It is not uncommon to hear about “changing paradigms” in different domains these days. We are watching Netflix and disconnecting cable TVs, using Uber instead of driving our own cars. Yesterday at PI Congress, I saw the following slide demonstrating examples of digital disruption in different industry domains.
Which obviously made me think about disruption in PLM. This domain has some characteristics that make it hard to disrupt. 1 / It is dominated by a small number of very well established vendors. 2/ The barrier to entry the space is high in terms of expertise and completeness of the solution. 3/ Decision lifecycle for customers to buy a software is long and the usage lifecycle is even longer. Companies can use software for 10-15 years because of product lifecycle (eg. aero-planes). As a result of that, one of the main drivers to change PLM system is in fact because existing PLM software will no longer developed or supported by PLM vendor.
For the last decade, we’ve seen very few example of starting a fresh new paradigm in PLM system. Aras Corp came with enterprise open source Aras Innovator. It was a cool idea – think about “Linux of PLM”. It would be interesting to see how much focus Aras will put in their open source in the future.
Another fresh start was Autodesk PLM360, which introduced “cloud PLM alternative”. Even ideas of “cloud” or “hosting” aren’t new and some vendors in PLM space did it before, entrance of such a big vendor like Autodesk in this domain made a change in the industry. 3 years later, we can see all PLM vendors have “cloud” in their portfolios.
There is one thing that didn’t change in PLM and this is very painful thing. You cannot just install and start using PLM like email. In the world of PLM it called “implementation”. You need to figure out how PLM products will help to organization to use it for their product development processes. And this is all about people. Technologies are easy, but people are really hard. Therefore, in my view, PLM got stuck with people. The current paradigm assumes PLM implementation as a core fundamental part of everything. It slows down adoption and requires extensive resources and effort from organization. How to change that?
Have you heard about DevOps? If not, I recommend you to put aside whatever you do and close this educational gap. It is well known in software development and it is essentially a combination of two terms – “development” and “operations”. It became popular and it is a result of massive introduction of new software development practices combined with cloud operations. Few months ago, I mentioned devops in my post – Why to ask your cloud PLM vendor about devops and kubernetes? Business insider article Today’s IT department is in fight for its life helped me to bring my thoughts to clarity. Here is my favorite passage.
Devops is all about how do things faster,” Red Hat CEO Jim Whitehurst tells Business Insider. It’s the IT department’s version of Facebook’s famous mantra “go fast and break stuff.” IT departments say they had better figure out how to be faster, cheaper, and better. If they don’t, the company’s employees will no longer depend on them. They bring their own PCs, tablets and phones to work and they buy whatever cloud services they want to do their jobs. And the CIO will find his budget increasingly shifted to other manager’s pockets.
“Like the manufacturers were in the 1970s and 1980s were fighting for their lives, today’s IT departments are going to fight for their survival,” Whitehurst says. Traditional IT departments are slow and methodical. Rule no. 1 was to never bring the systems down. They would take months, even years, to roll out new new software, testing everything carefully, often spending millions in the process. Devops eliminates that. Instead, IT departments tear their projects apart into teeny components that can be implemented in tiny changes every day.
The last phrase is a key one. How to tear projects apart into teeny components to be implemented in tiny changes. It made me think about existing PLM implementation paradigm. It heavily relies on long planning cycle and business department alignment. Once this planning made, implementation takes long time and put ROI in absolutely wrong place from what organizations are demanding it to be.
So, how PLM can adopt new way to do things? It requires 3 main changes – 1/ To change state of mind. Don’t think “one big implementation”. Opposite to that, think about small steps that will make business better, faster, efficient. 2/ To bring new PLM biz development tools that can help organizations to plan into small steps. 3/ To make PLM platform capable to function in Devops mode. It requires new type of data modeling, deployment and monitoring tools.
More to come, but I think, Devops ideas can inspire and educate PLM developers to think differently. How to develop PLM practices in a different way. How to bring a new feature in a day and how to test changes for the next hour. These are questions PLM business consulting, developers and business consulting should ask about.
What is my conclusion? Changing paradigms is hard. For many years, PLM industry fundamental paradigm was to relies on implementation as adoption process of PLM technologies. It started from selling PLM toolkits that required long implementation. PLM vendors tried (still do) out of the box approach, which mostly ended up as a good marketing to demonstrated capabilities of PLM technologies, but required implementation anyway. Cloud approach cut the need for expensive IT involvement, but still requires implementation process. PLM industry needs to find a way to make PLM implementation simpler and easier, so people will stop thinking about PLM implementations as a mess. Just my thoughts…