The Diminishing Significance Of PLM

Yesterday evening I had the opportunity to sit down with Rohit Biddappa, PTC’s Marketing Manager for India. We spoke for over three hours in the coffee shop of the hotel where he was staying and discussed a wide range of topics. I was expecting him to enlighten me a little about Project Lightning. But he claims that he is not very enlightened about Lightning himself.

Of the many things we discussed, one particular topic got my attention. Rohit was talking about the changing face of PTC. Up until about 2000 PTC was a CAD company. From 2000 to 2010 PTC became a CAD + PLM company. And now from 2000 onwards PTC is supposedly going to be something like a product development company where CAD and PLM are merely two of its many offerings. This is supposedly happening due to the change at the top with Jim Heppelmann taking over from Dick Harrison as CEO. Dick was PTC’s first sales rep and rose through the ranks to become CEO. He is largely viewed as a CAD guy and that’s pretty much how he ran the company. As all new CEO’s do, I believe Jim will be eager to stamp his mark on the company and I believe this repositioning is largely the result of that.

The idea here is to promote something that PTC has been calling Product Development System or PDS for some time now. Earlier PTC had separate resellers for Pro/ENGINEER and WindChill. Going forward there will not be that kind of distinction anymore. Rohit tells me that PTC resellers will not go to companies to sell CAD or PLM or some other offering. Instead they go and offer something called a free Value Roadmap consultation. Instead of paying a visit to a company’s Engineering head they may seek an appointment with the CEO instead to show him how PDS can help him turn his company around. Here is a slide I grabbed from a recent webinar by Brian Shepherd, Executive Vice President of Product Development at PTC.

Click image for larger view

As you can see, PLM still forms a major part of PDS. In fact it is the backbone into which all other offerings plug into. But the point to be noted here is that PTC is more interested in selling their PDS to companies and not just PLM.

Actually I am noticing a trend here. Siemens PLM Software is dropping “PLM” from its name and changing it to Siemens Industry Software or something like that. I believe the idea here is not to be viewed as a PLM company. But rather to be viewed as some kind of a end to end solution provider with PLM as one of its offerings, quite similar to what PTC is doing with PDS. Dassault Systemes appears to be the only one who is holding on to the PLM acronym. As on today, the company refers to CATIA, SIMULIA, DELMIA and ENOVIA as its “PLM Brands” and its web site title reads “PLM solutions, 3D CAD and simulation software”.

I am not suggesting that two of the big three PLM vendors, PTC and Siemens, are dumping PLM. To me its more like they are demoting PLM a couple of levels. Frankly, I’m not sure whether they want to be known as PLM companies anymore. Maybe they are looking at positioning themselves as something larger than PLM. I find this ironic because earlier they made it quite clear that their business was surrounded wholly around PLM. Siemens even went to the extent of putting “PLM” into its name, something which is in the process of undoing. As the slide above shows, PTC’s businesses (and I guess Siemens’ as well) will still be surrounded around PLM. Just that I feel they are trying to tone down the noise about PLM a little. It will be interesting to see if Dassault Systemes starts singing a similar tune some time in the future.

This reminds me of something Autodesk CEO Carl Bass said about PLM in 2007, “There are only three companies in the world with a PLM problem. Their names are Dassault Systemes, PTC, and UGS [now Siemens].