Mobile PLM innovation continuum

Mobile PLM innovation continuum


Mobile is one of the strongest trends in technology and business these days. I keep following technology and business events around mobile and speculate how and when PLM companies will leverage it for engineering and manufacturing software. My old post – PLM mobile gold rush. Did vendors miss the point? speaks about wrong path most of PLM vendors took with regards to mobile development. Maybe few years ago, some sales wizards thought, people will abandon desktop and laptop computers and move to iPads? I don’t know… Mobile is not a replacement for existing software. I see mobile as a new way to make software for people and situation where no solution was available before.

Mobile business is skyrocketing in consumer and e-commerce. You probably heard about Cyber Monday mobile moment. Things are not moving so quickly for enterprise software. PLM is included. You might remember my post earlier this year – Will PLM vendors work with Apple and IBM on mobile first?  So far, mobile PLM development is following the path of creating wrapper on top of existing platform and user scenarios.

Forbes article Apple And IBM Seize The Mobile Moment To Energize Enterprise Software made me think again about potential of Apple and IBM in making a shift in mobile PLM business. Here is my favorite passage:

What they really will be saying, of course, is “make it like Apple,” but the Cupertino brand has not made inroads in the C-suite like it has in the psyche’s of consumers. Executives and their minions are consumers too, so Apple’s products are well-represented in the enterprise, but not yet well-supported by IT departments. When the deal was first announced, I described it as a “Victory Of Design Over Data.” IBM has a long history of good design, but, I wrote, “it is Apple that has mastered the art of making solutions ‘transparent’ to users.” Once I saw the actual apps in action, though, my take was more balanced. Yes, the model of simplicity that Apple offers is a key differentiator between this new approach and traditional enterprise software. But IBM’s mastery of legacy data systems and security combined with big data analytics are what enables these simple apps to be useful.


In my view, the key here is transparent user experience in combination with legacy data. This is something PLM vendors should think about. PLM product suites are holding tons of useful data. The way current PLM product are manipulating these date is bizarre. However, this data is a lifeblood of every manufacturing company. People need this data for decision making. Think about customer request, maintenance operation, engineering to order sales situation. There are many others. Look on examples of mobile application in Forbes article mastering user experience for a specific role-based situation. It makes people to want mobile application at first place. This is different from “mobile too” strategy proposed by most of PLM vendors.

As I mentioned in my Mobile CAD and PLM development options post, most of mobile applications are wrappers on top of existing back end systems. In my view, this is the best confirmation of viability of Apple and IBM business to develop mobile enterprise future.

What is my conclusion? Mobile is a goldmine for engineering and manufacturing software. My hunch, PLM is one of the biggest opportunities for mobile since it focus on cross company communication. To take pieces of data from multiple legacy back-ends and combine it into attractive role-based Apple-like experience can become a path for mobile innovation. It is business opportunity for vendors. PLM and ERP (vendors) can profit from piles of data in organization and create new role based mobile experience. It will become a path to expand and democratize PLM for many users. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Photo credit SKF mobile apps and Apple+IBM


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