Does SharePoint Add Complexity to PLM?

It is a fast-paced and complicated world, isn’t it? While we’ve gotten instant access to information around the world, I think it’s gotten harder for each of us individually to really understand what’s going on in the world. There’s simply too much to register. I think that’s why, in general, we like concise perspectives that distill the gist of a situation so we can come to a conclusion and move on quickly.

I believe that’s the case back at the end of September when the folks over at Vuuch (company site, twitter) took a position saying that when it comes to PLM, SharePoint only complicates matters. They pass through the Microsoft 2010 Walkthrough guide, but the logical argument in the following excerpt from the end of the post is what got my attention.

We’ve spent nearly 30 pages in this document setting up libraries and workflows (why anyone wants a collaboration workflow is beyond comprehension. Collaboration is, by definition, non-modal and and non-linear).

And we are still nowhere near being able to use the site for anything approximating collaboration. The document goes on and on and on with more configuration…more setup…more customization. We never quite seem to get to the actual teamwork.

I’ll spare you the rest. But you can see for yourself. No matter how hard its marketing people try, SharePoint isn’t about collaboration or improving teamwork in manufacturing. SharePoint is simply about glomming more “platform” onto already overweight PLM systems. That suits PLM vendors…not customers.

The basis of the argument seems to rest on the idea that a lot of documentation describing a lot of functionality in SharePoint means it is complicated to deploy and perhaps complicated to use. Make no mistake, there is a LOT of functionality in SharePoint. More than I care to really investigate and dive into. But I’m not quite sure that necessarily equates to complex deployment and use. Regardless of that thought, I forgot about it and moved on.

A couple weeks later, I was interviewing some engineering IT folks at multi-billion dollar electronics manufacturer covering a huge variety of things. They talked about using Teamcenter for system engineering, for project management and also to manage released product drawings and documents. But then, on their own, they started talked about their use of SharePoint. Specifically, they said they almost did the most simple deployment that took far less than a week and made it available to their engineering organizations in various divisions. Next thing they know, a organic and grass roots movement in those engineering organizations starting using SharePoint to manage all work-in-process documentation. It literally exploded on them… and they were quite happy about that. Compared to the careful planning and meticulous deployment of their PLM system, deploying and setting up SharePoint for them was a breeze. And it added a huge amount of value.

So, what’s my point in all this?

  • Does SharePoint have to be complicated to deploy? Absolutely not. Just because there’s a deluge of functionality there doesn’t mean it has to be configured, customized or even used. Based on what I heard from this manufacturer, it can be ridiculously simple.
  • Can SharePoint be complicated to deploy? Absolutely yes. I am sure you can get as crazy as you want to get in making SharePoint do exactly what you want. You can basically configure and customize to your heart’s content… if that’s your goal.

Overall, I can’t agree with what the folks over at Vuuch stated back in September. I’m sure that incorporating SharePoint into your PLM plans could potentially make it ridiculously complicated, but it doesn’t guarantee that it will be complicated. That depends on what you want to do with it.

So here’s my question back to you. Does your company use SharePoint? Was it simple or complex to deploy? Sound off and let us know what your experience has been.

Take care. Talk soon. And thanks for reading.

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