Will Salesforce platform boost cloud PLM?

Will Salesforce platform boost cloud PLM?

Look at portfolios of all PLM vendors and you will see “cloud” tag everywhere. I’d say, for the moment, all PLM vendors are “cloud” buzzword compliant. The definition can vary from cloud-ready  to true cloud and everything in between. At the same time, analyst companies such as CIMdata mentioned in their researches that adoption of cloud PLM is slower then expected.

According to Mr. Stan Przybylinski, CIMdata’s Vice President of Research, “Cloud-based solutions are a fact of life in many other enterprise software domains, but adoption in the PLM market has been spotty. Helping to better understand why is one of the main goals for this research. This will also be the first step in documenting how and why industrial companies are moving their core product and process development work to cloud-based solutions.”

Last week I blogged about PLM and cloud infrastructure wars. The situation with cloud infrastructure reminded me the status quo of RDBMS back 1990s… Back in these days, PDM systems stopped using proprietary data management solutions and supported one or more databases. The same thing is happening with cloud now –  every (cloud) PLM solution will have to use some cloud infrastructure and DIY cloud techniques won’t work. But the question – what is the right one and how it will impact your business is hard to answer.

One topic that I missed in my story about cloud infrastructure was about PaaS. What is the role of pure PaaS cloud players such as Salesforce.com and few others? Can it be leveraged by PLM vendors? Few years ago, I wrote an article – Why Salesforce.com is a good platform for PLM… or may be not? I have to say that I still have mixed feeling about this question, so I decided to check more.

I was skimming through the comments customers left about Salesforce.com App Cloud Reviews on GetApp.com. Check this out and you will find lot of interesting information. Salesforce is clearly very powerful and capable platform. I think, it is an opinion shared by most of people provided feedback there. But, as it was mention by users, it can be complex and expensive.

If Salesforce is a good cloud platform for 3rd party developers, I’d expect ERP developers to use it extensively to develop future ERP. App store search by ERP category on Salesforce.com returns 68 apps. Among them on the top Rootstock and Kenandy.  Actually, these are not two companies any more. As earlier as in the beginning of this year, Rootstock acquired Kenandy. Check this article to learn more.

Salesforce.com search for PLM ended with 7 results (including Rootstock I mentioned above). It has Propel PLM on top of the list.

Propel PLM is a company with a very much similar strategy as Kenandy (and maybe Rootstock), but in PLM. It is developed entirely on Salesforce.com infrastructure. I wrote about Propel PLM earlier in my blog. Check these articles.  My attention was caught by Propel PLM blog – Stop, collaborate and listen with cloud PLM. The article explains Propel PLM differentiations and advantages – cloud, flexible, collaborative, customer-oriented, modern.

I found the following one a bit unusual – PDM based PLM or PLM to manage CAD files. In general, it is not a new thing. Historically PLM came from CAD data management. But, other PLM vendors (notable – Aras) is heavily using the story of going beyond CAD file management and CAD agnostic to their advantage. Propel blog brings few examples of old CAD management based PLMs. In my view, Bom.com and MatrixOne are probably not the best examples of successful CAD based PLM packages. Agile PLM also has no roots in CAD data management.

After some thinking, I came to conclusion, Propel has one big differentiator – Salesforce.com. In my view, all other PLM vendors will happily say  – cloud, modern, flexible, collaborative. But only one (Propel) will be able to say this magic thing “built on top of Salesforce.com”.

What is my conclusion? Does  Salesforce.com means Propel has extra points to challenge other PLM vendors with unique cloud PLM offering? It is a good question and we don’t have an answer yet. Salesforce.com is mature cloud-based platform. But it narrows down software development options, brings additional cost and has a potential to lock-in manufacturing company into Salesforce.com. PLM implementations lifecycle is much longer than ERP and CRM and it can be a potential showstopper for ITs. On the other hand, maturity of Salesforce is an important decision factor and if company is already running on top of Salesforce will be probably a much easier decision to take.  So, Propel is a good challenger in PLM world. Will Salesforce.com do a magic trick and boost Propel? It can be an exit option for venture based Propel PLM to sell to larger ERP such as Rootstock or to Salesforce.com. A trajectory of Propel PLM and other products on top of Salesforce.com is something to watch in the next few years. 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. My opinion can be unintentionally biased.


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