Granularity vs. Integration- Suites vs. Best-in-class PLM

Tech4PD: Episode 1

Integration has always been important in PLM but it is argued that integration of data and processes are too time consuming, costly, and there isn’t enough value up front. Is it more important for data and processes to be in synch even if it takes some time to establish? Is it worth it to wait for the value? Watch this episode of Tech4PD and see how Jim Brown and Chad Jackson tackle these questions and more.

PTC’s View

We at PTC believe that there are inherent advantages in utilizing a suite of products that were originally designed to closely work together and utilize the same, centralized set of data. Implementing a product suite does take more effort, but the benefits can be much greater. However, some situations may dictate that different best-in-class applications should be utilized. Having the ability to mix and match applications and singularly deploying one application at a time may be advantageous. But, you must also consider any additional cost and effort needed to integrate together such best-in-class applications. PTC offers products and solutions for both situations. Take for example our PTC Windchill product suite and related solutions. The applications and capabilities already work closely together, but various components (such as PTC Windchill Product Analytics) can also be used in standalone format.

Video Transcript

Chad: Hello and welcome to Tech4PD, the web show on technology for product development. I am Chad Jackson, one of your hosts.

Jim: I'm Jim Brown. I’m your other host today. Today we're going to talk about granularity versus integration. We're going to look at Product Lifecycle Management and look at Suite Solutions versus Best-in-Class. I think it's going to be a really interesting topic.

Chad: Yeah, and big surprise, Jim and I don't agree on this topic, but before we get into that, let's tell them a little bit about how the show is structured.

Jim: We're going to start with a little bit of setting the stage, giving you some of our views on the topic, and Chad and I don't entirely agree, so we're going to have a debate and talk about our views and share some of the way we agree and the way we disagree. Then, we'll go from there and use our crystal ball and give a little idea of what we think is going to happen in the future. From there, we're going to go to something called The Consequences Round.

Chad: That's right, so here's the really cool thing. You get to determine who wins the debate, so there'll actually be some voting at the end of the show. We'll collect that and there will be a winner and a loser.

Jim: Right, and again, that's up to you, depending on who you think is more compelling. What we've decided is that whoever gets the fewer votes will brush their teeth with wasabi and we'll share that with you on the next episode.

Chad: So let's go ahead and set the stage. Jim, why are we even talking about this today?

Jim: I think integration has always been important in Product Lifecycle Management. When you think about the important relationships between all of the different aspects of developing a product and all the people involved, and really also, the processes that need to be associated with the data, I think integration is a bit of a no brainer.

Chad: Interesting, OK, well, I think that's been the traditional value behind PLM, but more recently some new solutions have come to market. You look at like Autodesk Vault manages product data. They appeal on 360 to manage and automate processes. Kenesto - you can use that to automate formalized and ad hoc processes.

Jim: Yeah, and you could probably include Forbix in there as well and Forbix doesn't have data management itself, but it pulls it together and allows you to add processes to it, and analyze it, and I think PTC Creo is actually an interesting approach because you've got an integrated data model with applications on top of it. Maybe, you could make an argument that that's granularity and integration, maybe on both sides.

Chad: Yeah, interesting. Well, I think regardless of the different examples; I think part of the reason that more granular solutions are getting some traction today is, there's a backlash against the traditional cost and time associated with deploying a PLM system.

Jim: There's cost to integration. There's complexity to having all of your processes aligned, no question, but the value is there as well and so what we've seen is what I call the four dimensions of PLM expansion. Actually, Product Lifecycle Management going out and taking on a richer view of the product, going further up and back the product life cycle, taking on more processes, and really involving then more people, so I think that's a trend we're going to continue to see.

Chad: Let's not confuse them with your fancy frameworks. Let's go ahead and get started with the debate.

Jim: Sounds good.

Chad: So, from my perspective, integration makes sense where there's a lot of change that needs to be propagated between different things, so for example, like a CAD structure and a bill of material. I mean, you need to keep those tightly in sync. However, in other areas like, say portfolio management, now that's something that doesn't have to be closely tied with the rest of the stuff in a PLM system. It can kind of stand independently and add a ton of value, so that's an example where I think things can be teased apart.

