Cloud Migration is Continuing
We started this series of guest blog posts sharing that manufacturers are opening up to the cloud for their product innovation and engineering needs. Companies are asking, “why not cloud?” instead of debating if they should make the change, and we’re starting to hear more questions about “how?” and “when?” they should make the transition. What is the trigger that motivates companies to make their move to the cloud?
Cloud is a Means to an End
The decision on cloud timing varies based on each company’s scenario. The first step in the transition is to understand what your company’s goals are in the first place. The change driver may be reaching the limits of an existing solution, requiring new capabilities to support digital transformation, consolidating acquisitions, or choosing to modernize IT infrastructure. The impetus for moving to the cloud helps set the right objectives.
Our prior posts discussed a variety of benefits related to cost, risk, time, and resource requirements. They also looked at some special areas that the cloud offers unique for collaboration and simulation. Cloud innovation and engineering software offers some very tangible value when companies are ready to make the move. But what is the overarching value of adopting cloud product innovation and engineering software?
The cloud should not be the driver, in the same way that the goal of a software implementation should never be to “go live” with the software. There has to be some tangible business value. For product innovation and engineering software, what better reason could there be than to improve product innovation and engineering performance? The cloud is a means to an end. The real value is helping manufacturers improve the pace and level of innovation
Improve the Pace of Innovation
Improving product innovation and engineering is the bread and butter of CAD, CAE, PLM, and other engineering solutions. These solutions help provide the capabilities engineers and designers need to innovate efficiently. They offer collaboration capabilities that enable product development teams to work together so they can move faster and avoid introducing errors from disjointed processes. They also help coordinate processes and manage product development projects to ensure that projects are executed effectively.
Perhaps that’s old school, and clearly, on-premise solutions can deliver most of these benefits. But the cloud offers some special help here, as well. Today’s engineering teams are working with increased complexity and disruption, adopting new materials, systems-oriented designs, advanced manufacturing methods, and more. To remain efficient, they need to not only innovate their products – they need to innovate their innovation and engineering processes.
How does the cloud help? Traditional software deployments lock in processes and capabilities until the next upgrade cycle. With the cloud, innovations, functionality, and techniques developed by the software vendor can be made available on an ongoing basis. Access to new features allows engineering teams to take advantage of new software capabilities faster. They can seek out and try out new applications as soon as they’re available instead of having to wait for two years (or longer) for their company to adopt a software upgrade. In essence, this changes the pace of the way companies innovate.
Improve the Level of Innovation
How does the cloud help improve innovation itself? What’s most compelling, perhaps, is when companies use the cloud to change the way they work. New approaches like generative design and advanced simulation studies allow engineers to explore new design options. Cloud software also allows them to collaborate more freely, for example, quickly sharing the latest design with a supplier for feedback.
The cloud can help drive innovation in other ways, as well. The cloud opens up new ways to procure and access the features engineers need to do their jobs. This isn’t entirely due to the cloud; it’s a business model that’s been enabled by the cloud. Today, we see a greater ability to tailor the applications that a user needs to reach the next level of innovation. For example, the cloud software often provides features by role versus buying modules that have to be purchased for everyone. That allows a smaller number of advanced users to get access to the advanced capabilities they need. These models allow companies to innovate their own engineering tools and techniques by making it easier to experiment, pilot new applications, expand on what works, and drop what doesn’t.
Making the Transition
The takeaway is not to move to the cloud for the cloud’s sake. Do it for the business value that the solutions offer. The cloud can surely help save money. But out of the “better – faster – cheaper” benefits available – “better” and “faster” are probably the least understood but most valuable. Of course, “cheaper” is certainly helpful and can help fund the transition.
For a new company, deciding on when and how to adopt cloud innovation software may be a no-brainer. Cloud solutions are now available that offer the capabilities they need to improve innovation velocity and outcomes while allowing them to take advantage of tailored access and lower costs. But most companies have existing, on-premise solutions that are critical to their success and will continue to provide value. For them, cloud adoption will likely be a more paced transition. For example, they may choose to add cloud elements to augment their existing solutions. Then they may gradually migrate their capabilities as opposed to a “rip and replace” approach.
There are many options to consider and decisions to make. The key is to make them based on improving innovation performance and business value.
About the author:
Jim Brown is the founder and President of independent research firm Tech-Clarity. Jim is a recognized expert in enterprise software for manufacturers, with over 25 years of experience in application software, management consulting, and research. He has extensive knowledge about how manufacturers use Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) and other enterprise applications to improve business performance.
Jim is actively researching the value available from new initiatives and technologies including cloud computing, digitalization, product innovation platforms, smart manufacturing, AR, VR, and the IoT in addition to his core research areas which include PLM, quality, service, manufacturing, and more.