Will Apps Become A Competitive Zone For PLM Vendors?

Will Apps Become A Competitive Zone For PLM Vendors?

For many years, flexibility was considered as one of the most critical differentiation of PLM platforms. Companies were looking into flexibility as a key factor enabling the PLM system to adapt to a very specific set of requirements from customers. And remember, each manufacturing company sees itself very unique and different. So, flexibility was the key. Check the debates around customization vs configurations – most of the vendors announced they are “configurable”, but no customization is required. In such a statement, the key comment was to associate “customization” with code changes, while configuration was considered no code and painless. Well… I don’t have a dog in this fight. Sometimes. writing a line of VB or JavaScript is much easier than navigating through the tons of configuration screens. But, it is me…

Here is what happens next in this configuration vs customization debates. It looks like we are coming into a new era. And the name is the low-code environment. Check my earlier article here ().

The interesting part of this low-code story is to move into application development. Earlier this week, I followed Siemens PLM European conference and captured these few slides. Siemens is advertising recently acquired Mendix and the ability to build applications in the cloud environment. Check them out…

Here is a video interview with SVP of Business Strategy & Marketing Brenda Discher made by Jim Brown of Tech-Clarity. She discusses the value of cloud adoption, including how the cloud supports new ways of working and digital transformation. That includes building new applications in the cloud.

Another company in the PLM domain actively speaking about the low-code platform is Aras. In my earlier blog, I shared my thoughts about Aras platform. But Aras is actively positioning itself in platform and application development. A recent video interview with Rob McAveny speaks about what means applications build on Aras platform and what benefits of these applications.

To compare with Aras’ applications, you can see MindShpere architecture of applications presented at Siemens conference.

The discussion about PLM apps reminded me Autodesk Cloud PLM announcement back in 2011 when Autodesk announced their PLM360 and applications. Flexibility was the key thing. It announced as insanely flexible. Also, PLM360 Apps were announced with the insane amount of apps developed in the very short term. It was all true – PLM360 core foundation (using Datastay) allowed to create a customizable workspace with data models, create scripts and packaged it as “applications” from PLM360 appstore. What is the lifecycle of these apps? It is hard to say.

What is my conclusion? Enterprise software sometimes dreams of apps. The idea of apps is fascinating and evolved since platforms like iOS introduced tons of consumer applications. But, enterprise software is different. I can see two approaches. Aras (and maybe Autodesk PLM) is coming from the side of a totally flexible foundation and data model allowing customers to build an application environment on top of this. Mendix seems to be more infrastructure set of services that can be tailed to any needs. I believe there are overlaps in these two approaches and we can see them evolving. The question about how important “application” development is for the successful adoption of PLM systems or it is just another dimension of flexibility remains open. 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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