Key Success of SharePoint – What Should PLM Learn?

Key Success of SharePoint – What Should PLM Learn?

I’ve been thinking about Microsoft SharePoint success in enterprise organizations. For the last few years Microsoft leapfrog in their ability to provide SharePoint-based solutions. I will put below few points that in my view are the foundation of this SharePoint success.

1. Basic solution for share files and portal availability.
2. Initial licenses embedded in Windows Server.
3. It doesn’t require huge upfront implementation and service efforts.

What I can conclude is that most of SharePoint deals were down without huge IT involvement and, of course, CIO approvals. I’m sure that many CIOs even don’t know how many SharePoint instances they have in their organization. The conclusion – no CIO involvement can simplify your solution path to the organization.

Now, I’m thinking back about PLM. For the last half decade, the most important message from businesses and sales I heard about – we need to sell PLM to C-Level. This is so called ERP lesson. This is the way ERP was sold to many organizations. My question today – is it something that PLM need to continue pushing forward? No, I don’t think so. Don’t take me wrong, I don’t see any problem in selling enterprise solutions to CIO in the big organization. However, when you think about mainstream adoption, ability to expand the solution in the organization, to get some end user commitment will be very beneficial.

So, what is my conclusion today?. PLM needs to learn how to play Trojan Horse in the organization and start flying below CIO radars. This is what SharePoint did, and, I think, it was successful. Of course, after implementing such strategy you will be invited to CIO too. However, your position will be different.

Just my thoughts. YMMV.

Best, Oleg


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  • Nice post, Oleg. I agree with your reasons for Sharepoint being such a success. To me one other big reason for the success of Sharepoint is the fact that it connects (almost) seamlessly with the main workplace of knowledge workers: Outlook and Office. Many tools seem to forget that and ‘integrate’ with Outlook and Office later. Or simply say: stop working in Outlook and/or Office.

  • Samuel, You are right- Office/Outlook is part of the deal. I don’t believe something can take people out of mails (Google Wave is trying…). Email is simple and works… Best, Oleg.

  • Samuel, Oleg hi,

    I agree with the success of Microsoft applications in general. They are able to embed infrastructure (sharepoint capabillities) in their common office products, which makes it natural to extend when file management is needed.

    PLM has the problem, that I assume 80 % of the companies who have implemented a PLM-enabled system, are just using it for file management – exactly the same scope as SharePoint.

    The challenge is beyond file management for both SharePoint and real PLM systems – here they need to be visible at a strategic level

    Best regards


  • Siemens Teamcenter Community is built on Windows SharePoint Services, there is a tight integration between Teamcenter Community, Microsoft Windows, and Microsoft Office. Teamcenter Community 2007 is based on SharePoint 2007.

  • Daniil Barvitsky

    Hi Oleg,

    Thanks for the post. There is a twist with SharePoint adoption. Another secret of SharePoint success is that it is being positioned as a platform AND as a product at the same time. The idea of “it does something out of the box and we all (IT, business, devs) can extend it to our liking” looks really appealing on many levels, just like you noticed. Perhaps, this is the reason why some organizations who failed SharePoint implementations try it over and over again – they simply do not blame it on the product.

    From architect’s perspective, however, SP is by far not the best product/platform ever. Many “adoptions”, are just sharing files or even turn dead after a month or so – should one count these as successful implementations? I think it is not as much about playing “trojan horse”, as about helping business to extract some value right away.

  • Jos, I see things differently. SharePoint is expanding from file management to portal/office collaboration solutions. They are doing it without achievement strategic level as a multi-department solutions. In most cases CIO/IT needs to answer on the question why they are not using SharePoint for a specific project when they already own licenses. On the opposite side, PLM is trying to achieve the next level (beyond CAD file management), by approaching C-level. Best, Oleg

  • Sandip, Thanks, I’m aware about what TC community is doing. There are sales advantage in leveraging SharePoint as an infrastructure and this is what TC is trying to present, in my view. However, as far as I understand TC community is a product focused on the cross-company / supply chain usage. This is not the strongest SharePoint deployment option which is mostly deployed for department level. On the departmental level competition between basic PDM and SharePoint will be obvious as well as an interest of companies to use SharePoint to manage CAD files… Best, Oleg

  • Daniil, Agree with your view. However, even taking into account losses in part of implementations and pros/cons of SP as a platform, Microsoft is going in a very wide way to promote SP Into organization. Upfront cost and investments are very low. If project is successful, SP expanded to the additional areas and departments…. Thanks for the comment and welcome to PLM Think Tank! Best, Oleg

  • AndyF

    Oleg, when you combine SharePoint with a zero cost PLM tool such as Aras Innovator then you have a significant tool set. Nice thing about it is that as you point out, all of this can be deployed without the suits getting involved. An entire PLM deployment can be up and running without a single C-level meeting. The monolithic PLM guys can be spending months putting their PowerPoint slidedecks together for the CIO while the Innovator and SharePoint adopters can be off solving actual business problems.

  • Hi Andy, I love your “monolithic PLM guy” and “CIO slidedecks” associations :)… The only one buzzword that you didn’t mention is “the single point of truth”. However, I don’t believe in “zero costs PLM”. Maybe you wanted to say “no big upfront cost”? In parallel, one of the cons related to SharePoint deployments I heard about, was underestimation of final project cost. This is a situation nobody wants to get in- to have under-budgeting project. I believe, the same problem exists with Aras implementations… Best, Oleg

  • Cam Bickel

    I think the point of Oleg’s post is to parallel the mode of adoption of PLM with Sharepoint’s success in contrast to basing PLM on the Sharepoint platform. In the latter case my opinion is Sharepoint is not a good platform under PLM. We use Sharepoint based Insight data manager with Solid Edge CAD and it is craptastic. Putting the document files in the database is a really bad idea. I much prefer a separate vault for files.

