How To Stop Searching for PLM Killer App?

How To Stop Searching for PLM Killer App?

Are you familiar with the “Killer App” syndrome? In my view, conversations about a “Killer App” are very popular when some technological device or broad technological innovation needs to be proven. Killer App becomes so popular that return on the technology becomes obvious. I can bring some examples of Killer Apps in the past: VisiCalc on Apple II or Lotus 1-2-3 for IBM PC. However, in my view, talks about “killer app” are also a good indication about problems with a product or technology.

The following article caught my attention yesterday: What is the Killer Application for a Modern Engineer? I missed it when it was originally published in January. Chad Jackson, my colleague in the PLM Blogosphere, is talking about CAD, Collaboration and Mashups as examples of killer applications for Engineers. Where I disagree about the “notion” killer application in the context of engineers, I found analyzes Chad made in his post interesting.

Examples of Killer Apps?

Personally, I think CAD is a mainstream technology. It was proven by many years. I don’t think, somebody today is designing any product without CAD system. History of CAD passed many waves of technological innovation that moved CAD between 2D, 3D and different computers platforms. I found surprising the fact SolidWorks wasn’t mentioned in the list of CAD products, but the choice of CAD was always somewhat “religious” and Chad’s selection didn’t surprise me.

Collaboration App
The history of various “collaborative applications” in the engineering space, in my view, started by introducing of data management to a wider company audience and following trial to expansion into PDM and PLM. The discussion about what is the killer app for collaboration is on going even today. My favorite collaboration tool for many years is email. Since I moved to Google App, I found it as a good addition to my email experience. PDM and PLM applications are constantly trying to replace email without visible success, in my view.

The story of mashup is funny in my view. The word itself came to us from the Internet and Web space where applications (mostly running in the browser) “mashed up” the web content and making it more valuable for end users. The most successful mashup application, in my eyes is Google Map. I wrote about mashup on my blog before (Will Mashup Grow Up in PLM?) In my eyes mashups are interesting, but too vague and unclear from the standpoing of end-user who trying to get a job done.

PLM as a Killer App

In the beginning of 2000s PLM was introduced as a next big thing for engineers and manufacturing. After almost a decade of debates and different technological and product development attempts, I can see Product Lifecycle Management more as a “business and technological strategy” rather than “application”.

Product Development: One Size Doesn’t Fit All?

Now think about design, engineering and manufacturing. It is all so different from various perspectives. Industry specific needs, departments and roles are different. Finally, every manufacturing shop is developing their own strategy for how to compete in the modern world and what can make it unique. If you ask me what application can fit everything, my ultimate answer is simple – Excel. Yes, Excel rocks when it comes to the flexibility and user adoption. The cost of customizing Excel to fit your needs is huge and the cost to support it even bigger (remember my Do you need chief Excel officer to manage BOM?)

What is my conclusion? PLM software vendors and analysts need to stop searching for a next “Killer Application”. Flexibility and granularity are two important directions  software vendors need to follow to gain next level of PLM software adoption. Just my opinion, of course. YMMV.

Best, Oleg


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  • Hakan Karden

    Agree Oleg. There is no such thing in PLM.

    Building a PLM “system” is a long term investment where Innovation, Agility, Adaptability, Lean, Configuration Management, Collaboration, Quality etc must be supported.

    Too many are still buying the “SW Tool of the Week” or putting all their eggs in one basket – expecting a miracle. And much of the PLM Ecosystem is still promoting this behaviour.

    CEO Eurostep Group

  • I agree with that PLM is more as a “business and technological strategy” rather than “application”. When enterprises work and collaborate with other orgnaizations and partners with the concept and strategy of PLM, they will gain a lot of benefits and keep the competiviness in the global marketplace.

  • beyondplm

    Hakan, Thanks for your comments! Diversified tool set can help manufacturing companies to accomplish their goals. No “silver bullet” and no “killer app”… Best, Oleg

  • beyondplm

    Yong, Thanks for your comment. I cannot agree more. However, the strategy needs to be combined with lean and agile tool sets to get a job done. Pure strategy doesn’t help. Best, Oleg

  • In my opinion a mashup is not killer app but the missing part in the plm environment. There are several examples where the user can save tremendous time when he needs not to navigate in multiple systems. Therefore we at Intelliact developed the Elstr-Framework ( to build fast and scalable enterprise mashup applications. An example is – you’ll find a simplified case of a service department web portal. The data presented in this case is received from a PDM, ERP, and CRM system.

  • beyondplm

    Marco, Thanks for the comment and link sharing. I found the project and demo interesting. Can you share more information about what technology are you using? Best, Oleg

  • jovan

    That’s funny how the demand in PLM is looking more and more like Business Intelligence needs… 🙂

  • beyondplm

    I don’t think it is BI. It sounds this way, since this is where a significant value can come from to manufacturing companies these days. Just my opinion, of course :)… Best, Oleg

  • Oleg. We are using latest web technology. Because Elstr applications should run fast on every device it is a pure ajax web application. On server side we use an apache web server with php. The enterprise systems (PDM, ERP, DMS, etc.) are connected with standard rest or soap web services (where possible). Like this we can provide connectivity to all major systems (PTC PDMLink, Oracle PDM and EDM, Siemens PLM, Dassault Enovia, SAP, etc.). Regards, Marco

    If you want some more informations about the service demo check out the presentation on slideshare:

  • Business Intelligence is more about analytics and key datas. The most interesting data in PLM is the network and the relations between objects. Imagine the simple use case of comparing the current engineering bom (PDM) with the as-built bom (ERP).

  • jovan

    Marco, Oleg,
    No you are right, I do not think that it is BI as well, but if you look at it closely, what are engineering and manufacturing departments are looking for? An easy way to get the data they want in the form they want.
    BI takes advantage of ERPs relational information to present dashboard, quick access to key data, perform what if analysis… Even on a BOM, even on a project managed in PLM…
    Mashing up application a step to give engineer this visibility, but in my opinion, we could bring it a step further.
    The PLM is a strong backend but a poor front end for user (the same for ERP by the way). BI for engineering or let’s call it Engineering Intelligence can bring the right information on engineering data wherever it stands.

  • beyondplm

    Marco, thanks a lot for sharing this information. It is very interesting. I believe the value of accessing information in multiple system will increase within time. Best, Oleg

  • beyondplm

    Marco, Relationships between data is interesting in all domains, not only in PLM. The BOM comparison is the most typical case in product development. I agree. Thanks for commenting. Best, Oleg

  • beyondplm

    Jovan, thanks for your insight! I’d be careful with generalization, in this case. The problem is that most of computer systems looks like “brining the right information on… kind of data”. That’s why searching of “killer app” is something I consider as a dangerous. The needs are very diversified, and “one size doesn’t fit all”. The important difference is a level of customization and diversification in requirements. What worked well for “payroll”, probably will not work for “Bill of Materials”… Just my opinion. Best, Oleg