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Aras

3d-cad-unbundle-plm-1

Unbundling is an interesting trend in many industries these days. It is relatively new marketing and business activity that helps to create new business offering, packages and product configurations. In many situations “unbundling” is a disruptive factors in many industries. Here is how it explained in Wikipedia article:

Unbundling is a neologism to describe how the ubiquity of mobile devices, Internet connectivity, consumer web technologies, social media and information access[1] in the 21st century are affecting older institutions (education, broadcasting, newspapers, games, shopping, etc.) by “break[ing] up the packages they once offered, providing particular parts of them at ascale and cost unmatchable by the old order.”[2] Unbundling has been called “the great disruptor”.[3] “Unbundling” most basically means simply the “process of breaking apart something into smaller parts.”[4] In the context of mergers and acquisitions, unbundling refers to the “process of taking over a large company with several different lines of business, and then, while retaining the core business, selling off the subsidiaries to help fund the takeover.”[5]

Enterprise software is well known by existing large “bundled” application suites. For long period of time, vendors developed large set of packaged applications. On the other side, customers’ demand was to achieve high level of vertical integration between product lines and product families. Last year, I explored some perspective on the future of unbundling in enterprise software and PLM. One of the drivers behind future “unbundling” is related to interests of customers to get better optimized software environment, focus on specific groups of users and driving faster ROI and fast implementations.

My attention caught my Aras blog post – If all you have is Teamcenter Everything Becomes a 3D CAD Problem. The article speaks exactly about the problem of bundles in engineering software. It discusses different needs of users in an organization. The split Aras introduced by Aras goes between people that need to get on 3D CAD software and rest of organization. Here is the passage, which explains that.

The 3D CAD vendors have created very complex file configuration management problems. Independent of how you manage your enterprise product lifecycle, you have to worry about breaking the configuration integrity of these fragile 3D CAD systems. Given the unique complexity of the 3D CAD problem, do you really expect that a single enterprise tool will be able to manage the entire product information data set and processes? Or is it better to manage CAD with the PDM system provided by the CAD vendor, and use a more suitable enterprise system to manage the majority of the product information and processes? Thousands of end users managing the true majority of product information and use cases have been asked to wait decades while exotic 3D CAD centric PLM systems are deployed to the specification and requirements of the few design engineers. But what is the missed opportunity cost to the business?

I can see Aras’ marketing and business message for “unbundling”. As non-CAD PLM vendor, Aras is looking how to disrupt integrated suites provided by PLM vendors such as Siemens PLM and maybe others. At the same time, for customers looking how to solve a specific set of problems outside of engineering organization, to deliver such unbundled solution can be an interesting and efficient strategy.

There are lot of questions that customers will raise as soon as vendors like Aras will unbundle specific 3D CAD functionality from broader scope of process management. To achieve both vertical integration and granularity in platform and tools is very hard and this is a weak point in Aras strategy compared to integrated PLM suites. Few weeks ago, I debated that topic with Chad Jackson of Lifecycle Insight. Read about debates here – CAD: Engineering bundles vs. granular apps. More of my ideas and thoughts about the same topic is here –  PLM: Tools, Bundles and Platforms.

What is my conclusion? To unbundle complex engineering applications suites as PLM is not easy. Vertical interesting is very important and it will be hard to give up them. Flexibility and agility are on the top priority lists for IT managers when it comes to management of application and resources these days. It looks like an interesting topic to put on the list for PLM vendors and software architects these days. Unbundling was very disruptive in many domains. Will PLM domain can be disrupted by unbundling into platforms and granular apps. Will 3D CAD become the first tool to unbundle from PLM? It is a good question to ask. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

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legacy-software

Do you know what is legacy software? Earlier today,  Marc Lind of Aras Corp. challenged me by his twitter status about companies complaining about legacy PLM systems and upgrading. Here is the original passage from twitter here and here.

“a lot of people complains about legacy PLM and a lot of companies that have legacy PLM are throwing in the towel and switching these days”.

marc-lind-legacy-plm-tweet

The part of statement about “legacy software” is really interesting. Last week, I wasn’t able to update a game on my son’s iPad. After few minutes, I discovered that Apple is not supporting the original iPad hardware manufactured 4 years ago. Does it mean iOS software run on that iPad is a legacy? Good question. At the same time, what about properly functioning ERP software that company runs already for the last 10 years without any plans to upgrade? Is that a legacy software?

Wikipedia gives me the following definition of legacy system:

In computing a legacy system is an old method, technology, computer system, or application program,”of, relating to, or being a previous or outdated computer system.”[1] A more recent definition says that “a legacy system is any corporate computer system that isn’t Internet-dependent.”[2]… The first use of the term legacy to describe computer systems probably occurred in the 1970s. By the 1980s it was commonly used to refer to existing computer systems to distinguish them from the design and implementation of new systems. Legacy was often heard during a conversion process, for example, when moving data from the legacy system to a new database.

Software upgrades is an important topic in engineering and manufacturing. Very often, systems can be in use very long time because of product lifecycle and the need to maintain existing data. It happens a lot in defense, aero and some other “regulated” industries. Also, because of significant investment, the ROI from upgrade can be questionable, which leads companies to keep existing outdated systems in operation. I’ve been posted about problems of PLM customization and upgrades before – How to eliminate PLM customization problems and Cloud PLM and future of upgrades.

PLM vendors are aware about the issue of upgrades and difficulties of software migrations . For long time, industry recognized it as something unavoidable. However, in today’s dynamic business environment, the issue of software upgrades cannot be ignored. Customers demanding flexible and agile software that can be deployed and updated fast. At the same time, changes of business models towards services and subscriptions pushed the problem of upgrades back to vendors.

