If you have followed my blog over the past 10 years, I hope you realize that I am always trying to bring sense to the nonsense and still looking into the future where new opportunities are imagined. Perhaps due to my Dutch background (our motto: try to be normal – do not stand out) and the influence of working with Israeli’s (a country where almost everyone is a startup).

Given this background, I enjoy the current discussion with Oleg Shilovitsky related to potential PLM disruptions. We worked for many years together at SmarTeam, a PDM/PLM disruptor at that time, in the previous century. Oleg has continued his passion for introducing potential disruptive solutions  (Inforbix / OpenBOM) where I got more and more intrigued by human behavior related to PLM. For that reason, I have the human brain in my logo.

Recently we started our “The death of ….” Dialogue, with the following episodes:

Jan 14thHow to democratize PLM knowledge and disrupt traditional consulting experience

Jan 21stThe death of PLM Consultancy

Jan 22ndWhy PLM consultants are questioning new tools and asking about cloud exit strategy?

Here is episode 4  – PLM Consultants are still alive and have an exit strategy

Where we agree

We agreed on the fact that traditional consultancy practices related to PLM ranking and selection processes are out of time. The Forester Wave publication was the cause of our discussion. For two reasons:

  1. All major PLM systems cover for 80 percent the same functionalities. Therefore there is no need to build, send and evaluate lengthy requirements lists to all potential candidates and then recommend on the preferred vendor. Waste of time as the besides the requirements there is much more to evaluate than just performing tool selection.
  2. Many major consultancy firms have PLM practices, most of the time related to the major PLM providers. Selecting one of the major vendors is usually not a problem for your reputation, therefore the importance of these rankings. Consultancy firms will almost never recommend disruptive tool-sets.

PLM businesses transformation

At this point, we are communicating at a different wavelength. Oleg talks about PLM business transformation as follows:

Cloud is transforming PLM business. Large on-premise PLM projects require large capital budget. It is a very good foundation for existing PLM consulting business. SaaS subscription is a new business model and it can be disruptive for lucrative consulting deals. Usually, you can see a lot of resistance when somebody is disrupting your business models. We’ve seen it in many places and industries. It happened with advertising, telecom and transportation. The time is coming to change PLM, engineering and manufacturing software and business.

I consider new business models less relevant compared to the need for a PLM practice transformation. Tools like Dropbox, perhaps disruptive for PDM systems, are tools that implement previous century methodology (document-driven / file-based models). We are moving from item-centric towards a model-driven future.

The current level of PLM practices is related to an item-centric approach, the domain where also OpenBOM is bringing disruption.
The future, however, is about managing complex products, where products are actually systems, a combination of hardware and software. Hardware and software have a complete different lifecycle, and all major PLM vendors are discovering an overall solution concept to incorporate both hardware and software. If you cannot manage software in the context of hardware in the future, you are at risk.  Each PLM vendor has a different focus area due to their technology history. I will address this topic during the upcoming PLMx conference in Hamburg. For a model-driven enterprise, I do not see an existing working combination of disruptors yet.

Cloud security and Cloud exit strategy

Oleg does not really see the impact of the cloud as related to the potential death of PLM consulting as you can read here:

I agree, cloud might be still not for everyone. But the adoption of cloud is growing and it is becoming a viable business model and technology for many companies. I wonder how “cloud” problem is related to the discussion about the death of PLM consulting. And…  here is my take on this. It is all about business model transformation.

I am not convinced that in the PLM cloud is the only viable business model. Imagine an on-premise rigid PLM system. Part of the cloud-based implementation benefits come from low upfront costs and scalable IT. However, cloud also pushes companies to defend a no-customization strategy – configuration of the user interface only.  This is a “secret” benefit for cloud PLM vendors as they can say “NO” to the end users of course within given usability constraints. Saying “NO” to the customer is lesson one for every current PLM implementation as everyone knows the problem of costly upgrades later

Also, make a 5-10 years cost evaluation of your solution and take the risk of raising subscription fees into account. No vendor will drop the price unless forced by the outside world. The initial benefits will be paid back later because of the other business model.

Cloud exit strategy and standards

When you make a PLM assessment, and usually experienced PLM consultants do this, there is a need to consider an exit strategy. What happens if your current PLM cloud vendor(s) stops to exist or migrate to a new generation of technology and data-modeling? Every time when new technology was introduced, we thought it was going to be THE future. The future is unpredictable. However, I can predict that in 10 years from now we live with different PLM concepts.

There will be changes and migrations and cloud PLM vendors will never promote standardized exports methods (unless forced) to liberate the data in the system. Export tools could be a niche market for PLM partners, who understand data standards. Håkan Kårdén, no finders fee required, however, Eurostep has the experience in-house.

 

Free downloads – low barriers to start

A significant difference in opinion between Oleg and me is Oleg’s belief in bottom-up, DIY PLM as part of PLM democratization and my belief in top-down business transformation supported by PLM. When talking about Aras, Autodesk, and OpenBOM,  Oleg states:

All these tools have one thing in common. You can get the tool or cloud services for free and try it by yourself before buying. You can do it with Aras Innovator, which can be downloaded for free using enterprise open source. You can subscribe for Autodesk Fusion Lifecycle and OpenBOM for trial and free subscriptions. It is different from traditional on-premise PLM tools provided by big PLM players. These tools require months and sometimes even years of planning and implementation including business consulting and services.

My experience with SmarTeam might influence this discussion. SmarTeam was also a disruptive PDM solution thanks to its easy data-modeling and Microsoft-based customization capabilities like Aras. Customers and implementers could build what they want, you only needed to know Visual Basic. As I have supported the field mitigating installed SmarTeam implementations, often the problem was SmarTeam has been implemented as a system replicating/automating current practices.

Here Henry Ford’s statement as shown below applies:

Implementations became troublesome when SmarTeam provided new and similar business logic. Customers needed to decide to use OOTB features and de-customize or not benefits from new standard capabilities. SmarTeam had an excellent business model for service providers and IT-hobbyists/professionals in companies. Upgrade-able SmarTeam implementations where those that remained close to the core, but meanwhile we were 5 – 8 years further down the line.

I believe we still need consultants to help companies to tell and coach them towards new ways of working related to the current digitization. Twenty years old concepts won’t work anymore. Consultants need a digital mindset and think holistic. Fitting technology and tools will be there in the future.

Conclusion

The discussion is not over, and as I reached already more than 1000 words, I will stop. Too many words already for a modern pitch, not enough for a balanced debate. Oleg and I will continue in Hamburg, and we both hope others will chime in, providing balanced insights in this discussion.

To be continued …..?

 

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