SAP tries PLM…again

From the “the third time is a charm” file, SAP has announced yet another attempt to tackle the PLM market.  It’s great that the market segment gets the attention, but I questions SAP’s ability to execute here.  PLM is just too different from what they are good at.  Its too ‘miscellaneous’.  Its too dynamic.  Its too creative.
I am in the middle of reading David Weinberger’s new book “Everything is Miscellaneous” and I think one of the topics he touches on there is a key to explaining why it will be tough (and has been tough) for SAP to be good at PLM.  ERP is by it’s nature an ordered system.  It has to be in order to be good at what it does (keep rack of inventory, payroll, etc.).  The finance an accounting people that use SAP wouldn’t have it any other way.  PLM by its nature is a messy system.  Again, it has to be in order to be worth anything.  It has to deal with rapid change, lots of different/competing ideas, and input from multiple sources.  Just to name a few sources of messiness.
Weinberger contends in his book that innovation happens when things get messy.  When things get messy, boundaries are blurred and innovation happens at the intersections of boundaries.  Structure and ordered systems like SAP are all about preventing messiness and are all about preventing innovation.  That’s the challenge that SAP now faces…I wish them luck, but am not holding my breath.
How SAP Plans To Beat Oracle In PLM Software Market — Software — InformationWeek
(PS – I have to call out InformationWeek for pretty much ignoring the current PLM market leaders in their article.  The PLM market is far away from a 2 vendor showdown.  SAP and Oracle first have to deliver something that actually works…then we can start writing death notices for all the “pure play” PLM vendors.






3 responses to “SAP tries PLM…again”

  1. […] its $495 million Agile acquisition earlier this year. But is SAP equipped to pull this off? Blogger Chris Kelley is skeptical. PLM is ‘messy’ by nature; it has to be flexible, juggle multiple input […]

  2. Jan Takke Avatar

    Hi Chris, I pretty much agree with you (and david) about the observations ref. messy versus ordered, informal versus formal. However messyness it not a goal, nor a sufficient condition to create innovation. It’s just something that goes with it in the early phases of e.g the new product development funnel.
    The winner of the PLM will have to address the area in-between, the gradual convergence from messy to ordered. Customers don’t want messy instable products delivered to them with undocumented hidden properties. So its all about the proper cooperation between the two strengths (creativity and control). Addressing this (as already done between the two hemisphere of the brain, but how?) will be the real challenge of any future leader in the PLM field.
    Thanks for your interesting column!
    Best The Netherlands

  3. Chris Avatar

    Jan – absolutely agree. The point I was trying to make was that ERP systems start from the assumption that the world is an ordered place. Everything has a part number, employee ID, etc to help it find it’s place in the hierarchy. PLM systems take the opposite view. The assume things are messy and (to your point) attempt to apply the right level of order to them. The trick is not having that order get in the way of creativity and opportunity.

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