Integrated Autodesk Product Platform on Cloud for Teams

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At this year’s Autodesk University, which was attended by 10,000 people, Autodesk made several announcements that make its software quite attractive for all sizes of manufacturers. Autodesk and its partners showcased several applications that address latest trends such as generative design, augmented and virtual reality, additive manufacturing, IoT and robotics. Its CEO Carl Bass, said “unless your team is collaborating well, you can’t even compete much less win”. Autodesk’s core strategy has been to democratize design software such that smaller companies with limited resources can use them to design and deliver latest high quality products. Subscription based cloud delivery fits right to serve Autodesk’s core strategy to make its software affordable and enable collaboration amongst teams. Going forward Autodesk will be stepping away from desktop applications and will deliver applications in cloud.

 forgeAutodesk is building a cloud portfolio for each industry that it says is complete, connected and on-demand. Its cloud based Fusion 360 and BIM 360 are built on the Forge developer platform which will now be available through a browser in addition to native mobile applications. Autodesk has expanded its Forge platform which currently has more than 4,000 apps to include Augmented reality and Virtual reality support.  Autodesk does not have commercial application for manufacturers as it relates to AR/VR and IoT , rather it has developed a more generic  platform to provide solutions that  can be implemented in manufacturing and AEC. Currently, Autodesk research has successfully developed projects that apply to AEC space that intermingle IoT and AR/VR such as measuring building performance while virtually walking through a building.

It should be noted that Autodesk is seriously working on the topic of machine learning as it applies to designing software and monitoring software usage. Autodesk Design Graph in A360 is an active step towards utilizing machines learning. Design Graph is a machine learning system from Autodesk that uses algorithms to extract large amounts of 3D design data. It then categorizes every component and design by classification and relationship, to create a living catalog that can provide results to changes and to provide guidance for design.

In conclusion, Autodesk message was loud and clear that it will develop and support software that helps teams collaborate, unlike desktop applications that it has delivered in the past. Its Forge platform in cloud best supports Autodesk’s strategy of democratizing software. One cannot deny the ground reality that most of its customer base that is SMB have not fully embraced Autodesk’s cloud based offerings. This is an opportunity and a challenge for Autodesk’s partners who do voice their eagerness to start working in cloud with Fusion platform. Autodesk strategy with cloud based Forge platform to focus on developing software that address latest trends of IoT, generative and immersive design removes the cost and accessibility barriers that manufacturers encounter irrespective of the size of their business or industry vertical.

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Conceptual Design Software Tools

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The importance of conceptual design cannot be ignored. In my experience, if a designer(s) skips the conceptual design phase, they end up modifying designs in the detail design phase to address even basic customer requirements such as look and feel of the  final object or a product. Such changes shift the focus from detailed design delaying the project completion and affecting final product quality.

With no clear industry segmentation of conceptual design software tools and CAD (computer aided design) software vendors claiming that their detailed design CAD software include required capabilities to address the needs of conceptual design phase; it can be really hard to navigate the list of digital design software vendors and select a conceptual design software tool.

Recently, I wrote an article for the CADALYST magazine on conceptual design software tools.

The article also includes a sampling of available Conceptual Design Tools –

Article in its entirety can be found – Look forward for your comments/discussions

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Traditional and Newer CAD Licensing Models

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Improvements in software delivery models especially via Cloud have made significant changes in the way content in consumed and priced. The product development industry is not immune to these changes but when it comes to CAD (computer aided design) software there are bigger barriers to delivery as well as consumption of cloud based CAD software. My intent is not to discuss the barriers and ways to overcome those in this write-up, but to layout the existing and new changes that have come about in the delivery and licensing of CAD, in the light of the cost savings offered by  Cloud.

