Mention The Amazon Cloud and Computer Aided Design (CAD) in the same sentence and it’s not long before the hand wringing commences and blood pressure starts to rise. The nearly simultaneous emergence of cloud storage, virtualized platforms, Software as a Service (SaaS) solutions, and rental pricing models are creating a perfect storm of both possibility and confusion. At the epicenter of this explosion of technology is a developing cultural shift towards truly collaborative or crowd-sourced design, as described in All Your Engineering Are Belong to Us. Leading the charge into this by-no-means certain future are social CAD sharing sites like GrabCAD, and 3D printing options that include a growing variety of on-demand services, or perhaps your very own Makerbot printer. But some troubling legal questions remain largely unanswered, and so it’s not unreasonable ask: Is the social CAD revolution a legal time bomb? Judge Dredd is not amused.
Cost is a critical factor in any Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) journey, and collective experience reveals a clear and present danger: that journey can be ridiculously expensive. The costs of dedicated staff, infrastructure, software, consulting, training, not to mention potential business disruption tend to pile up. Bearing the extreme cost of adoption has, without a doubt, contributed to a few PLM failures. Worse still, this affordability barrier has kept most out of the game entirely. In the PLM Trail, I described how the PLM journey leaves little room for experimentation because of the inherent costs, which creates an environment heavily biased against the creative solutions needed to demonstrate real value. Recent evidence reinforces the fact that PLM may be stuck in an 80’s retro arcade: you have to keep stuffing those coins in just to survive another few seconds. Except instead of quarters, we’re talking millions. It’s a-me, PLM! Which brings forth a larger question: is it time for a new PLM economic model?
Attempting to predict the often promised Google enterprise revolution has become somewhat of a enigma on the internet for some time. Not a day passes without at least one tech blog or another building on the energy of a particular Google technology, suggesting that perhaps tomorrow, or possibly next week, or maybe even later this year (or is it next?), Google will finally make significant inroads into the enterprise market. I feel a great disturbance… as if a million people were collectively holding their breath, and suddenly exhaled. Often cited as Google’s entry points into the enterprise are underground tool adoption by way of Shadow IT or the legitimization of BYOD. These points of entry are often touted as the means to allow Google magic to sweep into the long-beleaguered enterprise and issue a new renaissance in collaboration technology. But the entire concept of Google successfully disrupting the enterprise is caught in a warp bubble; it’s just not going to happen. Google in the enterprise is the equivalent of a young, eager, rainbow-shirted Wesley Crusher, brilliant at discovering and using technology, but totally uninterested in the customer.
As the Computer Aided Design (CAD) world transforms for good or ill, under the mounting pressures of The Amazon, software services, subscription models, ozone depletion and virtualized streaming, the long-held institutional definition of what constitutes CAD hardware is changing. Few these days are keenly aware of a hardware certification process – where specific workstation hardware is qualified by software vendors as a certifiable configuration ready for duty. The process is slow and methodical – not to be confused with minimum or recommended software requirements – but instead testing and documenting precise machine configurations. The practice is more common the higher up you go in the CAD marketplace, with the presumption that more expensive products are supposedly pushing the hardware performance envelope. We know that presumption is certifiably insane in itself, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. As technology has moved forward (or sideways?), even the most entry level hardware is becoming quite capable from a 3D performance standpoint. So an important question to ask: does certification really matter anymore?
The constant rush to ram the perceived collaboration advantages of social networks down the collective throats of the enterprise continues relatively unabated, even despite mounting evidence that Palpatine has no clothes. Previously in Antisocial Enterprise and Antisocial Enterprise II I’ve discussed how the social networking model by its very nature is fundamentally misaligned to business needs, and that dumping such technology into the fray stands to be even more disappointing than Sharepoint. While users scramble for the nearest airlock, many architects and analysts are wondering how to tweak the technology and integration to operate effectively in the business realm. But the answer is not forthcoming. The problem is well beyond understanding how we interact with social networks, but also precisely what those networks do to us. The underlying problem in fact is not technological, but rather sociological. We have met the enemy and he is us.
Adoption and implementation of Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) is a daunting challenge across three dimensions: technology, business strategy, and culture. Such dramatic change is often perceived as an ordeal, and one that can be terribly disruptive and upsetting for a business. Transformative change is hard. So it’s not all that surprising that many organizations receive PLM about as well as a Borg invasion. Viewed from the bottom up, a PLM initiative appears like a force of nature, churning up everything in its path. It’s not long before the Borg assimilation jokes get loose. We are the PLM. Lower your shields and surrender your ships. We will add your biological and technological distinctiveness to our own. Your culture will adapt to service us. Resistance is futile. You can imagine that everyone isn’t always so keen with dramatic change. I mean what could be better than being abducted, handed a Captain Eo outfit, and turned into a soulless automaton toiling away in “workflow” into what amounts to a giant space cubicle?