Product Innovation Congress

Product Innovation Congress 2014, San Diego

Another very successful Product Innovation (PI) Congress was held last week in San Diego. Don’t let the very slow trickle of tweets from the event mislead you: the organizers put together a very full agenda that kept the delegates engaged throughout the two-day conference. Plus, I don’t think that engineers are very much into twitting anyway.

Instead of a detailed chronology of the event, which you can get from reviewing the agenda, I chose to highlight some key points and use them to offer commentary and observations about the state of our industry.

PLM Market Activity

There appears to be much activity in selecting, replacing and upgrading PLM software. Some were first time PLM buyers, but there were a surprising number of companies expressing dissatisfaction with the exiting solution and seeking a “better” PLM system. I did not conduct a structured survey, but anecdotally it appears that a good number of those in search of a PLM replacement are users of ENOVIA SmarTeam and ENOVIA MatrixOne.

My observations:

The quest search for a “better” PLM system will continue to drive activity and put pressure on PLM vendors to deliver greater value in enhanced functionality, lower cost, faster deployment, and new delivery and ownership models. The move of reluctant PLM vendors such as Oracle Agile to offer a cloud delivery model is but one recent example and I except other PLM vendors are in the process of following suit. This dynamic keeps the door open for vendors such as Aras PLM that continues to challenge the hegemony of the incumbents.

That being said, buyers should realize that the PLM software itself isn’t a substitute or remedy for flawed and suboptimal product development processes. For each dissatisfied PLM user company you will find many others who are highly successful and are able reap the full potential of the very same PLM software. It isn’t the software. It’s you. Don’t blame the vendor.

PLM Implementation

Most of the conference presentations made by PLM practitioners from product companies were interesting, but more often than not the insight and recommendations offered by the speakers were what one might consider General Project Management 101; not even PLM 101.

My observations:

The growing complexity of product development processes and the commensurate expectations from PLM software are challenging product organizations. The recent interest in incorporating the embedded control software development process under the PLM umbrella further complicates the issue.

We need to elevate our view of PLM from a product data management (PDM) and business process automation software to a portfolio of processes, best practices and tools that rich create context for optimizing complex multidisciplinary product related decisions.

Data Migration

PLM and CAD data migration is typically an unpleasant part of engineering software replacement and major upgrades. Judging by the number of delegates interested in the topic, the issue of data interoperability and backward compatibility continues to plague the space.

My observations:

The ability to retain and access product data is critical. However, product organizations are challenged to maintain data compatibility and interoperability across engineering and business tools with negative consequences in many business critical activities, from data retention for compliance to design reuse.

Application Lifecycle Management (ALM)

Chairing the Application Lifecycle Management (ALM) track, I spent much time in ALM discussions. While the density of embedded software in a broad range of products in most industries continues to increase, software development tools and practices have not kept up with the need to handle with increasingly stringent time, budget and quality goals.

A panel discussion with Ford, Hologic, BigLever and IBM (Rational) seemed to gravitate towards the realization that engineering methods and practices, coupled with organizational culture, keep ALM as a separate engineering discipline with its dedicated task specific tools. The panelists also explored, albeit briefly, the notion of a federated software development process environment and ALM functionality delivered as a collection of services.

My observations:

We are likely to continue the PLM vs. ALM debate, partly because of the highly visible position PTC is taking with its Integrity software. But I do not expect to see any significant change in the way organizations use contemporary ALM tools to coordinate and synchronize the software, hardware and mechanical development cycles.

My current research interest is in using product line engineering (PLE) as an alternate way to decompose product architecture and realize a federated software development process environment that maximizes the utility of  task-specific software development tools.

Internet of Things (IoT)

As in many conferences today there was the obligatory Internet of Things (IoT) keynote address. I suspect I am in the minority here, but I found the “The Silent Intelligence: The Internet of Things” presentation to be plagued by the all-too-common trivial use cases, generalizations and inaccuracies, and insufficient real-world reality checks.

On the other hand, the review of the Masdar City project: “Smart Cities in Advancing Global Renewable Developments” was fascinating.


See you next year in Boston.