Traditionally there have been two types of licenses based on duration – Perpetual (indefinite use of license once bought) and Annual (limited use for one year duration). Other licensing models include: –

    • Standalone – Licenses are controlled by the computer or seats, they are perpetual licenses. They can be further divided into: –
      • Individual/Per Seat – Sometimes also referred to individual license or licensing provided per individual. Usually a single license is installed with a single serial number for use on one computer.
      • Multi-seat – Multiple licenses on multiple computers.
    • Network Licensing – CAD software can be installed on multiple computers but a network licensing server centrally controls how many users are allowed to use the CAD software. The network license is invoked by each machine which is granted access based on number of licenses bought by the firm. Firms can save on costs by allowing sharing of licenses between users if all users will not be connected to the CAD application at the same time. This license type is also referred as Server Based or “Per Server”.
    • Concurrent License – Sometimes also referred to as Site Licensing. The license is controlled by concurrent usage of a certain number of active licenses from a pool of installed licenses.
    • Corporate Licensing – This method provides unlimited licensing for the entire corporate including its subsidiaries and wholly owned firms.

Lately CAD vendors have introduced new licensing models also known as Subscription, Rental or Pay As you Go etc. While the three names are used interchangeably by CAD software vendors, the onus is on the customers to understand the difference between each vendors licensing policy.

Autodesk’s subscription model is an add-on to the traditional perpetual licensing that promises the users to get an upgrade within the subscription period free of charge. Subscription period lasts for a term, as much as a year. On the other hand Siemens provides a monthly subscription license for Solid Edge. I recently covered Siemens’ subscription model user case study on for their customer Felxipump.

I believe we will continue to see more creative licensing options from CAD vendors in near future. Such models will only benefit the CAD users  making the software cheaper and more accessible, but the users/firms need to thoroughly understand the licensing model of a vendor as these newer licensing models can be confusing.


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Stronger PLM Foundation for ERP Market: Siemens PLM

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Last week Siemens PLM announced that it will acquire the TESIS PLMware. TESIS PLMware is part of TESIS group that primarily provides PLM software solutions-services and vehicle/engine simulation. The financial terms and conditions of this acquisition have not been disclosed. My analysis in this blog piece covers the future strategy of Siemens PLM  as related to the TESIS PLMware acquisition, the impact it will have on the bigger PLM market and its players.

Why TESIS PLMware?

 TESIS PLMware has been a partner of Siemens PLM since 1992, SAP partner since 1997 and Oracle gold partner. Software services provided by TESIS PLMware are primarily in automotive space around Siemens PLM’s Teamcenter and NX.  Though Siemens PLM has not disclosed the financial details of this transaction, I believe this acquisition is not targeted to acquire existing customer base but rather at the intellectual property of TESIS PLMware. TESIS PLMware brings decades of ERP-PLM integration, consulting and implementation experience. At the surface, Siemens PLM could have tapped into its various partners to get similar portfolio of expertise as TESIS PLMware. TESIS PLMware has gained the experience in extending the Teamcenter platform working on the unified Teamcenter architecture; it has developed the Teamcenter Gateway for SAP (T4S), and Oracle EBS (T4O) products that are fairly stable and proven. TESIS PLMware has also developed the generic Teamcenter Gateway for Enterprise Application (T4EA) for other enterprise systems. With this acquisition SPLM(Siemens PLM)  will exclusively own these products and is expected to enhance its services offerings. SPLM stands to own and gain from the  practical integration experience of TESIS PLMware team for targeting revenue generating fields such as MRO (maintenance repair and overhaul), mechatronics, SCM (supply chain mgmt.), CRM (customer relationship mgmt.) and MES (manufacturing execution systems).

Impacts on ERP-PLM vendors and end-users ? 

In my PLM implementation experience, clients have accepted Teamcenter as an enterprise PLM offering. Siemens PLM (SPLM) strategy to acquire an integration implementation partner that has automotive industry background indicates that SPLM is looking to take a leadership position in ERP deals targeting PLM implementation. It is expected from Siemens PLM to productize the Teamcenter Gateways and further enhance its enterprise PLM position. The scope of this acquisition is narrowed by PLMware industry specific offering, but overall one can expect Siemens PLM to offer fierce competition amongst the ERP vendors competing for PLM implementation in the long run. End-users can expect further enhancement of Teamcenter’s integration offerings and simpler sales cycle working  directly with SPLM.

