Autodesk, which has been running a teaser ad campaign promising that on 11//29/2011 “everything changes,” has announced their entry into the PLM game: 360 Nexus.

As part of their rollout, they’ve published a paper titled “Autodesk Extends Benefits of PLM to Everyone at Anytime, from Anywhere.” Volume 1. Catchy title – I’m curious if they’ve bought the domain name?

Of its 10 pages, the first 2 and the last 4 are marketing content. The middle 4 pages are a summary of some research from Gartner analyst Marc Halpern.

That’s the interesting part.

Halpern points out some things that big PLM vendors might not be thrilled about having said out loud. Here are some of his research findings:

“A growing number of Gartner clients are frustrated by the high cost of purchasing, deploying and upgrading PLM software. ”

“PLM software vendors do a better job providing technical support for their software than providing more general business- related advice and services. ”

“A Gartner survey suggests manufacturers pay substantially more when they contract PLM software vendors for business consulting beyond the technical details of implementations. ”

“Several of Gartner’s manufacturing clients have commented that software vendors often recommend the purchase of more PLM software as a routine part of service engagements. ”

“Transitions to PLM platforms such as Dassault Enovia v.6, Oracle Fusion, PTC’s Creo [I think that's a typo, and he meant Windchill], SAP’s ECC 6 and Siemens Teamcenter Unified are stimulating more needs for services that these software vendors want to profit from. ”

In short, the big PLM vendors are charging a ton for services, and customers are still disappointed.

Halpern’s recommendations based on these findings center around the idea that manufacturers should not use PLM vendors service organizations for anything but the technical details of deploying their software. He suggests manufacturers either do business process re-engineering in house (which Gartner, in the past, has said most companies lack the skills to do), or engage professional service organizations (which presumably won’t try to load them up with extra software.)

I’m guessing that Halpern isn’t getting any Christmas cards from SAP, Oracle, Siemens, Dassault, or PTC.

The Autodesk Approach

I’m guessing that Autodesk wouldn’t have paid Gartner for the right to use their research if it didn’t play into their PLM strategy with 360 Nexus.

I’ve not seen 360 Nexus. The best I can say is that I’ve read articles about it, including Al Dean’s article at Develop 3D, and Ken Wong’s article at Desktop Engineering.

My impression is that, with 360 Nexus, Autodesk probably has a really interesting SaaS cloud-based BPM system bolted to a PDM.

But, even if I give it the benefit of the doubt for its technical chops (and, remember, it’s not shipping yet), I can’t see it changing “everything” (as promised by Autodesk’s teaser ad campaign.)

Why?

First, because PLM is traditionally enterprise software. Trying to compete in the PLM space is like trying to compete in the ERP space. It’s not going to be easy — the big vendors are nearly impossible to displace (think: competitive lock-out.)

And, second, because Autodesk isn’t the only company that’s thinking out of the PLM box.   There are others.