Will “low code” save PLM from customization and make it more open?

Will “low code” save PLM from customization and make it more open?

Have you heard about low-code development platforms? You better pay attention to low-code, since this cool buzzword and actually tools are coming to PLM space. Here is the Wikipedia version of what is LCDP. Check this out and draw your opinion.

Low-code development platform. … A low-code development platform (LCDP) is software that provides environment programmers use to create application software through graphical user interfaces and configuration instead of traditional computer programming.

G2 gives you a long list of LCDP. Check it out here. You can see various tools from a pure software development environment to workflow management tools. You can also see Mendix listed, which was recently acquired by Siemens PLM.

“Innovative MindSphere applications are being created everyday by Siemens, our partners and our customers,’” said Tony Hemmelgarn, President and CEO at Siemens Digital Industries Software. “With technology from Mendix, we can empower customers, regardless of technology background, to use low-code development to transform the way they approach and solve business problems. Adding the ability to create native MindSphere applications using the Mendix no-code/low-code approach can provide capabilities that are unmatched by any other industrial IoT provider.”

Recent Aras press release says the following:

In Version 12, Aras continues to extend the platform’s modeling engine by adding new low-code capabilities called the Content Modeling Framework and Technical Documents Framework. These enable the creation of sophisticated data models composed of content at the paragraph, section and field level. The related items are collectively treated as a single entity for the creation and management of documents with impact analysis of changes.

The low code made think about PLM customization and configurations (http://beyondplm.com/2015/10/06/plm-configuration-v-customization-lets-sort-it-out/). In the old days, you had to compile code to customize the PDM/PLM environment. These days are gone, but some legacy PLM systems are still around. For the last decade, configurable and flexible PLM was trending as a key requirement to provide a sustainable and resilient solution. It looks like low-code can be the next step. However, it is important to understand the details and implications. Both Mendix and Aras are coming with low-code messages they actually do different things.

Here is Mendix tour video:

I wasn’t able to find a short video of Aras Content Modeling Framework. Check this long demo if you have time.

What is my conclusion? Mendix and Aras represent two different approaches to flexible development environments. In my view, Menix will be more “developer” oriented environment, while Aras is more administrator oriented environment. The questions I still have is how to deploy applications and what dependencies of these environments on the platform for both Mendix and Aras. A long time ago VBA was a platform for fast development inside Microsoft Office applications. It required you to code but provided a lot of flexibility and tools. Some CAD applications gave you a lot of flexibility and tools to build own applications. So, the idea of easy configuration, customization, and building apps is not entirely new. A new question – will low code save PLM from customizing and integrations? I don’t think so. The diversity of requirements and applications is still very high. At the same time, these are interesting tools to watch. And they are making platforms and tools more open. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Disclaimer: I’m co-founder and CEO of OpenBOM developing cloud-based bill of materials and inventory management tool for manufacturing companies, hardware startups, and supply chain. My opinion can be unintentionally biased.

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  • Roland Drewinski

    Oleg, it depends what one want to achieve. Is Excel a low code environment? Depends. At least MS has done a lot to enable ambitious users (not the IT departments) to do pretty cool stuff using VBA and macros.

    Large parts of our CONTACT Elements platform like the data dictionary or the access rights system are governed by declarations (configuration). Yet I agree, certain requirements are best resolved by a powerful programming environment like python. Trying to foresee any kind of requirements in a declarative environment would make it too complex and awkward to use.

    The more interesting question is: how can we lower the barrier not for the IT people, the admins and programmers, but the users themselves? The biggest pain remains the time (and effort to resolve misunderstandings) to get even simple things implemented. Progress is being made. Take for example workflows: smaller processes defined ad hoc or being adapted using predefined templates. Or the adaption of meta data forms. All by the users and user departments themselves. I believe this is the most promising realm to democratize PLM and many other domains.

  • beyondplm

    Roland, you’re asking great questions. VB in the past was a tool used by many ITs for quick custom solutions. It did fit the environment and other tools. I think, web demands something different. Tools like IFTTT and similar can work and replace VB/Excel macros. Converting PLM tools into a set of consumable services can democratize PLMs we have today.