How to escape from old PLM ideas

How to escape from old PLM ideas


I’m on my way to Las Vegas to attend Autodesk University 2016 – an annual Autodesk gathering usually brings around 10’000 customers, partners and Autodesk employees together for endless number of sessions, presentations, classes and activities. The show is such big that I usually like to ask for somebody coming to AU – what AU are you going to? People can come to AU and attend sessions and classes without any chance to cross their paths.

For the past few years, I’ve been attending AU in different roles – blogger, Autodesk partner, Autodesk employee. Full disclosure – this year I’m coming to AU to talk about my new company openBoM and to share experience about openBoM using Autodesk Forge web services to develop cloud applications.

I wanted to take an opportunity of long flight and high altitude to reflect on cloud PLM – the topic that near and dear to my heart for the past few  years.  Autodesk did a gigantic work by pioneering the vision of cloud PLM since first announcement about PLM360 back in 2011. You probably remember my articles from AU2011 sharing news about cloud PLM – AU2011 Autodesk PLM story is about to begin.

Fast forward in 2016. Many things changed in PLM eco-system with regards to cloud development. Cloud technologies have changed the way we think about PLM deployment and how much IT do we need to run PLM system. The structure of PLM investment manufacturing companies are making in PLM has changed. The speed of implementation has changed. But the demand of customers has changed too. Nowadays, all PLM vendors are providing some sort of cloud – private, public, hybrid, live, online, true, false… you name it. For many manufacturing companies, cloud became a buzzword that requires explanation and clarification.

The trajectory of cloud PLM ideas went into how to make PLM faster, cheaper, nicer… Nothing wrong with that. Current step in the development of cloud PLM is absolutely important thing. Read more about it in my blog about trajectory of cloud development – company servers, cloud servers, multi-tenant applications.

But here is the thing… I doubt cloud PLM innovation is about how to shift from corporate IT servers to cloud PLM services.. Don’t misunderstand my point – cost and speed of PLM implementation are very important for customers. However, very often I can hear comments from manufacturing companies saying cloud PLM is not different from on-premise PLM. The difference is only where servers are installed, who maintain it and what is the cost. This is not a good message for PLM vendors thinking about PLM innovation.

Reflection on last few years of PLM development made me think about how to innovate in PLM and make it different for users. I surfed the Internet on my way to Las Vegas. My attention was caught by Peter Hall tweet. The message is resonating –  The difficulties lies not so much in developing new ideas as in escaping from old ones. Cloud technologies created a huge acceleration to think about new PLM development. However, as much as companies moved forward, old PLM ideas kept the systems at the same place and ideas deteriorated towards only using cloud servers instead of on-premise PLM installations.

Here is my take from 30’000 feet on the plane about what 3 old PLM ideas we need to escape to unlock our future thinking about PLM innovation.

Old PLM idea #1 – PLM is a central system of record for product development

For many years, data records is a fundamental element of any enterprise systems. PLM is included. PDM and PLM are all about the data. First, it was about CAD files, and then about related information. Nothing wrong with this, but data is a very complex thing. Organizations have complex multiple sets of SOR (system of records). These are complex organizational, technical and sometimes even political systems. We need to think how to outsmart existing system of records to move forward and make a progress.

Old PLM idea #2 –  to succeed PLM should transform an organization and and change business processes

Changes are hard. Culture eats technologies for breakfast and stays hungry for the rest of the day. This is what happens with many PLM implementations aiming to change how companies are doing business. Great PLM technologies and products are stuck with corporate transformations similar how Napoleon army failed during French invasion of Russia . A traditional thinking is that PLM technologies are ok, but companies need to hire consultant to help them to manage change. Good luck with that.

Old PLM idea #3 – PLM sales process should be focused on organizational value proposition

PLM is a value based sale – organizational value is a fundamental thing enterprise and channel  sales are focusing on. However, combined with idea about business transformation, it creates a huge slowdown and sometimes blockers in a process of PLM development.

What is my conclusion? It is never too late to teach an old dog new tricks! Old PLM ideas are powerful and they stuck in people minds hard for long time. It takes a power of imagination and hard work to escape from everyday habits and something that for many years was considered as a fundamental in PLM business. However, manufacturing industry is changing, company business models are changing, technologies are changing as well. These days manufacturing company is a network, a community of business partners working together. New manufacturing networks should inspire future PLM development and innovation. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Picture credit – Innovation as a state of mind

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. My opinion can be unintentionally biased.



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