Jim: Yeah, but we're not talking about around the edges, and portfolio management, I think there's some value in integrating there as well, but that's not what we're talking about today. What we're talking about is core product development data and processes. You're saying that they don't really have to be that tied together. They don't really have to be that synchronized and in one place.

Chad: That's right, I don't. I don't think they have to be integrated. You can integrate them, but I think it takes far too much effort to try and get all of your data under control and managed, then get your processes under control and managed, and then figure out how they're all connected to each other. I think it's far too much effort, and I think again, you can get incremental value by just taking the step in one area, like getting your processes under control or getting your data under control. I don't think you should have to jump a huge hurdle to get to that.

Jim: Yeah, but if data and processes aren't in sync and aren't thought through together, then your processes won't support your data, your data won't support your processes, so you've got to be able to look at those things and architect them together or it's not going to work.

Chad: Well, but here's the thing. If any improvement requires a big initiative like that, that is a monumental effort; it's going to be really hard to get value. It's going to be a long time before you get the first hint of value. That's the big problem that I have with it.

Jim: Right. And I would never suggest that anybody goes and tries to implement all the PLM at one time. What I think though is very important, is that we make sure that what companies do is go out, even if they've got incremental steps, which I absolutely agree with, they have to have that vision of what it's going to look like in the future and understand processes, data, how they fit together, and then build to it to incremental steps. That's what I'm saying.

Chad: All right. Well, the good thing is, you get to decide on who's right. Well, let's shift gears and talk about what's going to happen next in the industry. Jim, I'm really curious to see what you think is going to happen.

Jim: Well, I know what's going to happen. I think what we're going to see is more of the same. I've been following enterprise applications, PLM, and others for a long time. What tends to happen is, you've got a core of capabilities in the center and then people innovate around the edges with Best-in-Class solutions, and then the Suite expands and includes those capabilities, whether through acquisition or whether they actually just build that kind of capability themselves within the application. So I think we're going to see more continued expansion like that because the value of integration is so great.

Chad: All right, well, crazy enough, this is one of the few times that we will actually agree on something. I do think there's going to be some movement in the space in terms of acquisitions or even mirroring capabilities, but I think what that will cause is an evergreen effect with startups. I think that part of the draw; I mean, certainly product capabilities make a difference, but part of the reason why these solutions are attractive is because they are granular. They are not part of an integrated suite, so I think when these solutions get acquired and integrated, I think people will want to go out and find something else, something more granular.

Jim: I think it's just hard for them to compete by creating a startup within what becomes the core of the integrated solution because the value of integration is, you don't even need to have all the same capabilities when you're a Suite provider. I think it becomes harder to have best of breed within there versus around the edges, but maybe with more granular solutions even within the Suites. There will always be a space and I think we've seen innovation within the core in the CAD industry for sure recently.

Chad: That's absolutely true; that's a great point.

Jim: Well, neither of us really do have a crystal ball, but hopefully that gives you some insight into where we think some things are going.

So now is the time where we normally have consequences from the last debate topic, but because this is the first episode, obviously we don't have anything to share with you right now, but look forward to our next episode when the one that gets the fewest votes will be brushing their teeth with wasabi, and I'm not exactly sure who that will be, but it should be interesting to watch.

Chad: Yeah, so in the meantime, you can also get involved in other ways, so we're always looking for ideas about new topics as well as new consequences, so wherever you're watching this on the web, leave a comment and suggest something, or you can go to Twitter and use the #tech4PD and leave your thoughts there.

Jim: Yeah, and as far as the consequences are concerned, use your imagination, but we have to set some limits; nothing lethal, nothing illegal. Really. Thank you for tuning in. I'd like to thank our sponsor, PTC, for helping make this first episode of Tech4PD a reality.

Chad: Yeah, thanks for tuning in today. I hope it's been of value and see you next time.