The Promise of PLM
A recent discussion titled Dassault Systèmes Bets Big on a Product Innovation Platform argues that the role of a PLM platform is to bundle different data sources and enable smooth data exchange among tools, processes and users. While not incorrect, this view is potentially limiting.
File and data interoperability, single source of (electrical/mechanical/software) truth, hardware/software development synchronization, and similar notions have been the core principles of PLM for quite some time; some, in fact, for a very long time. How well PLM vendors achieve these goals is a topic for a separate conversation.
The Innovation Platform
Fundamentally, what makes a platform different from a tight integration among disparate tools and a collection of 3D data translators is governance: processes (and tool) to manage collaborative workflows, mange data rights and intellectual property, facilitate on- and off-boarding of participants, and similar product lifecycle activities.
Why is this distinction important? Because future innovation will be increasingly predicated upon collaboration with internal and external entities, ranging from individual ad-hoc contributors to certified suppliers, many of whom will be involved only for a single project or even a part of a project. The challenge is less in the ability to ingest data from foreign tools, as is in providing governance mechanisms of multiple independent innovation, design and supply chain processes.
Further abstracting the concept, a platform is not a software. First and foremost, it is a (cloud based) virtual facility for partnering and collaboration, enabling a dynamic ecosystem where content and services providers join and leave as needed. Think about this in the context of an IoT-centric product in operation, where the value is generated by multiple content and services providers that join to realize different products and services.
The Expanding Role of the PLM Platform
Dassault Systèmes would be better off highlighting the benefits of a unified governance platform rather than dwelling on 3DEXPERIENCE arguably being a faster and more powerful integration framework.
Addressing the emerging needs in product innovation and, indeed, in managing the entire product lifecycle, especially in the IoT era, demand more than easier and faster tool integration; it certainly needs more than a new acronym. It requires a new understanding of the dynamics of the product innovation and lifecycle ecosystem and the expanding role of the PLM platform.
I will be in Munich on November 21 to speak on the topic: From Products and Pipes to Platforms: Platform Revolution, Evolution, and Why You Should Care.
Image: Section perpendiculaire du moulin des Verdiers (Jean-Jacque Lequeu, 1778)