Earlier this year, my attention was caught by CIMdata publication – Aras Innovator: Redefining Customization & Upgrades. Aras enterprise open source model is predominantly subscription oriented. Which provides lots of incentives for Aras  engineers to solve the issue of upgrades and new versions deployment. Here is the passage from the article confirming that:

For several years, the Aras Corporation (Aras) has included no-cost version-to-version upgrades in their enterprise subscriptions, independent of how the solution has been customized and implemented. This is a rather bold guarantee given the historic challenges the industry has experienced with upgrading highly customized PLM deployments. With more than 300 upgrades behind it, CIMdata felt it appropriate to find out how Aras’ guarantee was playing out, and discovered that there was much more to the story than just a contractual guarantee. Fundamentally, Aras Innovator is engineered to be highly configurable—even customizable—without resulting in expensive and complex version-to-version upgrades and re-implementations.

One of PLM software leaders, Siemens PLM is also thinking about What is the best release cycle. The article speaks about SolidEdge release cycle.

A few years ago we moved from an irregular release cycle for Solid Edge, maybe 9 months in one cycle to 15 months in the next, to a regular cycle of annual releases (of course there are also maintenance packs delivered in the interim). I believe our customers much prefer this, they can plan ahead knowing that there will be a significant Solid Edge release available to them in August each year.

At the same time, the article confirms that CAD/PLM vendors are looking how to solve the problem of upgrades. As I mentioned earlier, cloud software model is one of the most promising technical ways to solve the issue of upgrades. It is true, but can be tricky in case both desktop and cloud software are involved. Here is the passage from the same Siemens PLM blog:

Working in the PLM area we try really hard to provide our customers with a good upgrade experience. PLM software is itself dependent on both the operating system and database software, and it has to work with specific releases of CAD software  (sometimes with more than one CAD solution for our multi-CAD customers) and with office software as well! Moving PLM software to the cloud could potentially take some of the upgrade issues away from the end user, but PLM software does not work in isolation from your data files, or your other software and systems so I believe there is much work still to be done before the cloud really impacts the upgrade situation for real-world customers.

What is my conclusion? From customer perspective, the best option is to make release cycle completely transparent.  In my view, this is really high bar for PLM vendors. Customer data migration, customization and sometimes absence of backward compatibility make release transparency questionable. However, since industry moves towards cloud software and service business model the demand for agile release management and absence of upgrades will be growing. So, my hunch, in the future we will not see “legacy software” anymore. New type of enterprise software will manage upgrades and migrations without customers paying attention. Sound like a dream? I don’t think so. For most of web and consumer software it is a reality already today. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

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plm-key-people

One of the companies I’m following on regular basis is Aras Corp. and its Aras Innovator product. Aras represents an interesting combination of business, marketing and technologies ideas. Back in 2007 Aras came with the strategy of  Enterprise Open Source PLM. Since that time, Aras is consistently raising bar of Aras Innovator solutions. In one of my previous posts back into 2011, I predicted Aras lines up against Windchill, Enovia, and TeamCenter. It is hard to me to make an assessment of how close Aras is to that goal. Nevertheless, my attention caught by Aras press release – Professor Martin Eigner Joins Aras Board of Advisors:

Professor Eigner, an internationally recognized expert in PLM and model-based systems engineering, will work with Aras to build on the company’s track record of growth and global expansion, drive innovation in PLM technology, and foster a mutually beneficial, bi-directional relationship between commercial and university research. On joining the Aras Board of Advisors, Professor Eigner said, “Aras is truly unique among PLM technology providers. Their approach, technology and business model provide enterprises with the advanced capabilities they want and the flexibility they need to take full advantage of emerging business opportunities.

My hunch, Aras is following their goal to compete with big three PLM vendors. Interesting enough, Eigner PLM – the product originally acquired by Agile PLM and then by Oracle is still available today and serving customers. You can see the confirmation of that fact in SchnitgerCorp blog:

Aras announced that Dr. Martin Eigner has joined its Board of Advisors. That’s a big deal — you may recognize the name from Eigner and Partner, a PLM company sold to Agile in the early 2000s. Agile was then acquired by Oracle, but the original Eigner products continue to be supported today. At any rate, Dr. Eigner is a big “get” and Aras said he will help Aras “build on the company’s track record of growth and global expansion.

Interesting enough, Eigner PLM was already on the trajectory of competition with big PLM vendors. Another press release from 2003 speaks about 250 of Eigner PLM customers. Here ist he passage:

The addition of Eigners industry expertise in automotive supply chain, industrial machinery, aerospace and defense to Agiles capabilities in life sciences, consumer products, electronics and high technology, clearly makes the combined company a dominant player across all key discrete manufacturing verticals,” said Frank Azzolino, Eigners CEO, in a statement. The acquisition of Eigner will help Agile better compete against PLM giants Parametric Technology Corp.s Windchill product and Dassault Systemes S.A.s Delmia offering. 

What is my conclusion? Manufacturing companies are very conservative in the way they implement PLM systems. For many of them, the decision and evaluation is taking months and sometimes years. Once put PLM system in place, manufacturing company can run it for decade or even more. Therefore, there is nothing surprising in the fact Eigner PLM is still in use 11 years after Agile acquisition. The majority of large manufacturing companies already implemented PLM system at least one time in the past. In that segment of market, PLM vendors are working on systems replacement. Previous experience is an important element to replace existing systems. I agree with Monica Schnitger – it is a big deal for Aras. In my view, Aras just took another steps towards competing with PLM leaders. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Disclaimer.  Aras didn’t sponsor my publication and didn’t influence in any way the content the blog post.

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How to eliminate PLM customization problems?

March 28, 2014

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 […]

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How PLM can take over Excel spreadsheets?

March 4, 2014

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 […]

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PLM Open Source Future – Cloud Services?

February 17, 2014

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 […]

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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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