Who will create Google Sheets BOM (Bill Of Materials) Add-On?

Who will create Google Sheets BOM (Bill Of Materials) Add-On?


For the last few years, I’ve been chatting about the opportunity to use Google infrastructure and tools to innovate in PLM, engineering and manufacturing.  Google enterprise apps influence on PDM/PLM market is still minor these days. However, I believe, Google cloud infrastructure and tools are consistently inspire established vendors and new companies to develop better solutions.

Earlier last week, I was discussing about how PLM can take over Excel spreadsheets. For long time, PLM tools have love and hate relationships with Excel. MS Office applications are very popular  in every organization for collaboration. Think about SharePoint, Word, Excel. Specially Excel spreadsheet is a king tool in everything that related to BOM management. My old article “My Excel Spreadsheets: From Odes to Woes” speaks about pains related to the use of Excel for collaboration.

Online tools can solve many problems people are facing when use standalone Excel spreadsheets. Earlier today, Google informed about launching so called “add-on store” for Google Docs and Sheets. Read more here. One of the killing aspects related to Google Sheets Add-on is a transparent way to integrated application user experience within spreadsheet. Watch this video to see more.

Several applications were announced together with Google Sheets Add-on. I selected few of them that can make a lot of sense for engineering collaboration – Project Sheet (from forscale.project) and Workflows (from letterfeed.com). The following passage from TechCrunch article is my favorite:

With the help of add-ons, Google is clearly hoping to create a developer ecosystem around Docs. But maybe more importantly, these integrations will also make it more competitive in a landscape where Microsoft is now finally taking the online versions of its Office productivity suite seriously. For many desktop Office users, the ability to bring add-ons to the desktop versions of Word or Excel remains an important selling point

What is my conclusion? Eco-system or how it is now called “community” is an important element of future success. Microsoft relied on openness of Office and ability to develop add-ins very long time. In a modern world, Google Apps is a good infrastructure foundation for collaboration. It is still not clear if manufacturing companies are ready to trust Google as IT provider for their needs. I believe, a critical mass of application can be one of the factors that can influence future CIO and engineering IT managers decisions. Another obvious alternative is Office 365. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


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  • I think it’s kind of funny that early on Google Docs champions were touting how Google Docs isn’t burdened with all the Office functionality that no one uses anyway. Now, all the functionality is sneaking back in via third parties. Guess people needed some of that functionality after all.

    It’s an interesting turn that Google has shifted towards more of a platform, but ultimately they have little interest in making this robust. These are merely concessions to get people into or keep them within the Google universe so their true business – data aggregation and ad driven search – can continue.

  • beyondplm

    Ed, I think, part of the process is that Google is learning. They started with add-ons for Gmail time ago and it was a way to bring an additional features. Now it goes with Docs/Sheets. Seamless integration has a value. So, people will write more. Result – it will pass a critical mass, so enterprise IT will start paying attention. However, the biggest problem I see is Google itself. It is much easier to work with Microsoft and any other vendor that understand how businesses are operating and capable to support them.

  • I definitely understand where you’re coming from. But Google’s approach is likely to be largely without curation, which will leave a flavor much like Android – diverse and wonderful, but largely fragmented.
    To solve this problem requires a vision in addition to the community participation. And Google’s not really going to invest too much in that regard because honestly, they’re not really in the document business. It’s only a means to an end for them. We’ll see how it goes!

  • beyondplm

    I don’t think vision is Google’s problem in the context of Spreadsheet Add-on and beyond. The problem is Google organization structure and how it can support business customers. That potentially can turn Google apps in the platform business and enterprises can trust. Until that time, everything will be only individuals or very small customers oriented deployments. Enterprise business for Google is a very small chunk. I don’t see them investing a lot into that in a near future. But, I might be wrong :). Oleg

  • Google sheets is a fantastic application for engineering. The ability to collaborate on a wide set of engineering problems can improve engineering productivity and product quality while reducing costs. Just think about the amount of time and energy engineers waste and the problems caused by emailing excel spreadsheets. (There are couple of topics on my blog about the subject http://www.dananickerson.com).

    The problem is that we use PLM for collaboration. Wait, PLM is a collaboration tool, why is this a problem? The purpose of a PLM application is NOT collaboration. The purpose of a PLM application is to keep the CEO out of jail.

    Google sheets is a collaboration tool. This is what it is designed to do. Myself, I have collaborated with people in North America, Brazil, Europe and India, all of us using Google sheets at the same time. We can each see what the other is going. Our collective knowledge grows synchronously. The productivity gain is enormous.

    My conclusion is to use Google sheets for collaboratively solving engineering problems and PLM to document the result and keep the CEO out of jail.