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Aras

plm-customization

I’m following strategic visions of the major PLM vendors 2014+ publication by Jim Brown – well known analyst and my blogging buddy for last few years. It started as a publication covering Autodesk, Dassault, PTC, Siemens (vendors listed alphabetically). Last week, Jim expanded his PLM vision publications by adding Aras Innovator to the list. Navigate here to read about Aras 2014+ vision. Aras is well known by their Enterprise Open Source strategy. One of the interesting differentiation I captured in Jim’s article is related to Aras’ strategy to break rules of PLM customization. Here is the passage:

Aras has decided to break the rules [of PLM customization]. They aim to become the PLM company that defies the conundrum, allowing manufacturers to customize their software and still upgrade to future releases without major disruption. They can do this because customers can update the data schema, business rules, workflows, and forms without jeopardizing the integrity of the system. How does this work? Aras’ XML-based, model-oriented approach coupled with their willingness to provide customers with the business flexibility and tools to make it feasible.  Aras has effectively morphed themselves into a PLM Platform with solid core functionality with a built in ability to be extended by customers and partners. To put this strategy into action, they have told me they are “putting their money where their mouth is.” They now include upgrade services as a part of their subscription service. I haven’t seen that from anyone else anywhere, particularly while encouraging people to enhance and modify the package. This is a clear differentiator and makes Aras unique in the PLM market.

PLM customization is a tricky deal. Honestly, nobody is dreaming to make PLM implementation with zero customization effort. It all starts from flexible data modeling, which imply certain level of data customization. Time ago, I posted – Is PLM customization a data management Titanic?  Earlier this year, I’ve been discussing options and reasons on How to de-customize PLM? The story of PLM customization is tightly related to PLM system flexibility data modeling. Typically, every PLM implementation contains some portion of customization that usually done by service organization and/or internal IT department. Lifecycle rules, data import, workflows, integration with other enterprise systems – this is only a very short list of customizations done during PLM deployment. Another huge aspect of customization is related to system upgrades. That one is actually mentioned by Jim Brown in his Aras’ review.

So, is there a way to solve customization problem? In my view, the answer is – it depends. In my view, you cannot eliminate specific implementation activities. Adding of new features and infrastructure technologies (eg. RDBMS) will require certain upgrade activity to happen. However, if you are selling services, the interest will be to optimize this work. Cloud vendors have similar incentive to optimize infrastructure upgrades and maintenance, otherwise operational cost will go up. So, smart technology can optimize cost and customization efforts.

What is my conclusion? Business and technology are going together. To have good business incentive to optimize technologies is always helpful and can put pressure on development organization to optimize cost of infrastructure upgrades. Service based offering (open source and cloud) are two great examples where business interests of vendors and customers are going at the same direction. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

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excel-plm

Excel spreadsheet. What a lovely topic! You can find spreadsheets in every manufacturing and engineering organization. Sometimes, I call it  - #1 PLM software in the world. There are lots of good things in using Excel spreadsheets. Almost five years ago I posted – Why do I like my PLM spreadsheets? I believe, everything I said is valid – Excels are simple, flexible, can absorb any type of data, transferable via email and what is very important – gives me a feeling of physical ownership. I can put them everywhere – my local disc, USB stick. These days, I can easy put Excel spreadsheets in my Google drive and Dropbox and access them everywhere.

At the same time, we all know what level of pain Excel spreadsheets can bring in. Another 5 years old post – Excel Spreadsheets: From Odes to Woes and I can confirm that problems are still with us. Excels are getting complicated with the time, you cannot put all data in Excel, especially when it comes to 3D CAD files. The problem called “where is my last Excel” is huge. Actually, with new cloud file sharing capabilities, this problem is getting even worst. As I like to say, if your data and product lifecycle management is built on top of spreadsheets, you need to hire Chief Excel Officer to run your system.

