Point of No Return…

It has been my experience that many PLM buyers come to a conclusion that investing in PLM is point of no return. ROI on PLM investment is a favourite topic of a debate and everyone agreed that it is hard to measure PLM project success.
In my opinion PLM Project investment decisions are taken by IT department and they head these Projects. But we should make a note that PLM covers whole organization. Hence owenership of such project should belong to a group of business users and owners rather than making. IT department a victim for a feeling of coming to a point of no return and somehow complete the project. IT should be a support team to deploy the solution. Business user groups should be main point of contact while defining and validating solution. IT should be involved for infrastructure needs and scalability.
Most important role I see in success of PLM Projects is a Project Manager who understands PLM as a tool and client business environment. He/she can definitely take the project to success rather than making this investment. Only as apoint of no return.

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PLM User Accounts

PLM is enterprise tool and eventually a major part of employees will have a task to do in PLM Tool. Normally PLM Tools provide User account management modules where organizations broadly call it as People and Organization.

User Roles and Responsibilities are well defined in most of the organization and PLM implementation starts with configuring Access for users. But my experience with PLM Implementation project is something confusing.

PLM Tools are deployed as a independent tool. Then administrators start creating user accounts and then roles and then assigning them to on demand basis in some cases organization go for single sign-on or LDAP integration which is another project in itself.

Though this feature has complexities involved, should PLM Vendors not provide a handy way to integrate organization users with ease of operation? Following are thoughts on the way it should be.

  1. After installing PLM Tool in production environment, PLM Tools should have a wizard to integrate available network users directly into PLM Tool.
  2. It should just have a list of users available in Organization which can be seen from PLM Tool.
  3. PLM Tools should provide creation account button/command against each user, which should take administrator to user creation and configuration wizard.
  4. This wizard should be configuration so that it can fetch data related regarding his reporting and department structure so that account approval processes can be integrated within PLM itself.
  5. Like we get task for approvals in PLM, it should be another task to approve user account and assign role by his manager.

If PLM Tools have this type of feature they will provide following benefits.

  1. Adding a user friendly feature to PLM for user accounts.
  2. Complete tracking of user accounts.
  3. Automation of workflows with available information within other tools in organization.
  4. Quality time to invest on other PLM admin activities.
  5. Managers being informed and aware of subordinate’s access and roles.
  6. Reduction in gap of understanding of a functional user of tool and administrator of a tool.

I hope that I see such future in coming days.

thanks and regards
Ashish Kulkarni

Microsoft and Others

Some time back I was one of the computer users who used to hate Microsoft Applications and including operating systems. Windows Vista was the main reason. But these days I am liking Microsoft applications.

I liked two products of Microsoft. One is licensed and other is like open source. I am one of the lovers of Content Management Systems (CMS). In open source products, I like Drupal the most. I still love it for its features. But I like Microsoft SharePoint as well. Though I am a end user or just a portal administrator but still I liked it a lot. It is always debated that can it fight with PLM? Answer is NO. But still it can replace many features of PLM like Document Management, Workflows or any typical information management feature. I liked Custom Lists feature a lot. One does not need programming experience at all. Just some added commonsense is enough to create very useful custom list which can reduce your lot of data management efforts. As I always say, we need to integrate PLM and SharePoint with some social networking features. In this area, I do not see Google anywhere. I know they have many things for corporates but you need internet connectivity. I think in organizations where internet is still under control, SharePoint is the best option to have company intranet.

Another Product I like is Microsoft WebMatrix. I am still a novice in WebMatrix but it is a good tool who want to experiment with web applications. Basically Microsoft has given us a tool to experiment without much programming knowledge or a monopoly feel. Earlier I used XAMPP for this purpose but it needs some amount of basic knowledge of how web applications work. WebMatrix is just wonderful. It does all background work and one does not need to worry about Database Server, WebServer and so on. It just simple helps you to download some of the templates based tools and configures it for you on your localhost. Then you can publish your site with world using WebMatrix or just keep on experimenting locally. Here too, I see Google not much ahead. Google gives some good site development features but everything is static. Yes, Google Apps is there but again you need programming knowledge.

I liked these two products. May be sometime in future I will write more about features in these Products. I wish Microsoft keeps doing this good work.

thanks and regards
Ashish Kulkarni

PLM and Social Network Features

These days we always talk about Social Network, its features and related stuff in PLM. In past few days, while working with PLM End Users I faced user frustrations about multiple emails sent by PLM systems. These emails are many times non value addition items. These are not only flooding inboxes but make user confuse to prioritize their activities.

