From the “the third time is a charm” file, SAP has announced yet another attempt to tackle the PLM market. It’s great that the market segment gets the attention, but I questions SAP’s ability to execute here. PLM is just too different from what they are good at. Its too ‘miscellaneous’. Its too dynamic. Its too creative.
I am in the middle of reading David Weinberger’s new book “Everything is Miscellaneous” and I think one of the topics he touches on there is a key to explaining why it will be tough (and has been tough) for SAP to be good at PLM. ERP is by it’s nature an ordered system. It has to be in order to be good at what it does (keep rack of inventory, payroll, etc.). The finance an accounting people that use SAP wouldn’t have it any other way. PLM by its nature is a messy system. Again, it has to be in order to be worth anything. It has to deal with rapid change, lots of different/competing ideas, and input from multiple sources. Just to name a few sources of messiness.
Weinberger contends in his book that innovation happens when things get messy. When things get messy, boundaries are blurred and innovation happens at the intersections of boundaries. Structure and ordered systems like SAP are all about preventing messiness and are all about preventing innovation. That’s the challenge that SAP now faces…I wish them luck, but am not holding my breath.
(PS – I have to call out InformationWeek for pretty much ignoring the current PLM market leaders in their article. The PLM market is far away from a 2 vendor showdown. SAP and Oracle first have to deliver something that actually works…then we can start writing death notices for all the “pure play” PLM vendors.