Platform is such a sweet word. We love platforms. In the past, the ultimate dream of every software developer was to build a platform. Today, word “platform” is applying to so many things. Uber is a platform for transportation and Airbnb is a platform for hospitality. You can bring some of your favorite examples here. Guess what PLM vendors are developing? Yes… PLM platforms. And these platforms are supposed to provide a solution for companies to build things. CIMdata, one of the largest analytic companies in PLM domain recently published a study about PLM platformization. The main point – PLM business is achieving a status of business platform. The things on a technology side are getting interesting too. I shared some of my thoughts about tech aspects of PLM platforms – Future PLM platforms: between a rock and hard place.
I had a great lunch reading earlier today – Are Newly Formed Roles In VC Firms Differentiators, Table Stakes Or Total BS? You can ask me how VC firms business is connected to PLM platforms? Here is the thing… My attention was caught by a word “differentiators”. The article speaks about VC firms building “platforms” to differentiate themselves among entrepreneurs. Interesting turn. Here is my favorite passage from the article.
So why is this happening? And more importantly, if the trend continues, how do we ensure this actually helps entrepreneurs? The answers all depend on how much VCs are willing to admit one problem: We all sell the same product. As a VC, you don’t want your platform to sound like every other competitor firm plus every incubator, accelerator, community group and graduate program in your city.
In my past roles in media and marketing, we relied on the “white space” in an industry to own something outright and ultimately build or market a product more successfully. But in VC, as one founder told me, everyone’s money is just as green. The best way I can describe the challenges facing all platform directors is that we each run a bakery on a street full of bakeries that all sell one thing: plain bagels. There are only so many ways to make a plain bagel sound different from another plain bagel.
Differentiators. I think this is a very important things and PLM companies are chasing that too. Nobody wants to sell “plain bagels” only. In my view, PLM industry has some challenges here. After all innovations and technologies that happened with PLM industry, there are lot of similarities in all PLM products these days. Dig inside of every PLM implementation. You can find it surprisingly similar. It comes down to five main components – (1) Design CAD data management; (2) BOM and change management; (3) Projects; (4) Portfolio and configurations; (5) Quality.
I can hear voices of PLM vendors saying that their platforms are different. Yes, they are. Different technologies were created in a different time. New user interface is nicer than one that was created 15 years ago. New administration tools are simpler. Cloud was a differentiation factor for some PLM vendors over the past few years, but these days cloud is everywhere. PLM companies are innovating in open source, business models and marketing. But, at the end of the day, five domains I mentioned above are representing problems customers are looking how to solve. And most of solutions related to these specific problems are very similar.
In the past, company built PDM and PLM platforms to solve a problem of complexity in product data. It was a layer on top of database to provide a solution how to store complex data, managing access and work together (collaborate). Modern world is changing fast. Manufacturing is very different theses days. Take a look on my blog – PLM and changes in manufacturing eco-system. How to build a different platform that can solve problems of manufacturing in 21st century?
What is my conclusion? This is a time for PLM vendors to think outside the box of known PLM solutions. Today’s CAD and PLM tools won’t become future platforms. Today’s PLM platforms were created for large OEM companies in aerospace, automotive and defense industries. Manufacturing world is changing. Large OEMs are changing too. How to build a different PLM platform? What will play a key differentiation role – cloud, big data, openness, business models, circular economy, anything else? These are questions to ask today. Just my thoughts…