SharePoint PLM Paradox?

SharePoint is definitely moving forward. The latest Microsoft announcement folded Microsoft performance point and business process Management into its SharePoint package. No doubt,  this is a successful package, providing lots of useful and capable goodies for people, organizations and IT in general. Does it help to users thinking about PLM? This is an important question… In the past, companies demonstrated a performance boost when they based their product on Windows and Microsoft Technologies. AutoCAD was the first CAD system designed for Windows/PC. Back in 1993, SolidWorks introduced its 3D CAD system, fully leveraging Microsoft Windows technologies, and it was very successful.

Let’s get back to SharePoint…For a long time, SharePoint was a system used mostly for portals. Windows SharePoint Services 3.0 and Microsoft SharePoint 2007 created a revolution by shifting SharePoint capabilities in the area of collaboration – document collaboration, workspace for teams, coordination of documents and calendars. These were great tools that were implemented by a very large number of organizations. Manufacturing organizations are also implementing WSS/MOSS in order to improve team collaboration and share documents.

Will Microsoft SharePoint become the technology that can improve PLM systems? I think that people are still waiting for an answer to this question. Actually, I haven’t found many thoughts about this. The most interesting was question that has been raised is “Is SharePoint the Next PLM? “. This dates back to 2007, pointing to a CADCAMNet article. Whereas I don’t see SharePoint as the next PLM, I do see it, from technology standpoint, as  providing clear advantages for PLM software vendors. On the other hand, many really interesting SharePoint technologies like BDC, Excel Services, Report Services, and others are part of Enterprise version of SharePoint – MOSS. How manufacturing companies will be able to afford both MOSS and PLM system leveraging these technologies – it’s still not clear. It’s also not clear how additionally folded Performance Point and BPM tools will be packaged. It’s quite possible that these will become part of a MOSS version.

The way I see it, today’s SharePoint technologies can be valued by PLM products in the same way that Microsoft and Windows technologies were leveraged in the past by CAD vendors. At the same time, packaging of these technological capabilities in a full Microsoft SharePoint Server can become a real barrier for PLM companies who want to leverage it for their PLM products. In today’s economical downturn, companies will be looking for a single offering, and will find it difficult to choose between Microsoft SharePoint and a PLM system. Potential winners are “open PLM” products that can be easily integrated to leverage Microsoft SharePoint capabilities and Service Providers that can use both PLM and SharePoint technologies for their implementation. 


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