PLM Strategies--Industry Best Practices for Sale31 Mar, 2006 By: Kenneth Wong
Dassault Systemes Introduces Business Process Content.
If someone shrink-wraps a series of industry best practices—proven methodologies and procedures gleaned from the experiences of leading enterprises in your field—and sells them to you as off-the-shelf solutions, will you buy them? Dassault Systemes (www.3ds.com) thinks you might. That's the raison d'être behind the French PLM (product lifecycle management) titan's latest offerings, known as BPCs (business process contents).
"BPCs are basically productization of our service engagements with various customers," explained Eric Retraint from Dassault Systemes Industry Solutions. "For instance, we do certain service engagements around SMARTEAM by developing complementary offerings to support it. And we also develop a mix of innovative, best-of-breed PLM practices to support industry processes to make sure our customers leverage our products at best." The idea is that these processes can be replicated in other companies that have similar organizational makeup or closely related markets.
What Do You Get?
So what exactly are BPCs? According to Dassault, they are software assets that encapsulate these business processes. They can be implemented with the help of Dassault partners such as IBM Business Consulting Services or IBM Business Partners. And they are certified, supported, maintained and regularly updated by Dassault. The first crop, released in January, is now available globally (see complete list in box). Another bunch is coming in May or thereabouts and another later in September, synchronized with the next release of Dassault's PLM products. Dassault and IBM will sell the BPCs directly to a list of large enterprises they have identified as potential adopters. Other companies will be able to buy them through resellers.
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John MacKrell, a CIMdata analyst (www.cimdata.com), remarked, "These solution sets that combine best practices for a particular industry sector or type of product development activity should help streamline the implementation of Dassault PLM capabilities in specific organizations and allow those organizations to achieve productive results more quickly by removing upfront effort normally associated with implementing PLM. This ultimately should result in faster return on investment."
Brian Seitz, an analyst from Cyon Research (www.cyonresearch.com), cautioned, "If you're buying into IBM, you're not really buying into the quick fad. If you think you can put it in place this month and take off running, you're sadly mistaken. You'll have to build an infrastructure and stick around for a while." For this reason, he advised SMBs (small and midsize businesses) to assess the resources at their disposal thoroughly when considering BPC.
Joe Barkai, an analyst from Manufacturing Insights (www.manufacturing-insights.com), observed, "We did a study a while ago on different PLM tools and vendors. We spoke with automotive, aerospace, high tech, electronics, contract manufacturers and so on. The overall opinion—and this opinion came not only from manufacturing companies themselves but from system integrators as well—is that there are really no significant differences among PLM systems. They can all accomplish the task, albeit in different ways. Differences do exist in [the vendors'] ability to provide value-added services, in being able to help with business process reengineering, in implementing best practices that are domain-specific, in trouble-shooting processes (not software) and in giving PLM-specific advice. [Survey participants] said most PLM vendors really don't do a good job at that. Obviously Dassault has expertise, but can they encapsulate it in a way that is specific enough for the buyers to see value, or is it a high-level encapsulation, so the buyers still have to add customization and business process reengineering?"
The First Crop of BPCs (Certified for CATIA V5 R15 and SMARTEAM V5 R15)
Dassault officials disagree with the notion that most PLM systems are the same—especially as it relates to SMBs and its BPC offerings. John Moore, director of industry and market intelligence at Dassault, argued, "A true integrated data model, as opposed to a patchwork one papered over by apparent integrations, is what allows Dassault Systemes to offer productized BPCs gleaned from our decades of service engagements with customers. This single product data model makes BPCs possible. Without that single model, the various patchwork integrations make rapid implementation—the whole point of BPCs—impossible."
Who Is It For?
"Boeing, Dassault Aviation, Toyota—they are large companies," explains Derek Lane, Dassault's U.S. public relations manager. "In their service engagements, we work with them and help them achieve what they want to achieve. For SMBs realistically, their processes bear some similarities to those of large ones, but they are not necessarily as complex, nor do they have the time and money to spend on large service engagements—it's not cost effective." Lane points out that because BPCs are distilled industry expertise and experiences from companies of different sizes, they can be deployed by a business of any size, but SMBs likely will benefit the most from BPC implementation. The first BPC delivery is targeted at electronics and electrical, fabrication and assembly and automotive industries, among others.
Dassault plans to deliver industry solutions of PLM practices and BPCs through "an integrated set of services"—consulting and implementation services in addition to the software assets. The BPCs themselves are available either in code-based packages or knowledge-template packages. The code-based version, sold by licensing and renewal fees, is delivered as executable code controlled by a license key. The knowledge-template version, sold for a one-time charge, is delivered either as source code or as reusable, configurable, intelligent design components (for instance, an Automotive Body-in-White Template).
Cyon's Seitz remarked, "Despite the fact that IBM and everybody else will jump up and down and say, 'Oh, we can help you,' most of those IT shops—the IT people IBM will be subcontracting and the IBM people themselves—have very limited knowledge on business processes from business perspective, as opposed to from IT perspective."
Dassault points out the BPCs will be marketed through the its business partners channel, which is not an IBM-exclusive channel. "The basic intent behind the BPC initiative is to give midmarket companies the ability to rapidly deploy a solution that addresses a specific business process," said Dassault's Moore. "For this reason, Dassault Systemes is working closely with numerous agile business partners who know their customers' markets, business processes and needs."
What's Behind BPC?
Browsing IBM's online literature concerning an on-demand environment, you might come across this quote, attributed to Stéphane Declée, vice-president of R&D for Dassault's ENOVIA brand: "Our applications must interact with others in a secure, reliable and managed environment. IBM's new service-oriented architecture will allow us to meet our customers' requirements by building on our existing open PLM architecture and using industry-supported standards."
In 2004, IBM and Dassault launched an initiative to marry IBM's middleware WebSphere with Dassault PLM products, beginning with V5R13. "BPCs are today based on our CAA V5 architecture and SOA [service-oriented architecture]," said Retraint. "We are working closely with IBM and Microsoft, two of our biggest partners in this."
The idea behind SOA is to produce a software-agnostic environment. So a SOA-based product such as BPC should be operable whether you are using Dassault products or not.
"In theory, yes," said Retraint, "but that's not our intent. We're not going to issue BPCs that are not linked to our products, like CATIA, ENOVIA, or DELMIA."
Upcoming BPCs may not necessarily be linked to SMARTEAM, but they will still be linked to other Dassault products. Some of them may be operable solely on the IBM platform. "Our intent is not to provide services for services only," explained Retraint.
Therein lies the SOA trap. The programming architecture may be software agnostic, but the products that are based on it are not likely to be so anytime soon. All SOA advocates— Dassault Systemes, IBM (www.ibm.com), Microsoft (www.microsoft.com), Oracle (www.oracle.com), SAP (www.sap.com) and anyone else who might be in the race to the SOA promised land—will likely deliver SOA-based applications that are still more or less dependent on their own flagship product suites. (For more information, see "Open Up and Connect," PLM Strategies, February 2006, http://manufacturing.cadalyst.com/PLMarchives).
Kenneth Wong is a former editor of Cadence magazine. He explores innovative usage of technology as a freelance writer. E-mail him at Kennethwongsf@earthlink.net.