Two weeks ago, I published a provoking blog post proposing to stop “Engineering PLM”. Quite many people responded – the approach I discussed touched many aspects PLM considered as fundamental principles to create a successful PLM system – starting from CAD, taking control of design documents, expanding to BOM/change management and finally come to manufacturing and MBOM function. This is a traditional PLM path many systems passed for the last 10-15 years. One of the comments stood out. Chris Williams of Vuuch raised the point of stopping to develop so-called systems of record. Here is an interesting passage from Chris’ comment:
If you were developing a PLM system today I think it would be very different than if you were developing one 20 years ago. Back 20 years ago the PLM guys wanted to take the BOM away from ERP. We now know where that has ended. Business already has enough systems of records – systems to control data. These are all very much needed to run a business. But when you look at how these are used you find poeple dumb data into them, or report inforamtion into them. You find people do not work in these. You also find that these systems have not really changed the productivity of people.
The question of developing a PLM system from scratch is not new these days. Actually, I can see it even on a broader range. It applies to enterprise software. Over the weekend, I was reading TechCrunch article Building For The Enterprise — The Zero Overhead Principle by DJ Patil of Greylock Partners. I found the following passage important:
A central theme to this new wave of innovation is the application of core product tenets from the consumer space to the enterprise. In particular, a universal lesson that I keep sharing with all entrepreneurs building for the enterprise is the Zero Overhead Principle: no feature may add training costs to the user.
All together it made me think about what top 3 priorities a potential PLM developer needs to apply in order to transform today’s PLM initiative into something appealing more as “consumer taste”. Below I summarized my thoughts into 3 priorities (or principles to follow).
Eliminate noise from the user interface. PLM system user experience is very noisy. It comes out of two main reasons – complexity of the data and obscene syndrome of PLM developers to expose the internal architecture to users.
Hide data-management tasks. A typical PDM/PLM system exposes lots of data-orientation activities. Statuses of data objects, processes, data-related operations, integration with other systems – you can continue the list. Most of these things should go away, and technology should hide the complexity.
Assume no training required. You need to forget the option to train people to use your system. Gen-Yers are not about the training. Their 1-2-3 principle is to follow URL, try it, and if it doesn’t work in 5-10 minutes, look for another piece of software.
What is my conclusion? It is a fascinating time to be in the enterprise business today. Last 10 years exposed lots of problems with the enterprise software. Companies like Salesforce.com, Workday and many others are brining new ideas in enterprise software. They are using web technology, cloud, open source and many other tools. To apply zero-overhead principle will create a fundamental shift in the enterprise software. The story of PLM is still uncovered. It is a time for vendors to think and act fat. Just my thoughts…