Kenesto: What is it?

18 Dec 2011:  Just a few weeks ago Mike Payne, one of the founders of PTC, SolidWorks, and SpaceClaim, noted on his LinkedIn page that he was un-retired. I found this exciting enough to reach out to Mike to find out about his new company. As a result Mike Payne, Kenesto CEO since March of this year, hosted me earlier this week at their offices in Waltham, MA. He and some of his staff filled me in about the product and where it’s heading.

Basically, the product is the antithesis of Payne’s formerly complex products in the CAD arena. Aimed at the category called business process automation, this cloud-based application allows asynchronous spawning of processes. Different from similar systems that try to model processes, Kenesto builds processes on the fly. Users wanting to track a process they are initiating, for instance an ECO, initiate a process, attach documents to it, and add users to the next process by adding their email addresses. Different types of “next processes” can be defined, such as “review and approve.” At each step in the process the recipient can add additional processes that add steps to the overall process. Kenesto builds the process diagram as steps are added. Note that this differs significantly from the BPM (Business Process Modeling) approach that models processes using a cumbersome programmatic approach. Kenesto calls it Business Process Automation (BPA).

We spent a fair amount of time discussing security and about control of attached documents. Jerry Meyer, Kenesto’s chief product officer, explained that most documents  (CAD images, docs, pdf’s or other related files) could be made view only, limiting the need for most security. In addition, Meyer and Payne both emphasized that ideally Kenesto would point back to the primary data vault, which provides primary security for collaborative data sharing. Users would most likely, if needed, upload to Kenesto more concise files, such as JT.

Each user of the process can examine all of the process steps, and see who did what and the entire process status. Processes can complete, but are left in the system for inspection and review. This brings up many possibilities of additional value. Different than is done in most cases today, each Kenesto process contains value in that the steps are recorded as to who did what, when it was done, and the reasons for certain decisions. Imagine, as might be the case for an FEA analysis of a product during the design cycle, if you could record the various simulation alternatives and capture the alternative finally selected and the reasoning behind it. IMHO, this might be easier than the complex simulation capture and record systems being proposed by many CAE systems such as Simulia and Siemens’ PLM Software.

Product status: Kenesto is approaching their first Beta and will use this to refine their product and its UI. Right now the user interface appears to be very simple. Being cloud based, and storing little or no CAD data, implementation involves signing up for the product and picking some areas to begin using the system. Ideal areas would be those that require tracking of the process status.

Pricing is not yet available. Payne described that the company is searching for a pricing schema that encourages the use of the system rather than the alternative. Kenesto is building up its staff. Currently the company is small, with development in Israel.

I like the approach. Clearly the system is evolving rapidly. Not too different than Autodesk’s 360 Nexus approach, the idea of fitting in to the way organizations work rather than forcing each company into using “best practices” should simplify implementations. Most importantly, Kenesto enables tracking the flow of information across organizational boundaries and can insure that critical design and review steps are not lost in the day-to-day miasma of paperwork and deadlines.

You can find put a bit more at http://www.kenesto.com and download a paper describing generally describing the product.

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Does SIRI signify a common CAD UI for the future?

I think, after using it on my iPhone 4S for a few weeks that the answer is definitely YES. And, this is especially true for CAD applications. All CAD apps require a complex series of user interactions, usually performed in a rigid manner to proceed through the process. How nice would it be to just speak what you want done and actually have the computer do the dirty work of interpreting the commands?

Just think. No more menus needed. No more searching multiple menu windows for the precise command needed. No more focusing in on tiny graphics on commands. No need to worry about sequencing the command.

On my iPhone I can just say “make an appointment with Bob for tomorrow at 2:00.” not too different than “draw an infinite horizontal line tangent to circle A” when Siri needs more info it asks for it. In my query above it might say “do you mean Bob Albert, Bobby Jones, or Bob Smith?” How cool is that?

I suggest vendors immediately get busy finding smart speech recognition software.

What do you think?

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Mars Science Lab: Rover Tether Landing

3 Dec 2011: In my blog reviewing the Siemens NX CAE Meeting I mentioned a conversation I had with Kendra Short of JPL about how the rover will land on Mars. Today I found this picture simulating how this will be accomplished. I thought you night appreciate the engineering embodied in the MSL to accomplish this.

MSL Landing; Courtesy of NASA/JPL/Caltech via AP

The platform holding the rover is called a Sky Crane. It first will need to separate from the spacecraft after it reaches Mars orbit. We will know more in about 8 months from now, when the landing is scheduled.

You can learn more at http://marsprogram.jpl.nasa.gov/msl/

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Autodesk 360 and Nexus – PLM 1.0: not perfect – but a great start

3 Dec 2011: Errata. I was incorrect in stating that Buzzsaw was a local PDM vault for AEC/BIM. Several people have written me about this, one being Stephen Bodnar of Autodesk. Bodnar stated that “Vault is the on-premise DM solution for both industries, whereas Buzzsaw is cloud-based and is also built on Autodesk’s Cloud, and is intended for design file collaboration between partners/suppliers and other users and does, in fact, have bi-directional push/synchronization with Vault)”

1 Dec 2011: I am on my way back from Las Vegas, where AU 2011 was held. The highlight of the event, at least for me, was the announcement of what I am calling Autodesk PLM 1.0. The announcement was not a well-kept secret, but the content of the announcement was closely held.