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Collaboration-Innovation-Cloud and CAM360: Autodesk

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 The annual Autodesk University event is a great place to learn tips and tricks of    Autodesk’s software. It is also an event to learn about Autodesk’s strategic product announcements. In addition to focusing on collaboration and innovation, one of the notable announcements that Autodesk made  at AU2013 was introduction of its CAM360 package in cloud.

Continuing with its strategy to provide affordable product development tools in cloud for the masses,  Autodesk announced CAM 360,   a cloud based computer aided manufacturing (CAM) solution. CAMCloudCAM360 is a logical addition to    Autodesk’s      current  cloud manufacturing portfolio of design, product life-cycle management and  simulation namely   Autodesk Fusion 360 , Autodesk PLM 360 and Autodesk Sim 360 offerings  respectively. Further CAM360 is    based on  HSMCam Kernel which will reduce the manufacturing    downtime if the product is designed and    machined within  the Autodesk’s cloud ecosystem.

Here are some salient points of CAM360:-

    •  CAM 360 will streamline the entire flow of design and prototyping in one environment (cloud)
    • Manufacturers and designers can try CAM360 in beta for now; it is expected to be generally available in select markets next year
    • Pricing expected – 2.5-axis is free, 3-axis for $75 and 5-axis at $150 per month
    • Currently – CAM360 is not fully a part of Autodesk 360 and it does not require Fusion 360.
    • Autodesk CAM package –  Inventor HSM, HSMWorks for Solidworks and of course CAM 360 to benefit from the Delcam’s assimilation after Autodesk completes the acquisition of Delcam

Autodesk’s entire cloud platform and the new products such as CAM 360 aim at improving real time online collaboration between teams for faster and more accurate results.  In his keynote, Autodesk’s CTO Jeff Kowalski emphasized about collaboration outside of the organization for innovation, which I think can be achieved easily with cloud. Collaboration was further highlighted by Autodesk CEO Carl Bass when he talked about Orphanage guitar that was designed by using Autodesk Fusion 360.

A markedly younger audience at Autodesk University and several booths displaying academically oriented project efforts have a lot to say about Autodesk’s future vision to attract young talent as its customers.



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Building The Most Cost Effective Mobile Application – Internally focused Mobility

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Continuing the discussion from my previous blog on internally focused enterprise mobility: –
While it is easy to measure the return on investment on consumer facing mobile application, it’s much harder to justify the “initial investment” for internally focused mobile apps for the enterprise that focus on streamlining business. The success of mobile application for external consumer or customers forces many executives to invest in mobile projects for internal use. Unless we understand the mechanics of how a mobile app is built, it is extremely likely to spend millions on projects that require continuous maintenance.

There are three main popular types of mobile applications –  Native, Web and Hybrid. The table below provides some color around these main categories.


Attribute’s Native Apps Web Apps (Mobile) Hybrid Apps

Built specifically for a single operating platform like ios, android, windows etc.

Uses the same set of technology as websites and serve up html5 pages from server side application.

Uses the web apps inside a native container

Hardware Access
(Mobile Hardware Access) 

Full access to GPS, camera, compass, gestures and other devices or features specific to the mobile device and operating system


Limited to html5 support or any custom code written to access mobile hardware

Ability to access full hardware

App Look and Feel Look and feel specific to  native mobile platform Uniform look and feel across the various mobile platforms Best of both worlds based on how the app is designed

Works only in the native browser of the mobile software

Works on popular latest browsers that have HTML5 support

Works on popular latest browsers that have HTML5 support

Maintenance Cost Highest Low Comparable to native apps
Performance Fast Slow Slow 

Hybrid apps may seem to be the best choice in the comparison to the other two but the entire equation changes when you think about internally focused applications because: –

