Autodesk is a relative newcomer to Product Lifecycle Management, at least as many people define PLM. They also have a very different PLM footprint than the other large PLM providers. This post shares my perspective on their PLM vision as a part of Tech-Clarity’s Strategic Visions of the Major PLM Vendors 2014+ series.
A Bit of History
Of course Autodesk is not new to the world of engineering or manufacturing. In fact, if you define PLM as an integrated suite of solutions that includes CAD, simulation, and other engineering tools in addition to data and process management capabilities (as I do) then Autodesk has had a subset of PLM for quite some time. For example, Inventor for 3D CAD and AutoCAD are both prevalent in manufacturing design. In fact, a large percentage of manufacturing layouts are developed with AutoCAD. Autodesk has also invested heavily in CAE and most recently CAM solutions to provide a nice suite of capabilities for their customers.
What was missing was PLM. Autodesk’s Vault product provides data management for small workgroups, but it was never designed to be an enterprise PLM system. Autodesk CEO Carl Bass famously said the only people with a PLM problem were PLM vendors Dassault, PTC, and UGS (now Siemens PLM). You can Google his PLM rant if you choose to, but it’s outdated and I think it’s ready to be put to rest. Last year, Autodesk officially entered the PLM market with the release of PLM 360 Nexus (now smartly renamed as Autodesk PLM360). You can read some of my first reactions to PLM360 and some more early thoughts on PLM360, I will refresh them here.
The Autodesk PLM Strategy
So where is Autodesk going with PLM? I was able to spend a few days at Autodesk University (AU) to hear from Autodesk execs and their customers to get an update. It was a large, dynamic conference with a lot of interesting information. As usual, I was able to participate in special analyst and press briefings / panels with Autodesk leadership and had some one-on-one time with the people working on PLM. Here are the three most significant things that I think are important about the PLM360 vision:
- Autodesk is serious about PLM – the old rant has been put to rest. PLM gets a lot of high level support and attention at Autodesk. They are on the list. Done.
- Autodesk is embracing the Cloud like no other PLM vendor – Autodesk has made big gets on the cloud. They introduced CAD on the cloud (Fusion360), simulation on the cloud (Sim360), and a host of other new “360” products to join PLM360 on the cloud. As one of my analyst friends tweeted the Autodesk keynotes mentioned “cloud, cloud, cloud, and cloud.” Autodesk SVP Andrew Angnost points out that the cloud move isn’t just about typical cloud software deployment benefits though, their strategy is based on a belief that “cloud is not for cloud’s sake, it’s for changing the way people work.” Having said that, the basic benefits of PLM on the cloud are compelling, as I shared in my thoughts on the cloud opportunity in PLM. Another key point about their cloud strategy is that CEO Carl Bass made it abundantly clear that Autodesk is not walking away from desktop products.
- PLM360 scope won’t be that different from other PLM solutions after all - I had initial concerns about how “insanely configurable” Autodesk planned PLM360 to be. I also had concerns about the disconnected strategy between data management and process management (with Vault and PLM360). One of those issues has been fully addressed. I know longer see Autodesk trying to characterize PLM360 as both “insanely configurable” (which makes it a BPM infrastructure versus a packaged application) but also claim it is a highly capable set of out of the box applications. PLM360 is moving much more in the direction of a configurable standard product, so every customer doesn’t have to build their own processes. At this point in time, I fully believe the disconnected data management will be addressed over time as well. In fact, a newly announced product called “Autodesk360″ will offer centralized file management and collaboration on the cloud. It’s not hard to imagine that expanding to manage CAD files in a product / BOM context to serve as the data backbone for PLM360. So in the end the footprint will likely be similar to other vendors – but it will be 100% on the cloud. So the same, yet very different in deployment.
That’s what it looks like to me. Please share your views!