Point Solutions, Integrated Solutions and the Granularity Value Proposition

References Cited

Enterprise Business Platforms, Solutions and Apps, Product Lifecycle Management (PLM)

A few weeks ago, I published a software review post titled Actify Centro and Microsoft SharePoint: The 3D Mashup. In it I looked at one of Actify’s new products and offered my perspective. A few days later, Oleg Shilovitsky published a post titled 3D Mashup – Reality Check where he laid out some of his own thoughts. We didn’t clash or disagree necessarily. But he offered up some alternative solutions from some of the traditional PLM providers. Which led me to a question.

Why would someone use a point solution instead of part of an integrated suite?

In the past, we’ve had some tried and true arguments both for and against going one way or the other. But actually I, and others based on their blog posts, have seen something of a change in the thinking of how to answer that question. I thought it was worthy of a post. So let’s discuss.

The Traditional Value Proposition of Integrated Suites

If you’ve been involved with software solutions for just about any amount of time, the logic behind these arguments won’t be anything new. One of the main theoretical advantages behind integrated suites is that they work together when they come out-of-the-box. You shouldn’t need an army of IT folks to stitch them together. And that should continue as new versions of these products are released, addressing the configuration management issue for the IT ecosystem you use to support your product development projects.

Now based on my experience, and this is where I’d like feedback in comments, I don’t think this value proposition has changed that much over the past ten years. Of course, there is the specific value proposition for the initiative you are facing. PLM change management should accelerate the time to complete an ECO. Global PDM should enable more global reuse, Follow-the-Sun design strategies and supplier participation. And so on. But the value proposition that would motivate you to choose something from an integrated suite instead of a point solution is that it’s integrated. And it should work seamlessly with the rest of the suite.

The Traditional Value Proposition of Point Solutions

Alternatively, the traditional value proposition behind point solutions have long been that they were best-of-breed. The idea here is that these point solutions offer more extensive and specialized capabilities than any integrated suite ever could. The logic here is that the smaller companies offering these point solutions were more flexible and agile, enabling them to respond more quickly, with less constraint and in a more innovative fashion than the larger companies that offered integrated suites.

But if you fast forward to today, from my perspective, I don’t buy it anymore. Many of the larger software providers offer integrated solutions that are almost or just as capable as most point solutions out there today. They have made so many acquisitions as well as organically developed so many solutions that they’ve caught up. Many of these larger software providers have also subdivided themselves into smaller and more agile groups or divisions that have narrowly focused in specific industries or fields of application.

The New Value Proposition of Point Solutions

So does that mean there is no real differentiated value proposition for point solutions? Should you just go out and jump into an integrated solution? Actually, my answer is a resounding not quite yet. I’ve seen quite a bit of momentum around a concept called PLM Granularity that has its roots in technology capabilities but has legs because of concerns about people’s careers. Let me explain.

PLM Granularity

So what’s the concept here? Actually, I originally heard about this concept from Oleg. And he’s written about it time and again at his blog beyondplm.com, but the fundamental idea is that you layer on different solutions that each do something very specific and well. Basically it is the point solution approach but from an ecosystem perspective. It would include something like leaving your workgroup PDM software in place. Layer on top of that a workflow. Then add some social computing solution for collaboration. Then you can add in a project management solution. You get the idea. Leave what you have in place. Add in other point solutions where needed. And integrate them as lightly as you can.

The Motivation behind PLM Granularity

So why take an ecosystem approach with point solutions? Well, I think the answer to that question is a whole lot more about someone’s history with PLM than anything else. You see, there’s a host of people out there that have championed a PLM solution. They introduced the concept to the company. They got it purchased by an executive. They were most likely the lead in getting it deployed. And it some of those cases, it failed. Not all. But not all PLM deployments are not successful. And that’s a detriment not only to the organization but to that champion’s career.

That has led some champions as well as some executives pledge a vow to never again pursue a large long scale deployment of PLM. They’re scared of it. And in some cases rightfully so. But they’re not willing to give up on technology as an enabler of better product development. They often still believe in that. So the most palatable means forward is a granular approach. Not because it offers better capabilities or will enable the organization to necessarily do more. But because it is far less risky, both for the organization and their careers. But ultimately, this is all about backlash against the big box approach to PLM.

Conclusion and Questions

The value proposition behind integrated solutions, besides initiative specific ones, has traditionally been that they are integrated in an out-of-the-box fashion. The countering value proposition for point solutions has traditionally been that they offered better best-of-breed capabilities, but from where I sit, that advantage has faded away. The new value proposition for point solutions lies with more granular solution in the ecosystem used to support product development. And the motivation behind that lies more in minimizing risk in individual’s careers than differentiated capabilities.

I’ve said my piece. And I have no illusions that you all agree with me. But I really would like to hear your perspective.

  • Do you think the value proposition for integrated solutions is still just out-of-the-box integration?
  • Do you think the best-of-breed value proposition for point solutions is dated?
  • Do you think the motivation behind the granularity value proposition is career oriented instead of capability oriented?

Sound off. I’m interested to hear your perspective.

Take care. Talk soon. And thanks for reading.

Chad Jackson is an Industry Analyst at Lifecycle Insights and publisher of the engineering-matters blog. With more than 15 years of industry experience, Chad covers career, managerial and technology topics in engineering. For more details, visit his profile.