Monday’s media day preceded the conference. The actual PLM announcement came late Tuesday morning. Carl Bass retracted his oft quoted remark about PLM not being something customers worried about; instead, it was revised to mean “until the technology was right.” I couldn’t agree more with his reasoning. Most of Autodesk’s competitors PLM systems offer expensive, difficult to use, and almost impossible to install PLM systems, that rarely have met expectations. Even then, it is often at the cost of massive consulting assistance, rarely meeting anticipated timeframes, AND generally involves the implementation of substantially revised business processes.

Different than my analyst peers I have always been skeptical of such large and costly projects. Not being on the implementation side, I could afford to be skeptical. Many such projects, aside from basic PDM, seldom actually get implemented. Most stall. Autodesk estimates that most deliver only PDM. To test this thesis, I tweeted my followers and asked what they had accomplished. With just a few responses, this is hardly scientific. Several stated that did not yet have even PDM fully implemented!

So what was actually announced? The system is being called Autodesk 360. It is based on having locally installed PDM. For mechanical and for AEC this is Vault. Buzzsaw, a cloud based application provides design file collaboration for AEC teams. The third, and new software piece is called Nexus. The dictionary describes the word nexus as a “connector.,” and is a good description of what the software aims to do. In the following discussion I concentrate solely on mechanical PLM. For information on Buzzsaw and how it uses Nexus readers will have to go elsewhere. Try here.

Nexus is cloud based, and comes with 140 or apps. Each app looks like a series of specialized templates, along with customizable (by the user) workflow logic. Delivery is expected by the end of March 2012. No pricing was announced, however, the implications were that it would be modest. It will be sold on a per user subscription basis. All Nexus data and apps will be run in the cloud, using an ordinary browser. The mass of data will remain locally hosted using Vault. Having and maintaining Vault locally solves the issue of loading very large cloud based data while still maintaing some degree of interactivity.

How will it interface with Vault and other PDM systems? Very well with Vault. No connectors were announced to integrate with other PDM systems. Autodesk hinted that this is a good opportunity for third party developers and VARs. Connections with Nexus could be implemented via as yet unannounced APIs.

Today, the connection between Vault and Nexus is one way. CAD data cannot be sent from Nexus to Vault. Nor is it synchronized among Vaults, as is done among Apple’s iCloud apps. However, Vault data is automatically synced up to Nexus. Expect bi-directional sync in the future.

Is it easy to install and operate?

Keep in mind that my total exposure to Autodesk 360 Nexus comes from a 30 minute, main stage presentation, followed by a 60 minute working session where about 20 people per workstation watched a very capable Autodesk developer demo and responded to questions, often by showing us how Nexus would solve the proposed question.

Nexus appears to be an out of the box system. Nexus comes with predefined templates and workflows. Yet they can easily be added to and/or modified. Fields within templates (apps) can be defined on the fly and their characteristics (such as numeric, values, dates, etc.) as well. A Visio like graphic interface defines workflows. Many are offered in the starter system. A typical administration system allows assigning users to tasks and roles. Somehow, data fields can be interconnected, allowing visibility to see what drives or is driven by what.

So. There you have it. I imagine Autodesk will soon, if not already, have many seminars and pre-recorded AVI’s showing the software. Try here: http://usa.autodesk.com/360-lifecycle-management-software/

My conclusions

I think the product is outstanding. Being cloud based resolves many operating issues. Some users might question the security aspects of hosting much of the data remotely, and would do well to satisfy themselves that either this is not an issue, or otherwise. I think, that perhaps except for very special circumstances, the cloud-based security might even be vastly superior to what they could do locally. I think this is a non-issue.

Cost wise, I think this will prove to be much less expensive, long term, than most of today’s solutions. Again, this is a non-issue. Just take a look at the slide Stephen Bodnar of Autodesk, VP of Data Management, presented below that compares some costs for a 200 user deployment.

For collaboration, data can be uploaded, either in summary format, or detailed CAD files. Nexus has controls over what user sees what data.

Included are project management capabilities that allow rolling up from completed sub-tasks automatically. Defining projects involves defining sub-projects with easily configurable tasks and reporting procedures. If you have already implemented workflow as part of Vault, then is should be redone using Nexus. It allows more flexibility and better visibility.

If you want visibility by projects, by project managers and contributors, with flexibility to change workflows and processes to meet how you do business, it’s all there. My only question is how soon can I get it?

Ray with his skeptical face during AU2011 —-

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Here are a few slides from the presentation to give you an idea of what Autodesk presented. Sorry for the quality – I used my phone.

The overall concept of Autodesk 360.

Stephen Bodnar discussing their view of PLM:

Why is it called 360? Showing how the Vault and Buzzsaw make up local PDM systems:

Brenda Discher discussing why users don’t like competitive PDM systems.

What Autodesk is doing about it with Nexus.