Everyone wants it their way… and that’s a good thing. Choice. That’s what ensures we have cloths that fit, styles we like, food we enjoy, and (in the business software world) systems that work for our specific industry practices and processes.
Today, every large PLM software provider markets Industry ‘best practices’ or ‘industry accelerators’. In his most recent post on the PLM and Profitability blog, Jim Brown at Tech-Clarity, explores the implications of this a bit.
Each of these industries has their own way of doing things. Some are because the industry has unique requirements (assembling a plane is very different than formulating an adhesive) and others are just industry tradition. For example, I was always amazed that coiled products like steel and paper are sold by weight as opposed to length "because that's the way everybody does it."
The big question is whether you can support all of them (or maybe support just the important ones) with a single solution with templates, switches, and add-on modules that address industry needs. That was the approach in ERP, and it resulted in unwieldy, overweight and brittle solutions. Now, even though software technology makes managing different industry configurations easier, many enterprise applications that are sold as "one system" are actually different versions by industry (or by a group of industries).
What I am saying is that it is not impossible, but at some point the software vendor has to ask themselves whether they are really saving time/effort by having one system or if it would be easier to support multiple solutions.
Herein lies the problem with what’s going on at the mega-PLM vendors. The PLM software gurus have approached Industry specific solutions “the way it’s always been done”. Hard code everything that an automotive company needs, then hard code high tech processes over the top, next hard code a bolt-on for ETO, and finally jam some consumer goods-related features on the side.
What happens next? The system gets super complicated and no one can use it. Try to change anything and you’re into a ‘years-long’ IT project where you need dozens of programmers.
At some point people have got to figure out that hard coding everything is a bad idea. Today, you can have generic services like lifecycle, workflow, file management, classification, security, etc. that provide a consistent, modular basis for those industry-specific solution process templates. “Modeling” solutions instead of “hard coding” systems.
Modeling means graphical drag & drop editing of forms, workflows, business rules, data schema, and more. With modeling, industry solutions are simply a series of different templates that can be installed in seconds, edited in minutes, and expanded without creating millions of lines of spaghetti code.
What’s your take? Will enterprise PLM systems just become bigger and bigger balls of duct taped functionality? Or will the open Modeling approach take hold in PLM and simplify all of our lives?
Wed, Apr 1 2009 9:08 PM