Fierce Criticism?

The following article drove my attention yesterday – New survey reveals dissatisfaction with SharePoint. The original survey made by Global 360.  Global 360 is a company making a lot of business with SharePoint. They published a survey “How is your company using Sharepoint?”. You can download the original survey navigating your browser on the following link. You can also see survey results presented in the following slideshare presentation. Take a look on these materials and make your opinion.

Fierce Content management article made their conclusion and presented them in the following way:

[…78 percent of respondents reported that SharePoint “user experience was inadequate,” while only 17.6 percent chose that SharePoint was “great and adequately met their needs.”…]

They also made an interesting conclusion:

[…It’s hard to draw firm conclusions from a survey like this one, but it clearly shows some underlying dissatisfaction with the product even among the most faithful users. It probably bodes well for consultants and partners, but it also shows Microsoft still has a bit of work ahead, to make the SharePoint product easier to use for its enterprise audience…]

I didn’t make the absolutely similar conclusions reading this survey. However, some numbers represent criticism and problems customers are facing during SharePoint deployment and implementation.

The following numbers seem to me dangerous. 30% of users are frustrated with default SharePoint user interface. In the presentation, this number presented in the context of so called “iGoogle Effect”. My hunch, authors are trying to compare SharePoint out-of-the-box user experience with iGoogle dashboard.

So, what is my conclusion? Microsoft is showing deep interest in additional diffusion of their products to enterprise IT. From this standpoint PLM is a good vehicle with some problems in transmission that probably can be fixed by using SharePoint stove and pipes. The PLM benefits are clear too. SharePoint is a good infrastructure that will provide IT seal on a company-wide PLM deployment. Nevertheless, I have one concern that I want to mention anyway. My hunch is that tremendous effort of consulting and service companies are required to make all this stuff work. Will customers pay these bills? A very good question. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


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  • Stephen Porter

    Thought provoking as usual. We have had some exposure to Sharepoint as a Microsoft Partner and through some interactions with Product Point. In fact we use Sharepoint internally to organize some types of information. The benefit of Sharepoint is that it is basically free and is fairly easy to use. On the downside it is not really robust enough to serve as a PLM or even a PDM. It will be interesting to see how it performs for Aras and Razorleaf as a lightweight client for the Aras PLM solution. I like the idea of using Sharepoint to broaden the reach of PLM. I am pretty sure PTC, Oracle, Dassault and Siemens wouldn’t be too keen on the idea. I also wonder about performance and scalability especially when you bring CAD data and viewing into the equation. I guess we will see how it works out.

  • Dave Opsahl


    Thanks for the post. I have one correction to your original post, and then some comments.

    The project referenced in the Aras press release was actually a project funded in part by Microsoft, and developed jointly by Actify, Aras, and Razorleaf. Indeed, Actify was the prime contractor and in addition to its technical contributions, was also responsible for product management and delivery. You can find the press release on our site here:

    As to the conclusions in the article you cite, I’d like to offer up some comments. As both a developer of several years on the SharePoint platform, and a user of SharePoint internally, we have had the opportunity to observe a large number of SharePoint implementations. Based on that experience, the “unhappy” users we’ve seen generally are a result of one of three things.

    Firstly, the first few releases of SharePoint had numerous gaps, some quite large. With the release of SharePoint 2010, however, we believe those gaps have largely been closed, if not eliminated entirely. Without certain features of SharePoint 2010, this project would have been far more difficult, and its fair to say may not have been accomplished at all – certainly not within the constraints of the budgets applied. With the addition of Office2010 as a client to SharePoint2010, the user experience has gained a huge leap forward in richness and relatively seamless operation.

    Another factor we see often is that because SharePoint is so easy to “download and install” as an add-on to Windows Server (speaking here primarily of Windows SharePoint Server), it is not uncommon to find users who simply “turned it on” and started to use it, without giving any thought to the design of the implementation. In that respect, it is no different than any other enterprise application or infrastructure. Planning and design are essential; doing it without investing that time and effort is a really bad idea.

    Lastly, that same ease of installation, and the relative ease of use at first glance, has led many companies to believe that not much in the way of SharePoint domain knowledge is required to properly administer an installation. The result is that when post-installation issues do come up – as they always do – whether the result of a software issue, bad implementation design, or lack of knowledge (some training is required for average users, especially with SharePoint 2007 and earlier) – the resources to quickly address the problem are not to be found.

    Our experience has been that when these factors are addressed, you almost always find very happy SharePoint users; ignore them, and you will likely find someone who has implemented SharePoint several times over.

    To Stephen’s comments, I agree completely – SharePoint is NOT appropriate as a platform for what one traditionally thinks of as “PLM” or PDM for that matter, and that was not the intent of the project. However, the counter to that is, in my opinion, PLM as we understand it is not an appropriate platform for complete PLM collaboration and process support. Where SharePoint shines is in its ability to aggregate information from a variety of sources, into a decision support and collaboration environment that is widely accessible – far more so than a PLM application.


  • beyondplm

    Stephen, Thanks for your comment, as usual :). I think SharePoint got widely adopted because of a very successful marketing bundle of WSS into Windows Server. It provides a good MS Office integration and decent architecture. However, it turns as a tremendous service and consulting expenses if you are going beyond basics. Just my view, of course… Best, Oleg

  • beyondplm

    Dave, Thank you very much for the link to your announcement and your deep insight! I agree with your observations. I found SharePoint is a good platform that can provide some out-of-the-box capabilities in the area of file sharing and specially in MS Office integration. The infrastructure can be used for various types of projects and PLM domain is one of the possible applications. I’d be interesting to learn more about what you developed. On the business side, I can see how SharePoint can bring some unexpected expenses when you’ll start growing with your business. So, from this standpoint, I can see the following pros and cons of bundling SharePoint into OSS. SharePoint’s need for services and skilled IT is actually providing a good match to OSS. On the other side, a relatively high cost of MOSS won’t match a demand of enterprise organization to minimize their cost by moving to OSS solutions. Just my view, of course. Best, Oleg

  • Syed

    Oleg real nice investigation.. Just my Wild thought.. How about MS acquiring any of the PLM companies. Imagine what an offering you may have. Right from the OS to the Enterprise Application.
    In one of my implementation for an SMB with Siemen’s Insight SharePoint based PDM, it was real plethora of issues when it came to the Admin and maintainence. As stated the install is easy, but obviously the Customer’s budget gets into a tizzy if its not properly planned while deploying.. Your comments highly appreciated.


  • beyondplm

    Syed, I think MS is more interested in partnership with PLM and other enterprise companies to broad their market coverage. You can see PTC is moving fast on SharePoint track and it will be interesting to watch their achievements on this road. With regards to budget numners, you are right- SharePoint starts small and grows big numbers when it comes to an enterprise deployment. This is an ideal solution for service/IT businesses. Best, Oleg