Pop quiz, hotshot. There’s PLM data on a bus. Once more than 5 people interact with that data it becomes important. But if that data isn’t integrated properly, it blows up. What do you do? What do you do? We’ve long lamented about PLM complexity as a limiting factor to adoption, including the requisite wrangling to get product data moving efficiently across an enterprise in a loose federation of heterogeneous IT systems. For the most part, this has been the sole domain of data architects and development teams, wrangling robust SOA services onto ESB highways among a bewildering hodgepodge of enterprise data platforms, APIs, and disparate data models. But hopefully things get easier from here. One of the more interesting promises of moving PLM technology forward and into the cloud is handing over the integration data modeling keys to the nontechnical business side. Let’s try to get through this without shooting any hostages.
Some might surmise that if software is eating the world, then perhaps cloud software is eating conventional software. But is this true in the enterprise? Judging from the explosion of cloud-centric solutions that have entered the market over the last few years, the answer must be an unequivocal yes. However, when we narrow the scope of the discussion to Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) there’s a perceptible shift in tone, the hand wringing and teeth grinding and grumpy grumbling commences. Maybe there’s some concern over who’s responsible for downtime or performance bubbles. Or what it really means to have your IP slightly out of your control, but not (in theory). Yet every major vendor in the PLM space has some type of cloud-flavored offering on hand. But is it really? Depending on the particular vendor, attitude toward offering cloud PLM ranges from “What, you mean there’s some other way besides cloud?” to “I guess we have to have cloud in there somewhere or people will make fun of us.” But wait, are we talking apples to apples? Is cloud PLM really cloud PLM? Oh hell, no.
As an alarming legal predicament builds momentum in the software world, the dangers of a not-quite-dystopian Taco Bell centric future saturated with legal barriers continues to threaten the enterprise landscape, and undermine innovation and interoperability. Litigious quagmires involving software patents and copyrights has become the technology equivalent of the cold war, a mostly silent battle where software titans calculate strategies in mutually assured destruction. Two of those titans, Oracle and Google have been entrenched in a protracted legal squabble involving Application Programming Interfaces (API). One of the primary points of contention is whether API’s are copyrightable, and as a consequence, whether they can be reverse engineered without permission. All of this is happening just as we’re seeing pockets of innovation emerge in largely conventional software markets such as PLM, ERP, ECM, and CRM for which API’s play a central role. Will every innovative enterprise software startup be litigated and fined into oblivion as a result? You’ve been fined $10 million dollars for violating the API Morality Statute. Continue reading
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.
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?
One of the central axioms of Product Lifecycle Management is information re-use. Re-use prevents re-invented wheels by capitalizing on product knowledge that predates your particular problem. Provided you find what you’re looking for, of course. That’s where the trouble starts. Most of us know that PLM search is often about as fun as a late afternoon dip in a Sarlac pit. It’s never long before someone begins to lament about the Googlization (that is so not a word) of PLM search, a passing thought usually birthed in the throes of an intense thirty-minute session unearthing the latest funny cat videos from the depths of the interwebs. Why can’t uncovering part information be as easy as finding your favorite quotes from Firefly? There have been many attempts to emulate just that, but they may be missing the point. These aren’t the search engines you’re looking for.