On December 30, 2013, when PTC announced that it had acquired ThingWorx, the Exton, Pennsylvania-based creators of an award-winning platform for building and running applications for the Internet of Things (IoT), it should not have been a surprise. However, for those of us who have been covering the global services community for the past several years, what was most surprising was the timing of the acquisition – that is, it was at least a year or so sooner than what we might otherwise have expected!
No two ways about it, though – the acquisition of ThingWorx makes absolute sense for PTC. And, as it turns out, the timing could not have been more appropriate. As stated by PTC president and CEO Jim Heppelmann in the Company’s official press release announcement, “All aspects of our strategy to date have centered on helping manufacturing companies transform how they create and service smart, connected products.” Thus, the three primary keywords from Heppelmann’s introductory quote are: “manufacturing”, “service” and “connected”. And we could not agree more!
Heppelmann went on to elaborate, “With this acquisition, PTC now possesses an innovation platform that will allow us to accelerate how we help our customers capitalize on the market opportunity that the IoT presents.” We agree that this latest move now firmly positions PTC as a major player in the emerging Internet of Things era and, by doing so, allows the Company to continue to expand the overall breadth and depth of its historical Product Lifecycle Management (PLM), Service Lifecycle Management (SLM) and Application Lifecycle Management (ALM) solution portfolios.
PTC’s plan is to use the ThingWorx platform “to speed the creation of high-value IoT applications that support manufacturers’ service strategies, such as predictive maintenance and system monitoring”. This, in turn, would serve as a complement to its existing SLM and extended PLM solution portfolios. As such, the Company would now be able to offer its customers a means to establish “a secure, reliable connection to their products as well as a platform to rapidly develop applications for maintaining and operating them – and ultimately for finding ways to create new value.
In an ideal business world, Product Lifecycle Management (PLM), Service Lifecycle Management (SLM) and Application Lifecycle Management (ALM) would all work in concert with one another, connected in real time, and providing enterprise-wide benefits in a truly synergistic manner. Please forgive my Math background, but the equation that would best represent this ideal scenario would look something like this:
Lifecycle Management (Product + Service + Application) x Connectivity = Business Lifecycle Management
– or more simply stated –
LM (P+S+A) x C = BLM
More simply stated, what this basically means is that, long before the acquisition,PTC had already taken a number of proactive steps toward putting most of the individual Lifecycle Management components of the equation in place; however,since the acquisition of ThingWorx, it is now able to integrate the one last remaining piece of the puzzle to deliver a total Business Lifecycle Management (BLM) solution to its customers. This is where IoT meets Lifecycle Management!
The Internet of Things – especially as developed and applied in the way that the ThingWorx solution has evolved – represents the “cement” that can now bond the Company’s highly regarded PLM, SLM and ALM offerings together, especially for those more progressive enterprises that have already recognized the synergies and economies of scales associated with the cross-pollination of these three historically separate disciplines. The IoT also serves as a catalyst for PTC to improve each of its individual major product lines (plus any of its other related enterprise solution offerings), in and of themselves, just by the nature of its newly-acquired ability to leverage state-of-the-art connectivity into all aspects of its global enterprise solutions.
This latest acquisition also puts all of us covering the global services community on notice as to how aggressive PTC is likely to continue to be moving forward with respect to both growing its core (i.e., traditional) businesses, as well as expanding its overarching technology base and global market presence. The Company is widely recognized as being among the market leaders in each of its core businesses; however, its investment in IoT should also serve to expedite and facilitate its ability to deliver.
Throughout his presentation as part of the Company’s January 15, 2014 industry analyst Webcast, Heppelmann used highly descriptive terms and phrases to underscore the rationale behind the benefits of the acquisition including “globalization”, “collaboration”, “take the world to digital products”, “design anywhere; build anywhere”, “personality of products” and “diversity with scale”. These are all areas that PTC had been trying to build upon over the past several years that can now be fully supported and facilitated as a result of the acquisition of ThingWorx.
In his address, Heppelmann further supported the rationale for acquiring ThingWorx by identifying the major forces that PTC believes are driving transformation in the manufacturing sector today; i.e., the forces that have led PTC to make an accelerated move into the IoT era:
- External forces are reshaping the manufacturing landscape
- Products are evolving to be smart, connected and global
- Value is fundamentally shifting from product to service
- When combined, these forces will transform the industry
Taken together, these forces describe a global manufacturing sector that will begin to look very much different in the next couple or few years than it looks today – that is, a sector predicated on an emerging foundation of the three descriptors Heppelmann had cited earlier in his presentation: i.e., “manufacturing”, “service” and “connected”.
There have been many of us who follow the global services community that have been watching – and, quite frankly, wondering – how PTC would ultimately incorporate its October 2012 acquisition of Servigistics into its overall operations and solution offerings. In fact, over the past 16 months or so, many of us have felt that our (and the market’s) questions have been left largely unanswered. The Company’s July 2013 acquisition of Enigma, a niche developer of software that aggregates and delivers technical content in aftermarket service environments, also contributed to this growing list of unanswered questions. However, the acquisition of ThingWorx has changed everything – apparently, there always was a “method behind the madness” at PTC that was not really mad at all!
It would be incorrect to interpret PTC’s most recent spate of acquisitions as being little more than a series of one-off purchases made by an already established, major PLM industry player that simply wants to add to its global empire. Conversely, these acquisitions have apparently been both long – and well – thought out as part of an overarching strategy that would not only propel PTC to be the single largest provider of global PLM and SLM products and services, but, rather, totally reposition the Company as an Internet of Things leader that has leveraged the latest in state-of-the-art technology into a comprehensive – and completely re-tooled – portfolio of enterprise solutions.
For those of us who have spent most of our careers serving in either the PLM or SLM (or ALM) marketplace, the time for choosing sides (i.e., “we’re either in product management or services management”) is over! Our research has consistently shown that the gap between manufacturing and service management is diminishing, and that the ability to deliver what our customers want, when they want it, and in a consistent and more collaborative fashion will be an even more critical driver for success in the Internet of Things era (i.e., today, and in the foreseeable future).
While many of today’s manufacturing and services managers may still find it too difficult to operate outside of their respective management silos, PTC clearly understands the need for providing a technology platform to support the “new normal” for enterprise-wide collaboration. They have seen the future – and it is a future that will essentially be built around global solutions, powered by the Internet of Things, and supported by a solutions provider that understands how each major component of the enterprise needs to work in concert with the others.