Intension for sending email notifications is really good. But now it is old fashioned and more important is not work it by making your smaller inbox full of System Generated auto mails. Specially when today’s user use Facebook, LinkedIn in and twitter on their mobile phones, then sending emails for notification is really old fashioned.

What I think is to give a twitter like service in PLM so that user can see notifications, tasks on his/her will by just clicking on “25 new notification ” or “12 New Tasks”. It should also give an ability to tag these updates by Project Name or Part Number or anything else that user is interested in. So that user can ignore unwanted notification without leaning up mail box and also enjoy social network features in PLM.

This will not only reduce load on mail servers and inboxes but also improve PLM Application performance. I would love to see such features for tasks, notification and lifecycle changes and anything that an end user can think of. I think this is not impossible. May be a plugin can help.

thanks and regards
Ashish Kulkarni

PLM and Blogging

These days whenever I come across any blog post about PLM, the first impression I get is that PLM Implementations are nothing but failures. There many posts which say these are the areas where it fails. Then there are posts which says why it fails and what is missing. But there are no collective efforts which either address these implementation failures or real needs/requirements of PLM Projects.

Somehow I get a picture like that you implement PLM and your issues are solved. Which is not so. PLM Vendors, PLM Implementing teams and PLM Customers need to set a process of implementation. Typically, what should be the methodology? What should be the road map? Which type or people are required at various stages of PLM Implementation and so on.

I think those who all work in PLM area need to highlight success stories than only pointing out failures and limitations.

thanks and regards
Ashish Kulkarni

Company Intranet Sites and PLM

Now a days, Intranet Sites are available in all companies which think of implementing PLM. They already invested in intranet to share company announcement, events and so on. To reduce time to market for their product they think of implementing PLM. In many organizations which have both I have observed some gaps.

Let us talk about what is Intranet? In layman’s language, it is nothing but a website which can be accessed which organization network only or if possible outside organization network with some secured access control. Normally intranet sites are used for announcement, some sort of publishing method, sub-sites for departments, individual sites and so on. Intranet sites go more close to public websites and give similar features like searching content, publishing photos etc. If it is SharePoint site, then it may offer much more but less than a PLM tool. More or less, it is a communication or collaboration medium or content management system like Drupal or SharePoint.

Now if we think of a PLM tool, ideally we do not have similarities. But it you think deep, there are 2 common points. Those are

  1. PLM Web Client can be used to collaborate and view information instantaneously over the browser.
  2. Web Client as name suggest are web based and security is same as intranet, internal or secured.

Now most of the organization which have both the application. They may use single sign-on facility. But they are rarely integrated. PLM talks about collaboration. Intranet provides a platform for information sharing which is nothing but collaboration.

Now if we integrate both what can be achieved? Or what is that I expect as output of integration?

  1. Part/Object Search: Intranet sites provide search facility, PLM Tools provide search facility. Then why not to make PLM Object Search available on intranet site?
  2. Task Integration: All PLM Tools provide task notification through emails or their UIs. If companies are using intranet site, they normally provide outlook like facilities, so why not to provide a widget in intranet site which can show me my task related to my project in PLM. Those tasks might be of just notification or approval or any thing which is listed against my name.
  3. Discussions: SharePoint sites or CMSs offer discussion facility. Now if give a facility to link a PLM Object and start a discussion on intranet, it can increase collaboration level to next level and decisions can be taken much faster.
  4. Document Management in SharePoint: PLM performance can be improved by using SharePoint for document management and using URLs to document in PLM as reference or specification documents. This can reduce load on PLM file server. SharePoint provides workflows hence document approval can be done in SharePoint and even office integration works much better with SharePoint.

These are some of my thought on PLM and Intranet/CMS integration. Till date I tried to find some readily available tools but I could not find a satisfactory results. If you know anything just leave a comment to this post. if anyone is interested to develop something let me know.


It seems I am travelling in opposite direction. When it comes to business application for a product based organization, then PLM is the right solution. After working few years in PLM, now I am exploring other branches of Business Applications. CRM is one of them. I do understand that many organization do need its sales and marketing team well organized and CRM plays a great role here.

In last few days, I came across various CRM tools. There are Sugar CRM, Freedom CRM, Zoho CRM. I am still exploring many more tools. If any one of you know any such tools let me know. 🙂 After all I am going to be a key business player. hahahaha….