This is the next post in my series on Strategic Visions of the Major PLM Vendors 2104+. I admittedly stalled a little bit on my ambitious project to review the strategies of PLM vendors. I am back on it and next on the list is one of the most interesting PLM companies I follow, Aras. Let’s dive in.
History – The Functional View
Aras has a very complete PLM suite. While some might assume that a company that isn’t one of the largest in the market would have a PDM-centric solution or limited capabilities, that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Aras supports processes that even some of the largest vendors struggle with. Take Quality Management (QM) for example. Aras has invested heavily in quality processes including APQP that tend to be outside of the boundaries of most PLM solutions. There are other examples as well, including Requirements Management (RM), Stage-Gate, and advanced Configuration Management (CM) for complex products. From a functional perspective, Aras is up there with the big guys (see the graphic of their footprint).
History – The Technical View (not just for technologists)
Aras caught my eye a long time ago because of their technology approach. Long before they started changing their business model to subscription-based or open source, they were already different. Why? Because Aras has a very unique technical architecture. Wait, don’t tune me out if you aren’t one of the type that gets excited about software infrastructure. The Aras architecture serves a very important purpose that has a tangible impact on everyone. Aras is made to be easily changed and maintained effectively over time due to something called a model-based architecture. This approach allows software to be designed and developed at a high level of abstraction. This makes software much less “brittle” and easier to change. In fact, it makes functional enhancements and extensions much easier to maintain and migrate over time by leveraging modularity, reuse, abstraction, and automation (perhaps the same thing you are trying to do in your engineering?).
Where Architecture meets Strategy
So who cares that Aras is easy to develop, modify, and migrate? How does Aras make this technical advantage a market advantage? It’s a good question, and one they have leveraged in different ways. First, it allowed them to develop a suite of solutions relatively quickly to capitalize on their PLM heritage and knowledge (Aras has a solid team of PLM veterans). It gave them the ability to sell as an open source solution with the confidence that they could keep the core solution intact. It has allowed non-Aras developers to add on entire new modules to Aras. All of these would be more difficult in traditional software architectures.
The Aras strategy for 2014+ has taken another shift that takes full advantage of their underlying architecture. Aras has turned their sights to solving the age-old conundrum of getting trapped on old software by customization. Companies traditionally have had two choices when implementing PLM (or other enterprise applications for that matter):
- Live with the functionality in the base package and get an efficient implementation with a clean upgrade process. This is frequently highlighted as a best practice to help implementations move quickly and allow manufacturers to get more value from their PLM foundation over time.
- Extend and enhance the solution to get a better fit, but suffer difficult upgrades and get trapped on old releases.
The Aras Strategy
Aras has decided to break the rules. They aim to become the PLM company that defies the conundrum, allowing manufacturers to customize their software and still upgrade to future releases without major disruption. They can do this because customers can update the data schema, business rules, workflows, and forms without jeopardizing the integrity of the system. How does this work? Aras’ XML-based, model-oriented approach coupled with their willingness to provide customers with the business flexibility and tools to make it feasible. Aras has effectively morphed themselves into a PLM Platform with solid core functionality with a built in ability to be extended by customers and partners. To put this strategy into action, they have told me they are “putting their money where their mouth is.” They now include upgrade services as a part of their subscription service. I haven’t seen that from anyone else anywhere, particularly while encouraging people to enhance and modify the package. This is a clear differentiator and makes Aras unique in the PLM market.
The Bottom Line
Even if you don’t care about the architecture, you should care about what it allows you to do. Aras promises to allow you to make your software fit your business without creating a dead end for upgrades. They want you to modify the solution and advantage of enhancements and entire new modules others have developed.
Beyond architecture, Aras has innovated on the way PLM is purchased. Aras has a “no license fee” approach that allows manufacturers to extend PLM to more people without major increases to their software costs. It also lets them get started more quickly and with lower risk. All in all, it makes Aras really easy to work with now and in the future. And for anybody that questions the performance of the model-based approach, ask Aras to share some of their independent scalability benchmarks. You will not be disappointed.
See other posts in our on PLM Strategies of the Major PLM Vendors 2015+ series:
See more in our Strategic Visions of the Major PLM Vendors 2014+ series including:
Also, don’t miss our The Strategic Visions of CAD/CAE Vendors 2014+