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Solving PLM Process Problems with Kenesto

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I had the chance to talk with the team at Kenesto to understand how their new product helps companies improve product development and product lifecycle management challenges through process automation. I also wrote about them in an upcoming article about alternative solutions that solve PLM problems. They are an interesting company with some strong credentials in both PLM and process automation, and they are bringing a unique solution to market. They are bringing a unique solution to market, challenging the traditional solutions by offering something valuable yet less complex.

What do they Do?

Kenesto helps companies automate business processes. For example, if a company needs to send a document like an engineering change order (ECO) to several people for input and/or approval, they could use Kenesto to route the communication to the right people and make sure that it progresses in the right order. They can also attach information (like an ECO form) to the process. Making sure that everybody is on the same page and acting on the process as they should be keeps things moving efficiently and hopefully prevents things from falling in between the cracks. Or more likely, falling into an overloaded inbox. Most of these communications today are via e-mail, which quickly becomes a mess when people start to forward/reply and there are suddenly multiple threads and instances of the original communication. Instead, their is one central process, and e-mail is used only for notification when it is time to act.

Kenesto solves some of the challenges caused by e-mail, but also aims to keep things simple. Unlike some of the more rigid, pre-defined process automation tools, Kenesto was design to make it very easy to implement ad-hoc processes. As the team explained, the solution is built on the premise that people know the process or define one as they go. This contrasts with solutions where processes are effectively programmed (and/or rules-based) that are built to enforce compliance with a specific process. They did mention, however, that you can predefine processes if you like, which certainly makes a lot of sense.

What do they Offer

So what is Kenesto? That is an interesting question. The website has a clear statement, “Business process automation for manufacturers.” In a discussion on Kenesto in Engineering Matters, Kenesto CEO Mike Payne disagreed with me when I said Kenesto is a BPMS. He pointed out Gartner’s definition of a BPMS to explain why the solution is not one. It is true, Kenesto does not fit that model. If I recall my history correctly, BPMS started with some really great workflow / business process automation concepts before it exploded and was assimilated into enterprise integration architecture vendors. So I will go on record saying Kenesto is not a BPMS by that definition, far from it. To me, though, it was what BPMS was meant to be before it became middleware. I guess I am not so concerned about what “bucket” to put it into. Analysts and software vendors often spend a lot of energy worrying about what category a solution fits in, and admittedly there are some practical considerations. But more importantly, I would rather focus on what it does.

Kenesto manages the flow of work and information between concerned parties. Call it what you want. The important things to realize from my perspective are:

  • Product development / product lifecycle management involve lots of people, and they need to communicate. Kenesto does that.
  • That communication benefits from the ability to share information with the group. Kenesto does that through attachments (and some level of data, that I still need to understand a bit better).
  • The communication benefits from having a status and named participants, with knowledge of what has been done and who is due to act. Kenesto does that.
  • The communication should span corporate boundaries and be easy to include new people. Cloud solutions like Kenesto offer that.
  • The company benefits from having an audit trail of that communication. Kenesto does that.
  • There is value in master data management / product data management where you have “one version of the truth” that is revision controlled so everybody always accesses the current information. From what I can see, Kenesto isn’t designed to do that.
  • BPMS systems went from a simple concept to being highly technical, structured, complex systems. From what I can see, Kenesto doesn’t do that either.

So what is Kenesto?

It is Kenesto.  😉

OK, I am an analyst so I have to try to make some category comparisons or I have to turn in my analyst card. Chad’s article is titled “A New Take on PLM” and I have heard others say similar things. I have heard whispers that Kenesto will add more data management capabilities, although at this time they have chosen not to integrate with lower level systems like PDM. Is this part of a new approach that separates PLM and PDM into separate layers and solutions, similar to what Autodesk is doing with their PLM 360 cloud PLM solution? Is it in fact the beginnings of a cloud PLM solution? My take is that many companies could use it to solve PLM problems in a simple way, and that might be enough for them. Or if they have a PDM system in place, they could use this to drive their processes. Even if they have PLM, this kind of communication / process automation tool can add value. The bottom line is that Kenesto is bringing process automation and manufacturing / PLM expertise together to solve some problems in a new and interesting way, and there is a place for it in many of today’s manufacturing companies.

So that’s what I hear from Kenesto, I hope you found it useful. What do you think? What else should I have asked them?

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