PLM and Future Global Master Product Data

PLM and Future Global Master Product Data

My recent article Can we liberate product data from PLM vendors and dissolve it with digital thread raised a good number of questions, comments and discussions online and offline. I learned something – each time you touch the nerve of data ownership and value creation process, it will raise questions. And it will happen from different standpoints.

One of is obviously business. Enterprise software business is built on top of data ownership paradigm. Marc Lind outlined it in a very clear way last year at PI PLMx event in Chicago. The elephant in the room is that business model is built on top of data locking.

My attention was caught by David Sherburne of Carestream Health article on CIOReview – The Evolution of Enterprise Information . One of the most interesting aspects raised by David was perspective on the evolution of master data. Here is his view on a new way to think about data:

Figure 1 shows a new data abstraction that is emerging to help solve enterprise data problems. Companies are beginning to move towards a three layered approach to data that will help resolve current master data woes. The bottom layer represents data creation, the traditional application and reporting databases that exist across the enterprise today. What is emerging is a consolidation layer, represented by the middle block which is focused on creating a high quality data “superset” derived from traditional data stores. This consolidated superset contains both legacy structured (ERP, PLM, etc) and unstructured (IoT, Social, etc) data that is associated to specific “360 views” of what the business is interested in comprehending. Some examples of these “360 views” or “Masters” are customers, intermediaries, devices and employees. This data superset is the single source of the truth for these views and forms the basis for more complete reporting, data analysis and artificial intelligence. This consolidation layer is optimized differently than traditional databases. It becomes a more passive data layer, allowing for the expansion and inclusion of data over time rather than being structured in advance for performance and transactional efficiency.

As we talk a lot about digital transformation, it is interesting to see what role master data will play in this transformation.

In order to prepare for digital transformation, IT departments will have to re-address master data quality and segregation issues and launch a new data platform strategy  

However, data ownership problem is not something you can easy to resolve because it is related to people, to process they build and use. In such context, check on multiple comments to the same article Can we liberate product data from PLM vendors and dissolve it with digital thread, but on LinkedIn.

The following comments was my favorite to explain an opposite view to disconnecting data from application and creating master data universe. Read a comment made by Allard van Efferen. 

….People do like to own data as long as it resides in their own ms excel sheet. What I see as the main challenge is the continuous idea that data has an existence disconnected from processes. A process has a role assigned and as such data has an owner. Data is created and used by processes/activities when not your data quality drops. This also means to my opinion we have to stop considering master data, because that is considered by most as simply available data. Data from a company context almost never drops from the air (maybe except iso standards). No solution will solve this conundrum. When you want to get the best of PLM you have to acknowledge that you have to align and integrate your people/ organizational structure and processes/data and support that with applications. Whatever else you try will always bring suboptimal results to my opinion.

It made me think about the battle PLM companies will be going for the next few years. PLM business dream is to own product data and sell licenses to access data to benefit processes and users in an entire company. Similar how ERP systems are selling financial data. PLM is becoming to be more successful in this vision recently and digital thread is a good trend to use. At the same I believe PLM is not only a system that will be competing to the role of hold data and transform it into valuable information and intelligence resources. ERP and CRM companies will be in this competition as well. Also large infrastructure vendors will be providing more and more enterprise ready data services.

What is my conclusion? In the past PLM vs ERP competition on Bill of Materials was the most visible competition on data ownership in manufacturing company. Data is a new oil. As we’re moving forward in the world which will be controlled by ownership of data and ability to produce intelligence from data, a competition for master data in manufacturing company will become more and more critical for enterprise system success. What system and what form will be used to own global product master data in 10 years? This is a good question to ask.  Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

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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