PLM and “Almost Enterprise” Apps?

PLM and “Almost Enterprise” Apps?

The cost of development enterprise apps was one of the topics discussed among the people on Aras ACE 2011 conference earlier this week in Detroit, MI. Where the future is taking us? The development and customization of full blown PLM suite can be long, expensive and not very cost-effective these days. During the Beyond PLM panel discussion, I raised the question about the future of agile business apps that can provide value and won’t take manufacturing companies to the hell of product suites. The approach I discussed was introduced by Dion Hinchcliffe in his Next Gen Enterprise blog.

On my way back to Boston I read Deloitte’s report “Technology Trends 2011. The Natural Convergence of Business and IT“. Download this report, read and make your opinion. On of the topics of the report is about so called “Almost enterprise Applications”. The idea resonated with my thoughts about how manufacturing organization can develop applications to be used by design engineers, managers, manufacturing planners, quality planners without taking organization into the two-year cycle of PLM suite deployment. I found the following example of “almost enterprise app” interesting:

A chemical products manufacturer had been an early adopter of Google Enterprise Apps engine – focusing on building almost-enterprise applications anchored in the productivity and collaboration suites. One example was a series of Gmail plug-ins that read the subject of emails and automatically retrieve CRM and HR workfl ow documents from SAP, with embedded controls for taking action that, in turn, execute back-offi ce transactions. Another was the ability to automatically update call notes in their CRM system with chat or voice transcripts, removing what was historically 90 seconds of low-value activity at the end of each customer service call.

PLM: Platforms and Applications

The notion of a platform in product lifycle management becomes interesting, in my view. The context of business apps can provide a new angle in a company strategy to develop a platform to serve the needs of product development processes. The focus on the platform will be in product data management rather than in business processes. Information services provided by a platform can be used to develop apps (Almost Enterprise Apps) highly focused on a particular engineers and other user’s needs.

What is my conclusion? The idea of “amost enterprise apps” is fascinating. It is easy to follow the concept of development apps based on any available services in the company. In the past, it led companies to the “excel hell“. However, combination of a platform provided information services and agile practices of small apps development have in chance to develop an efficient solution. What is your opinion about that?

Best, Oleg


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  • David Sherburne

    This is a very interesting discussion I felt that way on the panel as well. I think that the business process is still important from a context perspective (I’m a Process Bigot..) The smaller chunks of business process could be delivered as chunks of functionality aligned carefully with a role or a set of tasks within a role. I still believe that a platform is required to “plug” work flow applications into and that platform would also have to handle the baseline data (BOM). We could consider this a PDM+ future layer I guess. The browser like UI would be very simple and the you could choose to download the “Fast track engineering change” app and use it if you were a concept engineer as an example. If you wanted to order prototype then download the “send for prototype work flow” app. It seems to me the functionality would be in the context of a work flow. The advantage is that you could release lots of little pieces in chunks (avoiding 2 year PLM) and they can be integrated like E-Mail-Worldmate-Linkedin is for travel. Worldmate grabs my travel e-mail and tells everyone like magic where I’m going and also where everyone in my groups going! But its good because during my work flow of checking in it helps me by providing information at the time I need it like when I arrive at an airport or a hotel. Integration just needs to be more careful! Without a work flow how do we know when a person needs to do something in an enterprise? I guess we could use E-Mail but that seems a step back in optimization, feels like some work flow structure is needed. Maybe I’m still thinking narrow… We can see who buys the beer in 10 years! It was great to see you this week!

  • beyondplm

    David, thanks for your insight and comment! I think you took my way of thinking in an absolutely right direction. The smaller chunks, applications will allow you to be more agile and efficient. On the other side, it will not create heavy dependencies between modules (remember crazy swiss knife :)?). I’m looking forward to discussing more with you in the future. Best, Oleg