    I do think the current PLM suppliers need to better integrate with Office and Sharepoint and that is beginning to happen. But integration to other applications is probably more important for PLM.

    On the former point I think the difference between the PLM and Sharepoint examples is that Microsoft had the ubiquity of MS Office to use as a foot in the door for Sharepoint. For PLM the corresponding piece would be CAD tools. The variety of CAD tools in use even within one organization is much broader by comparison so it is not as easy to piggyback PLM on an installed base of a particular CAD tool. I would not look to a CAD vendor for PLM.

  • AndyF

    Oleg, yes there is a bit of the “pay me now or pay me later” deal when you start to roll your own code. But, as you pointed out in your intro, the low cost of entry solutions get you past the C-level review process. So that means you can deploy quicker and start to solve problems sooner. Maybe there is a price to pay down the road and maybe there isn’t. It all depends on how smart you are about the deployment of the low cost tools.
    I’ve seen enough massive failures now to know that just becuase the C-level guys get involved, and just because they spend $10+ million on a PLM deployment doesn’t mean that it will work. In fact, as the price goes up so does the failure rate. So there is a really good argument for doing the “under the radar” deployment. If nothing else, the team under the radar works harder because they know they need to do it right. The fully funded teams sometimes get a little lazy and flounder around for years becuase they have the support of the C-level staff.
    The behavioral psychology seems just as important as the technology when looking at success vs. failure of PLM systems.

  • RaymondA

    Great topic for debate! I look at the evolution of PLM sales to be not so binary. I believe the lifecycle of PLM has actually experienced the phase where they put the content management element into the hands of anyone and everyone. Then there was the phase the PLM was a toolkit for the organization to build it around the needs of their organization. Both of those methodologies left the engineering organizations very disatisfied with the costs, complexity, lack of growth opportunity and integration and data migration nightmares (PLM companies had VERY bad data transition issues). Now the PLM companies see the revenues and opportunity to look like champs if they can get one instance at the highest level of the organization.

    With regards to the point that higher sale is equal to higher risk, that is because the expectations and leadership was not truly aligned. You see this in about any enterprise level implementation. PLM in a sense has just “grown up”. Companies like accenture, PTRM and others and now seeing this as a clear strategy and long term investment for product development companies.
    PLM companies were not built with the intention of adding portlets like the sharepoint model. You can’t really build the complexity as you go. If you don’t tie in the organizational level decisions early, you are hosed in trying to reconfigure the system later. For PLM companies to be successful, they need to have customers who understand this and these decisions need to be made at the “C” level. Failures to implement are usually tied to lack of governance and coordination in the organization. Just my thoughts…..


  • Cam, Thanks for pointing on the “platform” topic. I believe this is an important one. I see the question of the “platform” always a little speculative when we are doing something different from the operational system databases and development environment. I think, SharePoint is in a gray area of products that moving to become platforms, but at the same time is still in stretching mode to do so. Fundamental SharePoint capabilities – file sharing and portal are not positioning SharePoint as a platform. Some other capabilities, like BDC (or BCS in SP 2010), workflow, etc. can position SP and a platform to develop apps and integrate information in the organization. However, I see the best advantage of SP as a collaborative tool. So, first, I’d not use it as share-folder-space for CAD, but will try to get attention of people to collaboration on information. This is a point where PLM vendors feel competition with SharePoint. However, SharePoint looks like more successful in driving customer adoption in the organization via Office/Portal at the time when PLM is fighting CIO meetings with ROI slides. Best, Oleg

  • Andy, Agree. There is an advantage on “pay me later” approach, since you are getting in, and you can manage this opportunity from the “inside” position. However, in my view, the challenge for such approach is how not to be under-budget (for insider project) and how to be profitable (for contracting companies). Best, Oleg

  • Raymond, Thanks for your comments. Very good analyzes, in my view. The scenario of C-level for PLM implementation has a high level of risks and consumes too many resources. Therefore, I’d be trying to drive PLM adoption bottom up (similar to SharePoint). This also will allow to work more “on going” with customer, improve, configure, polish tools to make them easier and more efficient. Best, Oleg

  • Oleg – interesting post on the success of Microsoft SharePoint with the aid of a stealthy sales process. I read an interesting article on how a manufacturing company (Borg Warner) is using SharePoint to manage several of their key engineering processes here:

  • David, Thanks! Interesting article indeed… Oleg

  • Raymond A


    Problem with this approach from my experience has been that the unwillingness to change (no matter how paper or absurd the current processes are) is usually at the worker level. My experience is that PLM is proven out in one group and then slowly rolled out to other groups. I think the big error with any enterprise implementation is the “ta-da” effect. That is when the team goes off for a year and comes back to the organization for the unveiling and say’s “ta-da”. That is the recipe for doom. Success is about bringing the team along at a pace fast enough to get the job done but slow enough to adopt and accept change as you move from group to group. I loved the saying of one of my leads when she referred to our deployment methodology. “You can only eat the elephant one bite at a time”. Too often these large implementations go wrong because the development team gets overwhelmed with requirements. They follow a waterfall approach and the process for change is disasterous.

    P.S. My question is why is PLM so much clunkier to use for the average user than sharepoint!!!!


  • Raymond, thanks for sharing your thoughts. A typical PLM implementation is longer than you can expect. In my view, there are several problems (i.e. Idea complexity, process complexity, inflexibility and over-flexibility of technology and software, etc.) As opposite, SharePoint comes with a simple statement behind File Sharing folder + Office integration, and you can roll it out. Take a look on my post related to PLM implementations – Best, Oleg