  1. Firms should not  apply the same thought process for developing customer facing apps and internally focused enterprise apps
  2. Firms can choose one single platform for internally focused mobile application rather than be invested on all platforms or in other words a firm can decide whether they want to be an iPad based enterprise or Windows 8 based mobile enterprise.
  3. Choosing a mobile platform is like choosing a PC provider for the enterprise
  4. Choosing HTML5 will provide you independence from proprietary stack and reducing your total cost of development and maintenance
  5. Ask yourself a question – Do you really need access to full mobile hardware features for your internally focused mobility or limited HTML5 access can suffice?
  6. HTML5 will be the future standard for web browsing

What do you think works for your internal enterprise mobility needs?  Please share your experiences

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Gloomy Future of Social Business Innovation

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Social computing has been playing a leading role in discussions around mega computing trends; it is especially hard to ignore the prominence of social sites such as Facebook, twitter, Google+ etc. I believe the freedom of expression, the ability to share opinions as well as to connect with like-minded friends/people has been the prime force in the surge of social computing. Socially Intelligent Computing has helped vendors to generate new revenue streams by analyzing individual or group behavior for target marketing purposes. Such targeted processes or Collaborative Filtering to send focused suggestion of products and services of common interest to people and their connections has now been used  to classify people with common interest and discriminate them or target them in activities  that maybe against the common interest of a group, organization, state or country. Social Networking has created new avenues for law enforcement. Many Facebook posts have been used to catch suspects. Then there is a list of people caught via social media and the role of social media in Arab spring. These are excellent examples of how social computing is helping to build a better society. On the other hand such uses of Social Computing have raised some privacy concerns, fear of being investigated and slow but genuine cautious voicing of opinions and sharing of ideas.

Businees Innovation

These changes happening in the public social computing have deep impact on the business social computing too. In my discussion with business stake holders, there is a common anxiety to purposefully measure the return on investment from social applications within the business.

New Hurdles for Social Business Computing

In my experience Business Social Computing has primarily been used to improve existing business processes and as a Launchpad for innovative ideas.  I have observed that the restrictive nature of voicing out opinions in business environment inherently reduces the participation rate in business social environment as compared to public social domains. Lately, the fear of being watched and being differentiated or discriminated in the public social sites has trickled into businesses. This fear does give a healthy direction and subjective continuation of business discussions, but participation is left to a select few versus the masses in the enterprise. Enterprise wide participation generates ideas for innovation especially in product innovation space / PLM. A lower contribution in business social applications within the organization will make businesses to re-think their social computing strategy as they evaluate the return on their investments.


Here are some recommendations to improve the return on investment from Business Social Computing applications.

  1. Reward for participation; these could be points or score that lead to a monetary or non-monetary benefits.
  2. The top management should reiterate the benefits of Social Business Computing as related to innovation.
  3. Moderate the posts, suggestion and comments before they go live.
  4. Assure the contributors that they would not be penalized for their opinions.
  5. Allocate time for contribution to business discussions in social applications from other business functions, so the top contributors are not discriminated.


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Internally Focused Enterprise Mobility

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The popularity of tablets and smartphones in the consumer space has led to the emergence of mobility channel for businesses. Mobility is an essential sales or service channel in retail industry, but other industries are making concerted effort to implement mobility internally. Recently airlines industry made the news when Delta airlines purchased thousands of tablets and smartphones for use within their business following American Airlines similar purchase of tablets. These corporate purchases are no surprises given the ease of use and quick access of information that tablets provide. But let’s not put all our money on tablets being extremely successful internally in business, they can be a real drag on business return on investments and business operations.

Failure of tablets for business:  Why/Where?

    • The design of current tablets, smartphone and phablets is not well suited for intensive data capture by typing or comparison of information on multiple screens.
    • Creating parts and product design from scratch is also been a time consuming and erroneous activity on tablets.