Yesterday, my attention was caught by Wired article – How Many Spreadsheets Does It Take to Run a Fortune 500 Company? The author, Peter Schroer of Aras Corp. speaks about spreadsheets and the way specifically designed PLM system such as Aras Innovator can replace Excel spreadsheets. According to Mr. Schroer, the core problem is static data model, which makes enterprise system inflexible and complicated to match customer data management requirements. Remember the flexibility of Excel model? According to the article, Aras PLM solves the problem. The following passage from the article explains that.

The problem is that we always build enterprise software by starting with a static data model or an object model, and then we’re surprised when the resulting systems are inflexible. What if we took different approach? What if we turned the problem upside down? Instead of a static data model, we build services around a Modeling Engine that is purpose built to change dynamically. This is the approach we used for the Aras Innovator framework. It’s an architecture that combines the real-time flexibility and lean code base of a modeling engine, with massive scalability enabled by highly optimized small SQL transactions. It’s all Web-based, built to D.O.D. security standards, and runs in the data center, the cloud or a hybrid.

Flexibility of data model is an interesting aspect of PLM system. Manufacturing companies are using different ways to manage lifecycle. PLM system should be able to adjust data and change management mechanism to reflect specific customer requirements. So, dynamic data model is certainly important and it can certainly helps to design good PLM experience.

Aras’ publication made me think more about what is needed to replace spreadsheet to manage product lifecycle. So, I’d like to add two more elements to Excel replacement recipe – ease of customization and user experience. The first one is absolutely needed to match the ability of Excel to develop macros and calculation. Many PLM functions requires tuning and adjustment. Very often customers need to include their specific naming mechanism or integrate functionality with other enterprise or cloud system. User experience is the requirement that getting more controversy among enterprise software vendors. In the past, enterprise systems were cumbersome and complicated. These days users are demanding to have enterprise systems with user experience matching modern websites and social networks.

What is my conclusion? Flexible data model, easy customization and excellent user experience. This is a wining recipe for PLM system to replace spreadsheet nightmare. Unfortunately, it is easy to say, but hard to do. The complexity of PLM development and manufacturing companies make every system complicated. This is a place where future innovation will happen – to find balance between simplicity and complex functional needs. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

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PLM Open Source Future – Cloud Services?

by Oleg on February 17, 2014 · 4 comments

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For the last few years, open source was one of the major disruptive factor in tech. Open source powers world’s leading tech companies. Tech giants like Google, Facebook, Amazon and many others would not exist without open source. The success of RedHat put a very optimistic business projection on the future disruption of industry by open source. Since then, we’ve seen many companies that started their business trajectory as “Red Hat of XYZ” with the objective to disrupt a particular industry segment. Many of them became very successful in what they do. However, what happened with their “open source” messages?

My attention was caught by two articles speaking about current trajectories of companies building their business model around Open Source software. Peter Levine, partner at Andreessen Horowitz started this conversation in his – Why There Will Never Be Another RedHat: The Economics Of Open Source and ReadWrite article was following TechCrunch article – Why Open Source Is Disappearing From Open Source Companies? Have a read – good articles with lots of interesting examples and data points. According to the Peter Levine, the main reasons why open source companies cannot compete successfully with their proprietary rivals are simple – money and inability to keep stabilized roadmap development. Here are two notable passages from TechCrunch:

There are many reasons why the Red Hat model doesn’t work, but its key point of failure is that the business model simply does not enable adequate funding of ongoing investments. The consequence of the model is minimal product differentiation resulting in limited pricing power and corresponding lack of revenue. As shown below, the open source support model generates a fraction of the revenue of other licensing models. For that reason it’s nearly impossible to properly invest in product development, support, or sales the way that companies like Microsoft or Oracle or Amazon can.

2013-revenues-open-source-vs-others

And if that weren’t tough enough, pure open source companies have other factors stacked against them. Product roadmaps and requirements are often left to a distributed group of developers. Unless a company employs a majority of the inventors of a particular open source project, there is a high likelihood that the project never gains traction or another company decides to create a fork of the technology. The complexities of defining and controlling a stable roadmap versus innovating quickly enough to prevent a fork is vicious and complex for small organizations.

