Podcast Preview: The Launch of the PLM@BPX Community – 2.10 MB (4.35 minutes)
In this SAP BPX Community Podcast, Jon Reed of JonERP.com interviews Sudhanshu Srivastava, Senior Director of SAP PLM, about the launch of the PLM community in the Business Process Expert (BPX) community (https://www.sdn.sap.com/irj/bpx/plm), and the importance of SAP PLM to the SAP product line. Sudhanshu also shares his view of the skills needed for success as an SAP PLM professional.
During this podcast, PLM@BPX founder Sudhanshu Srivastava begins with a view of the importance of PLM to the SAP product line and how the SAP PLM has evolved to become a crucial part of the SAP Business Suite.
The podcast then looks at how SAP PLM can be a source of innovation during an economic downturn, and how SAP customers have impacted the PLM solution through a collaborative process of functionality enhancements and usability improvements.
Sudhanshu also shares his goals for the PLM@BPX community and how SCN community members can get involved in forums, demo testing and feedback on the upcoming PLM 7.1 release.
Full Podcast – 9.09 MB (13.48 minutes)
PLM@ BPX BACKGROUND
The new PLM community, located in the BPX community provides PLM business process experts the opportunity to learn, find and share information about SAP PLM solutions and their implementation, and to share their passion about business processes. Internal SAP experts and product managers also get the opportunity to communicate with customers to gather business requirements that help improve SAP product offerings.
The SAP® Business Process Expert community is an online social network that connects SAP customers, business analysts, consultants, and SAP internal experts. Leveraging Web 2.0 technologies, the community enhances the work lives of all participants – empowering members to share ideas and find solutions related to business process and software implementation challenges.
(:45) The evolution of SAP PLM and how it has become such an important part of the SAP Business Suite, and how SAP customers have played an active role in influencing PLM’s usability and functionality – something that will continue on PLM@BPX.
(3:30) The relevance of SAP PLM in an economic downturn and how PLM can help companies innovate by focusing on “fundamental building blocks,” hopefully lowering the cost of ownership.
(6:15) How SAP customers have impacted SAP PLM and how this dialogue will continue on PLM@BPX, but this time involving the entire SAP community.
(9:20) The goals for the PLM@BPX community: how SAP’s own product managers, customers, and the rest of the SAP ecosystem can participate.
(11:32) The ongoing improvements in the SAP PLM user experience and how feedback from PLM demos at PLM@BPX will factor into this feedback loop.
(13:30) The next release of PLM (PLM 7.1) and how PLM@BPX community input will be “baked” into that release.
(14:55) Sudhanshu’s take on the key skills of the SAP PLM professional, including PLM product knowledge, hands-on skills, and industry experience.
(17:55) How listeners can register with BPX and how BPX member can get involved in PLM@BPX, join in the conversation, and provide their input.
FULL PODCAST TRANSCRIPT
Jon Reed: Hi, I’m your host, Jon Reed, and joining me today is Sudhanshu Srivastava, who is responsible for the PLM at BPX initiative for BPX in his role as the Senior Director of SAP PLM. We’re here to talk about the PLM at BPX community and how the PLM product can be an important source of innovation for SAP users.
Sudhanshu, PLM is one of SAP’s better-kept secrets, and PLM has also overcome some earlier challenges to become a key solution for SAP. Can you tell us a bit about the evolution of PLM and why PLM has become such an important part of SAP’s Business Suite?
Sudhanshu Srivastava: PLM is definitely one of SAP’s better-kept secrets. Whenever someone talks about SAP, the first thing that comes to their mind is ERP. Traditionally, for the last 30 years or more, SAP has been pioneers of the ERP solution and applications. Obviously, ERP is one big part of the puzzle, but if you look at the product’s life cycle and any process industry or manufacturing industry, there are a lot of areas where the product touches many aspects – and SAP has other applications like CRM and SCM, you name it.
The PLM becomes the aspect of product designing until it goes to manufacturing or to ERP systems. That element of the product life cycle is actually coined as PLM. It’s not the entire thing, but that’s how the market has coined it, and SAP in the last 10 years has slowly ventured into this application.
Initially, it was definitely very challenging for SAP because of the fact that not only internally but also externally, we were always perceived as ERP vendors. In the last five years, we’ve made the PLM one of the key elements of our Business Suite applications, so it’s actually one of the pillars. Slowly, it has overcome the challenges of usability and those kinds of things which were traditionally okay with ERP vendors, but when we got into the PLM market, we found that we needed to change.