Business Mobility Platform Choice
Personal experience from consumer market is influencing which platform businesses choose for their enterprise mobility. Major players such as Apple, Windows and Andriod are all trying to capture the business enterprise space. Serving external consumers or a firm’s customers requires that all mobile platforms be supported, but internal mobility platform choice can be entirely different animal. This leaves us with many questions: –

    • Does business have to support all mobile platforms?
    • Is Microsoft the default choice for enterprise mobility for a business using Microsoft products as most businesses already use MS Office products?
    • Does a business have to support all mobile platforms for internal as well external customer uses?
    • Is HTML 5 the answer for all platforms?
    • Are hybrid mobile applications just hype?
      • What’s the best platform for CAD/PLM apps?

I will try to answer all these and more questions in my upcoming blogs. Your suggestions/questions are welcome.


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Do I need BPM with PLM?

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I came across this white paper from IBM  – Realizing the Full Scope of PLM with Business Process Management.  This white paper seems to be a bit dated given the changes that have taken place in PLM (product life-cycle management). Pega has also laid down great points related to the advantages of using BPM for PLM in a whitepaper .  After going through an actual project of matching end-user needs with BPM (Business process management), I feel nothing much has changed about people’s perspective about BPM.  Given this background here is my analysis in the following few sentences that provides a practical comparison between BPM and PLM.

BPM has a very broad relevance across business areas as it primarily uses tecBPM Hammerhnology and generic workflow pattern to simplify business processes. By design, BPM packages need to be customized to fit any business needs. This inherent flexibility makes BPM a logical candidate for simplifying the business processes around product development and maintenance.  This in-turn makes BPM expensive, time consuming to implement and resource intensive to maintain. In comparison PLM is specifically directed towards product innovation, life-cycle management and it addresses all product-process based business processes. PLM vendors include functions in their vanilla packages that address the core product centric business processes.

I believe BPM is a great solution –  if you have a unique business process or a unique technology issue that none of commercially available PLM packages are unable to address. Just because you have bigger hammer let’s not universally assume everything is a nail.

What’s your BPM-PLM experience?

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What is PLM (Product Life-Cycle Management)?

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For sticklers,  here is my attempt at the definition of PLM: –

“PLM is an enterprise software strategy that helps firms plan and achieve product-process innovation from their conceptualization to decommissioning, encompassing people or systems across the value chain”.

PLM has evolved from its origins in computer design, management of product development data, simulation and now taking root in advanced virtual reality. It can certainly be a topic of contention to define the boundaries of PLM.  I think the PLM concept becomes easily understandable if we concentrate on one word i.e. – “life-cycle”. Simplistically, PLM is the management of the entire life-cycle of a product. Lifecycle  is defined as a series of stages through which something (as an individual, culture, or manufactured product) passes during its lifetime.

This simplistic view of life-cycle makes PLM expansive and a bit confusing.  It is undeniable that PLM is an enterprise software strategy rather than just a business strategy. End-users (consumers of PLM) might have a business need that may or may not require end-to-end PLM suite. An end-user might choose more than one PLM software vendor to address their product’s life-cycle.

The question arises, if PLM manages life-cycle of a product or a process. Why can’t we use an ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) or BPM (Business Process Management) software? The answer is “INNOVATION”. PLM software helps in innovating new products and processes from existing ones. Please be assured I am not talking about Invention, the keyword is “innovation”. If your PLM software implementation has not helped you innovate, you could be better off with customized ERP or BPM software. My focus in this blog piece is not highlight difference between PLM and other enterprise software’s, but to draw some boundaries and provide an understanding in few words to both engineering as well as business audience as to what PLM is really all about ?

PLM What


This figure provides a representation of the areas or domains that PLM software covers; each domain is represented in the outer circle like Simulation, Idea Management, Design, Configuration etc. Many PLM vendors specialize in a single or multiple domains of PLM. It may also be noted that certain domains or areas of PLM represented in the figure such as PPM (Project & Portfolio Management)  have roots and applicability outside of PLM, but only their  product innovation based functions grant them to be part of PLM.

I hope this write-up  provides a starting point for a wholesome discussion about the definition and boundaries of PLM.

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