In the world of business, technology is ever-evolving. With new advancements in software and hardware, businesses are able to operate more efficiently and effectively than ever before. However, as technology changes, it can be difficult for businesses to keep up with the latest trends – let alone decide which trends are worth investing in.
How do pick the right PLM?
In my yesterday blog – A simple guide on how to choose SaaS PLM solutions in 2022, I outlined the trajectories of SaaS PLM development and what options are available in the market today. For many companies today, product lifecycle management is an important element of digital transformation and a key element in business systems. The foundation of digital business processes requires a technological platform for document management, product data management, project management, and enterprise resource planning. PLM software system plays a key role in the strategy. However, how do pick the right one?
“Enterprise” is one of these magic words that usually turns things upside down. Enterprise companies are big creatures with special requirements, attitude to execution, and needs for customer service. Think about them as luxury brands of consumer products. The word “special” is a keyword you want to use in the context of solutions for the enterprise.
In this blog post, we will explore Enterprise SaaS PLM circa 2022. What is Enterprise SaaS PLM? How will it impact manufacturing businesses? And what should you be doing to prepare for it? We’ll answer all those questions and more below. So read on to learn more about one of the most important technologies heading into the future of business!
Enterprise PLM Business
An enterprise is a traditional place where PLM software was born. Large aerospace, defense, and automotive companies coined PDM/PLM software system vision and technologies. They included complex design software, a highly customizable PDM / PLM data stack, and a gigantic amount of custom integrations between business systems.
While providing all these solutions, leading PLM mindshare vendors such as Dassault Systemes, Siemens PLM Software, PTC, and recently joined the group of ‘big three’, Aras Corp, were competing against each other for a very valuable and highly profitable PLM business segment. In the picture below (credit CIMdata) you can see a distribution of PLM software based on company sizes.
Enterprise PLM Software Challenges
Despite an overall success in enterprise PLM, large enterprise companies are suffering from many challenges of PLM software. Among most visible are the high cost of upgrades, maintenance of their customized solutions, and growing needs in digital transformation, which includes re-thinking their business processes related to new business models, new product development, supply chain challenges, and many others.
PLM software vendors are aware of the challenges and looking at how to provide the solution. However, it is simply said, but very hard to implement. Established PLM vendors are, like dinosaurs, are running on old 20-30 years software architectures, highly customizable and hard to adapt.
Cloud Technology and Enterprise SaaS
As cloud technologies are maturing, PLM vendors turned to the idea of using it as a vehicle to solve problems of enterprise PLM software. For the last few years, we can see multiple steps done by PLM vendors to bring solutions to solve the problems of enterprise PLM software. Here are a few examples – Teamcenter X, 3D EXPERIENCE solutions from DS, and PTC SaaS vision. Recently, Aras Corp, the manufacturer of Aras Innovator, announced the availability of their Aras Enterprise SaaS PLM software.
I’ve been learning about these solutions and had a chance to meet with company management and technology leaders to discuss their strategy and how they see the development of Enterprise SaaS product lifecycle management software.
Earlier this week, I met Aras Corp and learned about what is Aras Enterprise SaaS solution and what is the differentiation between Aras SaaS PLM and other software in the same market segment.
Aras Enterprise SaaS PLM software
For many years, Aras Corp provided a super flexible data management platform for PLM and business processes management. Developed back in the early 2000s, it accelerated with their marketing strategy for enterprise Open Source providing Aras for free downloads and developing a community of open source solution developers on top of free Aras core. The technology is based on Microsoft technologies – .NET, SQL Server and uses model-based service architecture, which is in a nutshell relies on a custom data model allowing to provide flexible data management and process capabilities. It is a single-tenant platform, which is the foundation of data management for a large enterprise company and can scale to a hundred thousand concurrent users.
Aras enterprise SaaS strategy is to deliver an existing Aras software in containers in an automated environment (DevOps) and provide it as a service for enterprise PLM customers. Aras is taking full responsibility to manage the environment, to provide upgrades, maintenance and operation. Here are a few pictures I captured form materials shared by Aras.
From the picture above you can see that Aras is switching to .NET Core to eliminate its server dependencies on Microsoft servers. Aras is virtualizing services using Dockers.
Pros and Cons of Enterprise SaaS PLM
I can see the Enterprise SaaS trend very interesting in PLM software development. It is certainly focused on how to solve the most painful element of enterprise PLM development – customization, upgrades, and rev lock. Large PLM customers are stuck in old legacy software and cannot move forward – it is a royal pain for all mindshare PLM vendors. Aras is certainly focusing on how to solve this problem with their Aras upgrade program now packaged in a SaaS envelope. It is very smart and can work to Aras advantage.
What enterprise SaaS PLM cannot do is to provide a global platform capable to integrate multiple companies together and establish a foundation for a data intelligence platform that can be used by manufacturing companies to solve their most painful problems (eg. global new product development, supply chain shortages, and many others). Enterprise SaaS platforms are single-tenant and even deployed in a cloud environment won’t allow collaboration between multiple companies on the same platform.
Enterprise SaaS platforms are not a solution for small and medium-sized enterprises and don’t have a foundation to scale down to small businesses. For many years, the solution for all PLM software for SMB was to work with partners. I’ve heard the same from Aras and hope to learn more about Aras partners’ strategy, but it is not something that will change their technological foundation and SaaS platform.
What is my conclusion?
Enterprise SaaS PLM is the next logical step for mindshare PLM vendors to package their technology and products in a virtual environment that can scale for enterprise companies’ deployment. All these companies are “sitting on two chairs” and looking at how to keep their solution for large enterprise companies and, at the same time, solve the biggest pain of deployment and upgrades by providing a novel “SaaS” envelope. I can see Aras, Dassault Systemes, and Siemens PLM follow the same path. PTC strategy can be different from their Atlas platform and I will talk about it in my next articles.
One of the biggest challenges of all enterprise SaaS PLM software architectures is to expand their businesses to a broader set of customers, to support a large network of companies to collaborate and work together by providing data management platforms capable to scale for multiple companies.
Just my thoughts…
Disclaimer: I’m co-founder and CEO of OpenBOM developing a digital network-based platform that manages product data and connects manufacturers, construction companies, and their supply chain networks. My opinion can be unintentionally biased.