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Thought Leaders In Cloud Computing: Jay Leader CIO, Of iRobot (Part 4)

Posted on Sunday, Jul 10th 2011

Sramana Mitra:  And whom do you expect would be solving that problem? Or is solving that problem or is trying to improve that situation? Is it the product life cycle management (PLM) vendors?

Jay Leader: In part. There are a whole bunch of them. I am sure you trip across lots of them – people who would like to sell into the PLM base, right? And the PLM vendors are investing to the extent that they can sell more of their own software or keep more of their license based with them. But it is not their core competency, and it is really not what they do. Usually, more of the innovation comes from the people who kind of pilot-fish the trail. They are the people who really innovate more because they have less at stake in terms of maintaining a legacy user, so they are typically more innovative and a little freer to work without boundaries.

SM: Would you say this is an area that is worth looking at from an entrepreneur’s point of view?

JL: You know, PLM is a big market. And again, I think the PLM vendors don’t traditionally work well at these kinds of things. So, I think what would be an opportunity is for people who really understand PLM and to marry some of the social media concepts into PLM. We work with some of the biggest providers, and when we look at the work they are contemplating for PLM, it is pretty amateurish. Because it is not what they do! If you make a CAD-designed tool, you are typically not a social media person; it is a different thing.

SM:  And design, especially when you are doing design of multiple parts of a system and so forth, is inherently a collaborative activity.

JL: Absolutely!

SM: I think the failure of PLM so far has been to not be able to create a workflow and a technology framework that allows people to collaborate well.

JL: I would think it would be difficult to find any individual competency or discipline that was more integrated and collaborative than design and engineering.

SM: Absolutely!

JL: Because no one is designing a single piece that talks to nothing else. I would think that is an area ripe for entrepreneurs to explore.

SM: Any other pointers to open problems or blue-sky areas that are worthwhile for innovative entrepreneurs to look at?

JL: I don’t really think so, and again I am a classic corporate customer. We work on today’s problem, and I think entrepreneurs are trying to solve tomorrow’s or next month or next year’s problem. So, I am probably not a great source on the next big thing in IT, and as you can probably tell from my comments, I much more of a skeptical about what we say is the current big thing. I do think that the hype curve is way, way, way out of in front of cloud computing, and I have been around for a long time and seen a lot of these hype curves and this one is about as deep as I have ever seen. So, I am a bad guy to ask about blue sky because I don’t play much in blue sky. [Laughs.]

SM: Generally, the response that is interesting to us is where you have problems that you can’t solve based on what existing vendors are offering. I think I actually got a good one with you, with the entire collaborative environment that is PLM. I knew that for a long time; I am just surprised that still it is that much of a gap!

JL: Yes, it is! Well, again because it is a mismatch of skills and expectations, and it is hard for an agile company or a company like PTC to figure out how they make money with social media. They know they make money by selling licenses, so social media is not a principal focus. It is more of a secondary nice-to-have; you know, they want to sell to professional engineers, and they want to sell PLM. That is what they want to do, and that is where they make money.

SM: OK, very good! Jay, thank you for your time, and if you don’t mind I want to introduce this company called Cloud Engineering just so you take a look at it and see what you think.

JL: My pleasure. Yes, that would be fine. Thank you.

This segment is part 4 in the series : Thought Leaders In Cloud Computing: Jay Leader CIO, Of iRobot
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