Now I think we work very closely with customers to actually change the various elements, and we provide some of the best capabilities right now on PLM sites. We still have a lot of things to do, and we are working very closely with customers. We have many forums and ways to interact with customers, and I am really excited that people are going for PLM solutions; they have been adopting the solution very well, and we have a huge community out there and a customer base that is using our application.
Reed: The issue in the back of most people’s minds right now isthe economic downturn. I wanted to ask you how you think an increased focus on SAP PLM can help companies innovate in this time of so many uncertainties.
Srivastava: Actually, that’s a very good question. Today, there is an economic downturn. There are people who are cutting costs everywhere: everyone is looking at their bottom line. At this time, customers are becoming very picky; people are looking at spending their dollar wisely. They’re also looking at competition – it’s definitely becoming very, very intense. The risk is very high, everyone is watching Wall Street and every company. Whenever these things have happened in the past, it’s been a time for people to come up with ideas, to innovate.
One of the enablers of innovations as the key contributor for customers, or anyone, to become leaders in products and services is SAP PLM, which actually helps them do that. Whenever the innovation piece comes, PLM is one of the fundamental building blocks for that. Whenever you would like to get a product in service leadership, this becomes a fundamental building block one more time. I think SAP PLM becomes a very good choice for you to adopt at this time because this is the time when you would like to focus on something which is your fundamental building block rather than something which is an overhead.
You will see the customers are actually doing that: they are focusing on working with us closely to give us feedback on our products and say, “Can you fix these things?” because they are the things which will cut and lower the cost of ownership for them. We are also focusing on our product to provide exactly what gives value to the customer, and the SAP PLM team has been very focused to provide this type of capability. Currently, I would encourage people to look at the capabilities of SAP PLM; this is the best time for them to adopt this.
Reed: I’m really glad you mentioned the customer involvement part because one thing that has impressed me about the PLM solution is that you didn’t just create a solution and bring it in to the customer: you really brought them in through the customer engagement council. How do you think SAP customers have impacted the PLM solution? How do you see this conversation continuing online now at PLM at BPX?
Srivastava: Traditionally, SAP has been a company who drives their products through customer input. This is a fundamental – a business 101 – that you should do what customers are looking for, whatever is the biggest value for them. We have various forums and channels by which we access information from customers and get input – we are very up front about what we can do and what we cannot do. I think that openness really helps us and our customers.
SAP has various forums, the Executive Customer Council, where we have some small to large enterprises of each application, a mixed bag of customers providing input and driving our products to a large extent. They become part of our specification reviews, they become part of our testing of the product, and they drive much of our roadmap.
Then there are forums like the Customer Value Network, especially for PLM, which is for all the SAP PLM customers so they can interact with customers. One customer can talk to another customer and understand what is going on, how they implemented things, what the challenges were, and how they overcame those challenges. Together, they can give some feedback into SAP.
Then we’ve got forums like SAP user groups, which is all over the world, so there are many forums out there. What we didn’t have was a forum for all, for anybody to use, which was kind of a social networking environment. With the evolution of Web 2.0 and all these technologies, people are becoming very savvy with blogging and forums and wikis and the like, and I think adopting BPX is a very natural step for us to raise awareness of SAP PLM.
So with SAP PLM I look at a community, I look to enhance and continue these kinds of interactions with customers and prospects and partners, getting input, giving them the latest information and, again, being completely open about it. This is what we have, this is what we are planning, this is what we are thinking and if you agree or disagree with us, give us input right here in the forum or in a wiki or in a blog.
Reed: Speaking of which, the PLM at BPX community formally launched just this week. What are your goals for this community?
Srivastava: Our PLM management team has been looking at different ways to bring awareness. One of the things that is very important for any application is to not only bring awareness but to provide the right content at the right time and to the right set of folks. I have three goals: one is short-term, one is long-term, and the other is in between.
The overall goal is actually to bring the BPX community both outside and inside. I would initially focus in the short-term within SAP because SAP is a huge company with 50,000 employees. What I want to do is to bring awareness among various application members, have people know what PLM can do and what we have done, and I want the entire PLM team to own this community so that a solution manager immediately responds to a blog which comes in his area of ownership. I want to bring that, and I have seen very good response. The last four or five days, we have gotten emails that this particular piece is not correct because this is how you do it, and can you put this white paper on the web site – so it’s great, this is definitely going forward.
My second goal is to take it outside and bring customers and partners and all the other folks who are looking for information. The long-term is to make it the de facto standard or de facto place, like Yahoo! or Google, for finding information about PLM. That’s my goal for this community, and if customers can actually think of BPX as an information-seeking place on the web and they come to us before SAP.com, I think I have met my goal.
