For those of your long time with PLM and Enterprise Software, I bet you’ve heard about TLA, which stands for a three-letter acronym. Check out any publications about PLM, and you will find tons of them – CAD, PDM, PLM, MES, SCM, ERP, CAE… You can continue the list and I’m sure you know a few acronyms I never heard about.
Here is the thing… There are two things that are happening these days. First, the world of enterprise software is running out of the 3 letters. Marketing just runs out of suitable letters to call things the way we want. The second thing is that we have this new shining word called SaaS – software as a service. Unless you lived under the rock for the last decade, you’ve heard about it. In a nutshell, SaaS was born for software that can be available via the internet you can buy (or use) via the browser and paid by subscription. Like many other things, the trend was captured and monetized by marketing.
The first was IaaS and PaaS. Stands for Infrastructure as a service and platform as a service, it was probably the first attempt to structure the SaaS world. It was simple enough when the classification touched virtual machines, infrastructure, and programming environments. Later, you can find DBaaS, DaaS, FaaS, MaaS, LaaS, and other acronyms.
So, the naming challenge is just too complicated. If you check the leading PLM companies’ websites, you will see the swarm of SaaS abbreviations coming and it is a non-stop thing now. Everything is now SaaS and as I can see we are going to experience. My only problem with that I’m afraid the companies are going to create a four-letter acronym in every single PLM acronym and I see the real trouble for customers to navigate it and understand what it means.
In general, I don’t see a problem with SaaS everywhere as much as it makes sense. But it can be very confusing sometimes. Here are few examples of SaaSy terminology that is more confusing than helpful – Teamcenter Rapid Start SaaS for NX on-premise, 3DEXPERIENCE Platform on Cloud offered as Software as a Service on public cloud, a complete package offering (IaaS, PaaS SaaS), Oracle Product-as-a-Service and transition to Industry 4.0.
Some companies and websites are still in transition and using the “cloud” word, which is slowly getting outdated and replaced by SaaS. Here is SAP SaaS, but everything is “cloud” there – Cloud Procurement, Cloud Analytics, Cloud Financial Management.
So, if you’re a customer looking for a PLM solution in 2020, how to rationalize the decision in the world of swarming 4LAaaS names? Here are some ideas how you can make an assessment.
1- Understand the infrastructure. Start from fundamental platform support. Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud, IBM and few others. Not everyone is the same is SaaS and checking what platform system is run on can be a good step.
2- SaaS software vs subscription business model. You need to understand how the business model works. For example, if you’re getting a SaaS product that can be purchased only as a multi-year subscription, be careful because such a business model is contradicting fundamental principles of SaaS software, which can be easily available via the internet.
3- Delivery and availability. How fast can you get the software to use? The idea of SaaS is to make service instantly available to you via browser or connected software. The simple question – what URL to install is usually the best help to separate SaaS software from SaaS marketing. If URL is not available and you cannot create an account and start using it, most probably you deal with 4LAaaS and not SaaS software.
What is my conclusion?
Manufacturing companies should be ready for 4LAaaS PLM coming out. PLM companies are out for differentiators and as it happened with “cloud” a decade ago, nobody is ready to say – we don’t have SaaS. So, we are going to see the SaaS world applied everywhere. If you’re a PLM architect or decision maker or just a user, start with simple questions – where is the URL to register an account for your SaaS product? What platform and infrastructure it runs on and how to try it. While SaaS can be expanded to the world of subscriptions, I found it more confusing than useful for customers. Just my thoughts…
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.