How PLM can beat Excel? Or Blue Ocean’s ideas on how to improve usability…

It looks like PDM is constantly running after Microsoft Excel. Lately PLM has also joined the chase.… While looking at the history of Excel applications, I’ve noticed a number of features in PDM/PLM systems that have been repeated systematically after similar features were introduced in MS Excel. In release after release, you can see sort, filter, groups, nested trees, etc.


Actually, PLM vendors are pretty aware about such competition. You can see multiple blogs and white papers comparing Excel capabilities and explaining why particular work can be done better in PLM compared to Excel. On the other hand, Excel provides people with a very flexible and open environment in which people can feel very secure about the way they manipulate data. In my opinion, this is a key reason for the continuing popularity of Excel. The PLM environment delivers specific functionality (i.e. for Bill of Material management) but put constraints on data manipulation. Therefore, in the end, it loses potentially attractive features.

Each new release of PLM software creates new features that simulate Excel capabilities on top of data models and constraints that Product Data Management established. So, how do you break this cyclic development and make customers happier?

In my view, the adoption of MS Excel services is a viable option to steer away from this feature competition. Excel services is one way to improve the PLM/Excel relationship, improve user adoption and get more functionality for the PLM environment.

PLM systems need to map the data models and PLM services to an Excel service model. It will allow you to render data and use more functionality inside of Excel So, useful data manipulation such as sorting, filtering and others will be easy available for the product development environment. In addition Excel services will not require data to be copied/imported/exported. Actually, Excel service-based implementation will be more SOA compliant and improve data consistency inside the organization.

I’d like to know if you have any experience with Excel services in your organization or have tried to implement it as part of your software.


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