Reed: Definitely. Sudhanshu, one thing you and I talked about when we were preparing for this call is the push toward greater usability of PLM. Can you tell us about some of the demos of PLM available at PLM at BPX and what went into the latest user interface?
Srivastava: For PLM, there are the development priorities which were basically outlined by customers for us when we asked them the type of things they would like to do in PLM and their number one priority. They talked about simplicity as the number one priority. Traditionally, if you look at the ERP solution, it’s based upon the older technologies and now has evolved, but I would not say it was the most easy-to-use solution out there. We basically took that as the number one priority: usability became our primary goal for the evolution of PLM.
So we’ve put a lot of user interface options out there that are easy to deploy, easy to use; there is information about intelligent ways to foster efficiency and productivity for different types of users, and the UI is based upon the standards of NetWeaver. If you go to BPX community, you will find a lot of demonstrations which were recently created – a lot of people have not seen them yet because they were just created. Solution Manager has created a demo so you can actually see – I would say you can almost feel – how the product is going to work in different ways.
So we have demos, we have a lot of information in terms of what’s new in the product, and I think in terms of timing, this is the best place to get all this information in one place.
Reed: And in our “preview of coming attractions” segment, there is a new PLM release coming out fairly soon. I wanted to ask you about any highlights you want tomention or also how the PLM at BPX community might play a role in providing input on this release.
Srivastava: That’s another thing we are experimenting with through this community. We have traditionally gotten input from the existing customers – people who have been using our products – and some of the prospects. But by opening it up for all, it definitely becomes another interesting way of looking at not only the customers and immediate partners but somebody who is just evaluating different solutions, and being able to get their input. So, the forums and the blogs and all these wikis out there – we would be seeking information and trying to figure out what’s the interest level.
We also want to figure out what they expect, based upon the information we have right now, in the next release coming next year. PLM 7.1 is “baking” right now, and we would like to see what the ingredients would be from these community members.
Reed: Hopefully, people will join in the conversation with you there. It looks like we have time for a question I was really hoping to ask you. SAP professionals who are listening to this podcast are always interested in how they can become more experienced in certain areas, so I wanted to ask you about PLM consulting and specializing in PLM. When you work with PLM consultants, what do you think are the key characteristics of a successful PLM professional?
Srivastava: If you look at the PLM area, it is definitely one of the fundamental aspects of product development. You start from the ideas, you design the products, you develop those products, you manage the products throughout their development life cycle, then you pass it on to manufacturing. You look at which suppliers can provide the elements of the product and services, then you manage the product.
The consultants who would like to succeed in the PLM area should know that the best people have actually worked on the shop floor – basically, they have touched the product. We are always interested in people from these traditional companies who have used either one of our solutions or any competitive solution, who have been there, done that. Like change management, if you talk about one of the elements of PLM, if you have not been part of a change management process then you do not even know the details.
There are approval cycles, there are various elements of the change management, and, unless you have done that, it is really difficult for you to try the product or implement the product. So the elements we are always looking for from business partners as well as from consultants who can be good implementers of PLM are the ones coming from the industry, who have hands-on experience. That’s the key.
Reed: In pursuit of that knowledge, folks can get involved with the PLM at BPX community and share with the community folks who are pursuing the same ends. Is there anything else you wanted to mention about PLM at BPX that we didn’t cover?
Srivastava: I just wanted to say that this is a very important initiative for us, we are getting all the information out there, and internally and externally, we have gotten a pretty good review so far. I just basically launched it for our Executive Customer Council members as well, and I got a very awesome response; they were very excited to see the content. I would encourage people to get into the BPX community, to start adding their pieces of information and giving us feedback.
This is a very exciting time for us. This is perfect timing for us and for customers because, as you see, we are getting input for the next release – this is wonderful timing for us to hear what they want to say. It is very easy to get into BPX: all you have to do is register, just like any other web site, so that’s not a very difficult task. Once you get in, you can give us feedback in terms of what is missing, what you want us to do or focus on, and I think that will definitely help us further improve our initiative here.
Reed: Great, Sudhanshu, thanks a lot for taking the time to provide us with this preview of the PLM at BPX community as it launches. I just want to make sure our listeners know how to access the PLM at BPX community. If you’re not yet registered with SAP’s communities, you can register with all three of them in the same registration process and if you’re already signed up for one of the communities but not in BPX yet, all you have to do is update your profile and check that off in your member information. Once you’re in BPX, you can find the PLM at BPX community by clicking on the “Solutions” menu on the left-hand side.
On that note, I’d like to thank our listeners for joining us today on this BPX community podcast. This is Jon Reed of JonERP.com signing off. We’ll see you online soon at BPX.SAP.com