As enterprise software vendor houses struggle with one another to maintain and expand their territories and influence, they fight across both philosophical and logistical boundaries. What’s to say where the boundaries falls between, we know these battle lines are long-contested, not a day goes by where there’s not another story about PLM bumping up against ERP. House PLM. House ERP. House CRM. House MDM. So many acronyms claiming holistic enterprise solutions all at once, it threatens to give you a headache worthy of a space fold. We’ll ignore for the moment that a strategic philosophy like PLM shouldn’t be exclusively characterized by the specific software that carries the name. Never mind that definitions for all of these things tend to be very liquid. And we’ll conveniently forget that the right solutions tend to involve one of everything, creating multi-headed dragons. There’s collateral damage from this turf war, and that’s the mass confusion with some customers who go off and try to implement something that has exactly zero chance of meeting their needs. Some have suggested that the solution is to put your PLM in the box. What’s in the box? Pain.
Reading Lionel Grealou’s post PLM Vs Excel was a source of great entertainment, yet another salvo in the seemingly intractable war against the eternally entrenched spreadsheet. After all, I’ve written at least one of these myself, lobbing a mortar or two of my own. Yet here comes Microsoft Excel, crashing through the skylight or driving around a funky Lincoln Futura with flames leaking out the back. Is Excel the best tool for Bill of Material (BOM) management? Oh hell, no. Excel barely qualifies as a BOM tool at all, but it’s certainly everyone’s favorite. Na na na na na na na Excel.
The amount of choice in the ever-expanding CAD universe is not without a strong caveat: the persistent interoperability woes for which no one authoring solution can fully conquer. CAD interoperability is treated as an incurable disease, the unfortunate cost of doing business within a diverse supply chain of industry conglomerates and nimble design shops adrift in an ocean of variable formats and constantly flowing technology. Coping mechanisms are in abundant supply, be it a variety of neutral formats, direct modeling tools, direct and indirect translation, or the good old brute force method: old-school remodeling. But the pain remains. Reliable direct translation seems to be the preferable solution, especially with regards to preserving design intent, but things are not quite so simple. When it comes to properly handling the abundance of CAD file formats in the wild, engineers and companies too often find themselves staring longingly through a window across a foreign landscape, knowing they are hopelessly lost in CAD translation.
Last time on E(E), we lamented the alarming dearth of young talent with interest in Product Lifecycle Management (PLM), and its impact on future PLM innovation. The PLM Old Fart Paradox outlined how PLM is seemingly lost in its own museum. Long-fortified organizational and political barriers, limited avenues of open and frank communication not colored by established vendor agendas, and a distinct image problem are all troubling obstacles. Entry into the domain is both intimidating and precarious. These challenges are suppressing new ideas, the very fuel necessary to ensure future PLM value. But we’re here to do more than frown disapprovingly and toss a holy hand grenade into the fray and count to 5… er 3. It’s time to talk about how we get out of this mess, and it might take a few more posts. It’s time to choose… wisely.
Sometimes it feels like Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) is the sole territory of greybeards, just a bunch of old farts locked up in some long-forgotten enterprise cloister, going on and on about information holy grails, and dutifully defending the grand PLM vision, blissfully unaware that somewhere on the outside -on the other side of the great seal- are the technologies, ideas, and unique perspectives necessary for transforming PLM for the modern age. A special irony not lost on Jim McKinney in his entertaining article Is PLM Just a Bunch of Old Guys?, where he laments the dearth of young talent under age 40 in attendance at a typical PLM conference. Anyone with similar experience can attest that his observations are accurate. And to some degree it’s not just age, it seems PLM in general is suffering from larger diversity issues. So why is it that PLM thought leadership continues to resemble a coffee club extension of the Knights Templar? Have we chosen… poorly?
Some of the Digerati would have you believe the personal computer is dead. Mobile has killed the personal computer, they say. The PC should be left smoldering in anguish, limbs all chopped off, quietly slipping away into a lava flow on some remote volcano planet. PC was hard to work with, often times angry, and would deliver the blue screen choke of death all too often. Just let the PC die, and welcome the era of smart phones and tablets for everything. But the PC lives still. As tablet sales erode to both market saturation and indifference, and PC’s long-depressed sales numbers go on a rebound it should be quite clear that mobile alone cannot kill the PC. At first, analysts were thinking perhaps the PC was just not completely dead, that it might just be twitching involuntarily, or perhaps that it was undead. Now they are forced (see what I did there?) to conclude that the PC is quite possibly alive after all. Lord PC. Yes my master? Riiiiiiise.
Traditional Product Data Management (PDM) has been under a protracted siege on multiple fronts. From the West, the cloud invasion approaches, with the technology potential to reduce traditional PDM in all its file-handling, server-dependent glory into little more than a forgotten curiosity. From the East march legions of engineers who despise PDM in their very hearts. They feel justifiably wronged by the pains that traditional PDM has wrought upon them. As engineering focused IT resources give way to outsourced interests, PDM’s list of allies grows thin. Not that such allies were particularly strong to begin with, especially among freelancers and small business forever unaligned with traditional PDM. Now, from the cloud ranks comes a new battle cry, as CAD upstart Onshape greets the world with a first ever blog. There’s some exciting stuff in that first post for certain (for which I’ll be writing more soon), but there’s also one particular conceit buried in the comments: that a truly cloud-native CAD platform can break all bonds with PDM. PDM is defeated, the evil reign is… now hold on a minute.
On this cold winter morning, the first day of January in the year of our Email twenty-two, we stop for a collective moment to think. By common reckoning it is the year 2015, a time once thought to be so far away that email would have been little more than a memory, long supplanted by superior communications technologies wrought by the steady, unrelenting march of progress. After all, we’ve been hearing the condemnation for quite some time: email is dead some say. Or perhaps it should be dead, crushed under a wave of new socially-oriented collaboration tools. Except it’s not. Twenty two years since we started calling email by its proper name, it thrives. It is one of the few things that everyone with access to technology interacts with on a daily basis. Email is everywhere. Email is King. Kneel before email.