Can Siemens PLM's Insight XT Succeed where PTC's ProductPoint Failed?
Chad Jackson posted on October 01, 2012 |

Back in June, I attended PLM Connections, the user event for Siemens PLM, in Las Vegas. Of course, there were a lot of product updates and announcements over the course of the conference. But there was one that caught my eye. The mainstream engineering folks at Siemens PLM (formerly Velocity Series) made some announcements about Insight XT, a PDM-like system that sits on top of SharePoint. They talked about numerous new enhancements to the product.

Sitting there, I was sure I had heard something wrong. It was like when there's this word right on the tip of your tongue, but you just can't quite remember it. Then it hit me.

I've heard this before. Just from a different company.

The Short Life of ProductPoint

What company? Well. PTC.

Back on January 14th, 2009, PTC launched a PDM-like system that sat on top of SharePoint (PTC press release). By April 2012, PTC had informed their customers that they were retiring ProductPoint (PTC FAQ document).

Why did they do this? Well, Al Dean over at Develop3D wrote up a good article that includes an interview with some PTC folks as well as his perspective. Here's one of his most relevant points, although all of it is good.

Much of the concept behind Creo seem to be a series of smaller, more nimble applications that solve specific challenges in the product development process. Surely having a similarly small and nimble data management solution should be part of that? Windchill is many things. But small and nimble? I don’t think so. That’s where a SharePoint-based solution could have been the perfect match to Creo’s brave new world.

I agree with Al, although I think there was more going on. And let me say right now that this is purely speculative, but I am willing to bet that ProductPoint revenues were starting to cannibalize some Windchill sales. But again, that's speculation. And speculation that will likely never be confirmed or refuted.

The point here is that the past is prologue. The story of ProductPoint raises a question about Insight XT. Can it succeed where ProductPoint didn't?

 The Capabilities of Insight XT

OK. Now before we jump onto that question, let's look at what Insight XT does. Here's the punch list. 

  • CAD Data and Document Management
  • Manage Product Structures
  • Visualization of 3D models
  • Visualization of Data Relationships
  • Project / Program Management
  • ECR and ECO Management
  • Release Management

Furthermore, Insight XT has seen 14 releases over 10 years. So yes, it's been around for a while. It has an embedded client for Solid Edge. Furthermore, it integrated with Teamcenter at some level. But overall, this stuff is pretty engineering focused. And of course, this sits on top of SharePoint, which has a lot of capabilities.

Some More Context for Our Question

Can Insight XT succeed where ProductPoint failed? Well, I think there's some interesting similarities to consider.

  • Both offer(ed) PDM-like functionality on top of SharePoint
  • Both target(ed) SMB engineering organizations.
  • Both have / had larger PLM brethren. ProductPoint had Windchill. Insight XT has Teamcenter Express and Teamcenter.

This last point strikes me as, well, interesting. While PTC has positioned Windchill for the SMB space, it never was the dedicated product for that space. Teamcenter Express, however, was specifically targeted at the SMB space. I have to admit, that fact is confusing.

Now, let's step back and look at this from a different perspective. Is there opportunity? I think the answer is a resounding yes. Look at this quote from Al Dean's article on the ProductPoint announcement.

Just back in March of last year, I spoke to Jim Heppelmann, CEO of PTC, about ProductPoint and how it was doing in the market. At the time, Heppelmann said that the original goal was to sell the system to 100 companies in the first 12 months and that target was exceeded by 40. 2010’s goal was 300, but after just one quarter they’d already hit 100, so were more than on target for 2010.

So yes, I think there is definitely opportunity. And furthermore, they are interested in a SharePoint based PDM-like system. 

My Take

OK. So walking around this a few times, here's my perspective.

ProductPoint wasn't retired because it lacked capabilities. It wasn't retired because it wasn't being adopted. Again, this is speculation, but I think the business model behind it didn't jive with Windchill. It wasn't as profitable as Windchill. SharePoint was supplying capabilities, like workflow, that Windchill normally would. That threatened to undermine Windchill's growth. Yet again, that's my speculation that hasn't been refuted or confirmed.

So what does that mean for Insight XT? Well, I think it's success hinges on two things. First, a SharePoint PDM-like system must be attractive to SMBs, and that seems to be the case. Second, Siemens PLM has to be OK with Insight XT outselling Teamcenter Express. If those two things occur, then I think Insight XT can do well.

Summary and Questions

Here's the recap.

  • At PLM Connections as well as at Solid Edge University, Siemens PLM placed a renewed emphasis on Insight XT, their PDM-like system that sits on top of SharePoint.
  • PTC launched and retired ProductPoint, which was also a PDM-like system that sat on top of SharePoint, in the span of a little over three years.
  • Insight XT offers a range of capabilities including 
    • CAD Data and Document Management
    • Manage Product Structures
    • Visualization of 3D models
    • Visualization of Data Relationships
    • Project / Program Management
    • ECR and ECO Management
    • Release Management
  • I believe Insight XT can succeed if two things occur.
    • If a SharePoint PDM-like system remains attractive to SMB engineering organizations.
    • If Siemens PLM is comfortable with Insight XT outselling Teamcenter Express in the SMB space. 

That's my perspective. Time for you to weigh in. Do you think it is an advantage to use a PDM system that has been built on top of SharePoint? Is that answer still true for SMB organizations? Does it make it easier to deal with IT staff?

Take care. Talk soon. And thanks for reading.

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