Why salesforce.com is a good platform for PLM… or maybe not?

Why salesforce.com is a good platform for PLM… or maybe not?


Medium article from Propel PLM – What the Salesforce Cloud Does for PLM brings few interesting data points about latest cloud PLM vendor (Propel PLM) building new product on top of Salesforce.com. Propel PLM recently closed $4.2M financial round led by Cloud Apps Capital Partners.

I’ve been discussing the opportunity to develop PLM system on top of salesforce.com on my blog before. The main question was about readiness of Salesforce.com platform to develop PLM applications. It is indeed an interesting opportunity and I’ve been watching closely what PropelPLM does from early beginning – Salesforce.com platform and cloud PLM differentiators.

Cloud PLM vendors will be searching how to differentiate themselves in the competitive market of cloud engineering and manufacturing solutions. Established vendors will search for a balance between existing platform technologies and advantages of cloud architectures. Newcomers will have more flexibility to innovate and build their own differentiation. Propel is coming first on top of Salesforce. Will Salesforce.com platform and technology will make a good deal for cloud PLM such as Propel to success? That was my question back few months ago.

PropelPLM article put some lights on what actually Salesforce.com platform brings to make PLM different. Read the article and draw your own conclusions.

The three main points are 1/ easy point-and-click administration, 2/ collaboration via Chatter and Communities and 3/ mobile applications. All three elements are absolutely important for every PLM systems these days. However, I hardly can see these elements as a differentiation, since I can find similar features provided by other PLM vendors as well.

So, where is the catch? I guess, the main idea that all these capabilities are coming to PropelPLM from salesforce.com, which makes a lot of sense and I’m sure can save time to PropelPLM engineers to develop the same solutions in house. Then the question is probably how much cost Salesforce.com platform to PropelPLM developers and end-users. As far as I know Salesforce.com pricing model is user-based. You can see more details on Salesforce.com website here. With price range from $25 to $75 /user/month I found it not cheap. Especially, when I compare it to PropelPLM pricing model here. It goes from low $30 up to $120 /user/month billed annually. At the same time, PropelPLM prices are similar to prices of Autodesk Fusion Lifecycle (formerly known as PLM360) here and Arena Solutions here.

Unfortunately, PropelPLM article doesn’t bring much information about how ProperlPLM is using Force.com platform infrastructure.

Salesforce.com is multi-tenant development platform oriented to enterprise and ISV specific app development. It has pre-built blocks for typical business apps – security, user interface, reporting, triggers, workflows. Assuming PropelPLM is using these blocks and it can save time to PropelPLM engineers to develop new features rapidly. At the same time, these blocks can be sometimes less flexible and not fit to specific engineering application behaviors designed by specialized PLM platforms.

Last, but not least – what about business? Medium article brings an interesting quote with regards to specific advantages of Salesforce.com for Fortune 500 customers. Here is the passage:

In the early years of the Salesforce platform, there were just a handful of apps — including FinancialForce, Jobscience, Apttus Contract Management—that were targeted toward users who weren’t necessarily in sales, marketing or customer service. But more and more companies have been building apps on the Salesforce App Cloud. And more Fortune 500 companies are embracing the platform as a core part of their IT infrastructure. In fact, as of this post’s publication date, there are now over 300 apps on the Salesforce AppExchange targeted toward non-CRM users.

It is unclear to me what companies PropelPLM is targeting. ProperlPLM website states customers from high-tech, automotive, life science, IM and communication industries. It would be really interesting to see how Salesforce.com can open customer doors to PropelPLM.

What is my conclusion? I have mixed feeling what differentiation factors PropelPLM can have based the information provided in the article. The core PLM functionality is there such as BOM, change management, process management, document collaboration. It runs on Salesforce.com backbone which is probably a good reason for company not to worry about IT and security specific aspects. But all these elements can be found in other cloud PLM products today for about the same prices. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Want to learn more about PLM? Check out my new PLM Book website.

Disclaimer: I’m co-founder and CEO of openBoM developing cloud based bill of materials and inventory management tool for manufacturing companies, hardware startups and supply chain.


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