Dec 7, 2008

What if SMB as a vision for PLM and PLM vendors don't undertand it.

This post has been started as a comment of a post from the virtualducthman but since it start to be too long I have decided to write my own post. This is not a rant but rather the impression I had after I moved from a famous PLM Vendor to tier one automotive supplier.

As always extremely well written post without any flaw in the reasoning if you buy in the initial hypothesis. However I disagree with the statement that you use as foundation : Software vendor are proposing excellent product with a good ROI and SMB customer don't understand it because they do not have a vision.

In fact as PLM manager for a tier one supplier in automotive I have seen quite the opposite. I have seen all the big player coming and trying to approach me with solutions that have all the exact same problem :
  • No interoperability between authoring tools in the Engineering department and Plant
  • No backward or forward compatibility between version with the tools that they are supposed to integrate with.
  • All these tools share an interesting feature, no open standard to exchange data (xml, json, rss, atom, ...)
  • Impossible to mash up the information you put in their repository with other source of information. Ok, I agree impossible is a bit to strong you can always develop this feature and add it to your application. At least by designed these applications are making such thing hard.

What if rather than saying that SMB do not have a vision we try to find a different explanation to your observation. I tend to believe that they have an extremely well defined vision. SMB know that if they want to be in the business in five years from know they need to be agile in order to transform the way they do things to adapt themselves to the new constraints of the OEM. It is interesting to note that nobody is blaming Ford, GM, ... of not being able to see that they have good chance to go bankrupt in some month from now. It is interesting that many people blame now these companies of not being able re-invent/adapt their products to their market. when all of them where using PLM systems and had huge PLM projects on going. May be this can be an interesting post to develop this idea. Why PLM system only help you to develop faster/cheaper product that you are used to produce ? or Why PLM system can hurt your creativity in introducing innovative to your customer ?

In order to develop this agility SMB need to put very high in the list of capabilities for their information system the following features : Agility, re-configuration, continuous evolution / transformation, openness, ease of integration with unknown system, overall strategy of the PLM vendor.

That put us in front of a slightly different picture, isn't it? I am not going to develop in that post why and how each of this term could help to contribute to convince the SMB to change their mind on the value proposition your are doing but I am convince that the impact will be significant. Also I hope that you understand that now known on the solution on the market give them such freedom.

As an example, Alfresco has proven that this approach can work, I understand that this is not in the PLM realm but in content management and web content management but this area shared a couple of similarity with PLM. The market was dominated by closed source vendors providing the same kind of solution for the last 15 years, with no major evolution nor integration of the new tools introduced by the development of internet : wiki, Blog, chat, tag, fulltext search, low cost, commodity software, ... Of course each PLM product have changed several times their names but unfortunately the code, concepts, people behind them are the same it was just a marketing transformation.

Where is the fresh air, idea, innovation ... May be this industry need to show some code rather than powerpoint. It would be nice also if they change their approach in trying to force their solution rather than listening to their customer SMB is not OEM. They do not have will/money to spend in top/down project they need to be able to scale their solution with a bottom up approach. They need to be able to scale from 1 project to a department then a division and at the end to the whole company.

Any way Mr virtualduchman thanks for writing your excellent posts. This post shouldn't be read as PLM do not bring value to SMB but rather like PLM bring value but this can be highly increased by listening to their needs and feedbacks.
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