Mobile PLM is not about “mobile” devices

Mobile PLM is not about “mobile” devices


For the last few years we’ve seen a wave of new “mobile” devices coming into business space. Mobile devices are changing the way we work. And I’m sure you can caught yourself using a mobile device you have in your hands at the same time you have a laptop or desktop computer in sight.

I’ve been following what CAD and PLM vendors are doing with regards to mobile devices and strategy. In my one of my earlier blog posts I shared why, I think, PLM vendors missed the point in mobile gold rush.

So far, I believe all PLM vendors are able to demonstrate PLM technology running of the mobile device. Here are few examples – Siemens PLM Teamcenter, PTC Windchill mobile, Autodesk PLM360 mobile. However, here is a question I have – how these applications are changing the way companies are using PLM technology. In other words, what is a “mobile moment” for PLM  that allows people and companies to work in a different ways? For most of the situations, mobile PLM is a way to access the same PLM database with the information belonging to the company. I doesn’t matter much I can do it using my laptop or iPad.

But, I think, the problem of “mobile” in PLM has deep roots. Actually it is not about about “mobile devices” at all. It is a platform problem.

My attention was caught by Benedict Evans’ article – Mobile ecosystem and the death of PCs. The article brings a very interesting perspective on what is the meaning of mobile technologies. In a nutshell, it is not about specific mobile device. There are few examples in the article that can convince you that “mobile” is really imperfect term to define a specific device. What is really important is how “mobile” term is impacting the way we do our work everyday. And we can do that work in different locations. From that standpoint, screen size is probably an important characteristic to think about.

On this basis, instead of thinking of ‘tablets and smartphones’ as one category and ‘PCs as another, we should think of larger screen and smaller screen devices. That is, you will have something you carry with you (a ‘phone’) and may or may not also have something with a larger screen that stays mostly at home or in your office. In the past you might have chosen between a laptop or desktop – today you choose between a laptop, desktop or tablet, depending on what you want to do with it. That is, perhaps we should think of tablets as being as much ‘PCs’ as desktops and laptops are.

However, my favorite passage is the following one speaks about technology and platform development.

Each generation of technology goes through an S-curve of development – slow improvement of an impractical product, then explosively fast improvement once fundamental barriers are solved, and then slowing iteration and refinement as you solve every last issue and the curve flattens out. PCs are on that flattening part of the curve, just as the Rainbow was. They get perfect because you’re debugging the big things you invented in the past, and now your innovation is in the extra little things (such as the Rainbow using exhaust for extra thrust), and there are no big new innovation to debug. But meanwhile, the new ecosystem is catching up, and the curve of development and innovation for that generation will flatten out way out of reach. The new curve is crossing the old one. This is why they look similiar – this is why a Surface Pro and an iPad Pro look similar. They both exist right at the point that those development curves cross. The iPad might still be a little below, but its curve is heading up.

So, you can ask me how is that related to PLM? Existing PLM platforms reached their top performance today, exactly how piston-powered aircraft in the picture above. These technologies and platforms are certainly reached perfection. Even more, we can run an extension of these technologies using mobile devices. However, here is the thing – as much as these technologies are perfect, they are probably obsolete with fundamental assumptions related to conceptual assumptions, database technologies and scale.

What is my conclusion? Existing PLM platforms are perfect in their maturity.  We are in an upper plateau of “S” curve. We can certainly see a very slow improvement for core fundamental technologies and products by most of PLM vendors today. All these platform development root back 15-25 years ago. This is a possible reason why PLM ecosystem is focusing so much on methodology, implementation techniques and management of changes in the organization. It is an absence of technological and product differentiators. It is a note for strategists and technologist to look for a new curve in PLM platform development. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Picture credit Benedict Evans blog.


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