Autodesk and PLM. Do you think these two words have something in common? I had a chance to discuss this topic and make my guesses before. Read my Autodesk and “Why PLM?” question and Autodesk: From PDM to MLP. The combination of two words Autodesk and PLM are usually generating a lot of discussions. In my view, it is easy to explain. Autodesk is the only one CAD vendor that distances from PLM development. Autodesk opinion is that PLM is not a right thing for many of Autodesk customers. Actually… not any more. Almost two weeks ago, Autodesk CEO, Carl Bass, pre-announced their PLM plans during the meeting with Autodesk Management. So, what Autodesk announced? Navigate to the following link to download presentation and watch the webcast.
Autodesk PLM Intro
Before sharing my thoughts, I want to put some known facts I’ve got from publicly available Autodesk presentations and the webcast. Listen to the following short audio fragment. Carl Bass is talking about Autodesk interest in PLM.
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Contextually is referencing 5 years old YouTube video – Carl Bass anti-PLM rap. Below there are few slides that were presented during the same presentation.
According to Autodesk, Vault and Buzzsaw are doing a good job for data management and collaboration. However, customers are asking for more. So, Autodesk is going to introduce “a cloud based, modern, zero-deployment way to manage workflow and processes” for manufacturing companies. According to the same information, the product is under testing with customers now and Autodesk will be coming with this product later this year. In addition, Carl came with the analyzes of what PLM did and compare it with earlier ERP / CRM experience. Despite a high level of the complexity in early ERP/CRM systems, we have today few very successful companies in this domain.
Reverse Engineering of PLM?
I’d like to go alongside with Autodesk with regards analysis of what happened in PLM, including vendors, implementations and customer problem. According to that, PLM is combined of data management component and the ability to manage workflow and processes. The problem Autodesk sees is the growing amount of data in organizations and growing complexity in workflow and process management. PLM mind-share vendors developed a successful combination of product and service offering. Actually, according to the CIMData, a service portion in PLM implementations is going up to 40-50%. Now, after splitting problems into “data management” and “workflow / process”, Autodesk will be trying to focus on how to solve “process” problems using new and modern “cloud-based” approach. There are two things that come to my mind when I’m starting to think about processes. First: Processes are about people. People are hard and to capture existing processes, establish communication and moving towards transformation is even harder. Take a look on one of my old posts about processes- PLM,don’t fight processes, focus on people! Second: There are multiple types of processes in an organization. You can classify them. You can implement them using different systems. However, the most problematic thing in process management software is that you need to convince people to use it. Read of my previous posts about that – PLM Processes, Lists and Implementation Confusion.
You probably know about first-mover advantages. However, I want to talk about “second-mover” advantages. History remembers many examples of second-movers. Microsoft, Procter & Gamble, Amazon.com, Canon Inc., JVC and Heinz. I can recommend you the following book – Fast Second about how smart companies bypass radical innovation to enter and dominate markets. This is where, in my view, Autodesk is targeting their efforts. For the last 10 years, PLM mind-share vendors spent huge amount of resources and built PLM awareness. Today, PLM experience can be used by a second-mover, that will be smart and what is most important, fast enough, to build a better PLM experience (and maybe a better name :)). Autodesk is planning to come and build a product that will address customer problems and fix existing PLM software problems.
What is my conclusion? People want to have a better way to manage their data and processes. According to Autodesk, most of PLM implementations today are about data management. Existing PLM vendors are doing mostly data management. Autodesk is doing an excellent job in data management using Autodesk Vault. So, the goal to fix processes and workflow sounds like a reasonable one. Autodesk is getting a huge advantage to research all available PLM implementations. The second-mover opportunity is on the Autodesk side. However, Autodesk will have to come with something radically different to prove their approach is better. Last, but not least – processes are tightly connected to the data in organizations. Autodesk will have to implement an efficient access to product and company data from the cloud to successfully deploy their new cloud-based process management software. Here is a challenge and a potential danger in process-oriented cloud strategy. Just my opinion, of course. I’m looking forward to a productive discussion and more blogs on the topic later this week.