ReadWrite article brings list of companies started as “open source” and moving now towards different messages.

In 2010, SugarCRM’s main landing page prominently advertised itself as open source. Today? Not a single mention. In February 2009, Alfresco declared itself “the open source alternative for Enterprise Content Management.” No mention of open source on the home page today. The same goes for Acquia, the Drupal company (see 2009 vs. today), and most every other significant company that sells support or software around an open-source project.

PLM industry has their list of open source companies. You can count several product today branded themselves as “PLM open source”. The most notable, Aras created innovative model called “Enterprise Open Source”. To core part of Aras was never open sourced. However, Aras developed significant community network of supporters implementing Aras Innovator software and building applications on top of Aras core platform. Aras keeps fairly large reference customer base supporting and advocating for Aras enterprise open source strategy. According to them, it brings predictable license cost model combined with open software platform, which differentiate Aras from other PLM companies.

TechCrunch article made me think what will be the future turn in development of PLM open source? Would “cloud services” become a future strategic exit for Aras and other open source PLM companies? According to Mr. Levine, SaaS and appliance business model can be a good match to Open Source projects. Here is a formula:

This recipe – combining open source with a service or appliance model – is producing staggering results across the software landscape. Cloud and SaaS adoption is accelerating at an order of magnitude faster than on-premise deployments, and open source has been the enabler of this transformation.Beyond SaaS, I would expect there to be future models for Open Source monetization, which is great for the industry.

What is my conclusion? There is no clear conclusion today. In my view, PLM industry is still waiting for big “disruption moment”. Will it come from cloud PLM alternatives, open source PLM provided as cloud services or just service projects using open source software? Time will show. It seems to me “value” and “maturity” are two main differentiations PLM companies need to focus these days. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

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7 rules for selecting PLM software in 2014

January 17, 2014

Enterprise software choice is a complex decision process. The time when you was able to buy a software from trusted XYZ vendor and sleep safe is over. These days IT and other software decision makers are facing challenges related to technological and business options related to new business models, cloud technologies, specific vendors, user experience […]

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The future battle for PLM upfront cost

November 4, 2013

Transformation of business models is one of the most important trends that happens today in the industry. Take a deep breath… it doesn’t mean companies don’t want to be compensated for the work they do. These days it is just about how to define the right business model that reflecting the relationships between all participants […]

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Why you still cannot sell PLM without exec support?

August 6, 2013

There are variety definitions of what is PLM. Not much agreement about that among PLM vendors, PLM analysts and manufacturing companies. However, if you want to introduce PLM in manufacturing company, you can find majority of people to agree that implementing PLM takes time and includes some strategy planning, implementation and patience. My PLM industry colleague […]

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Multiple Facets of PLM Search

June 6, 2013

Disclosure: As a co-founder of Inforbix and responsible of PLM 360 and Autodesk Vault product development at at Autodesk, I understand that my opinion about PLM Search can be unintentionally biased. Nevertheless, I believe the topic itself is very important, so I decided to share the information and my opinion anyway. Search is a fascinating […]

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PLM Open Source is Better Without Open Source

January 2, 2013

Open source is one of the PLM trends I covered in the past in my blog. I wanted to come back to this topic again. The title of my blog post was half stolen from the article on opensource.com – Open source software policy is better without open source. Read the article and made your own […]

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PLM Cloud Interest and AAA PLM Players

October 29, 2012

The interest to cloud PLM is growing these days. At the beginning of this year, I discussed future PLM business model during the PLM Innovation conference in Munich. You can navigate to my historical post here. You can see lots of conversations about cloud these days. However, until now, only one from major PLM players […]

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PLM and Open Source Checking Tips

October 18, 2012

Open Source Software (OSS) is a wonderful thing. For the last decade, open source changed the world of software development. PLM industry has their own open source rock stars. While I can see less hype around ‘open source’, I keep watching open source initiatives in PLM space. One of the things that very often debated […]

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