The ABC of PLM Facebooking

May 31, 2010

I was reading ‘Why does Facebook fail for Product Development? (and how to fix it)” article by Jim Brown. Jim made me think more about multiple associations between core Facebook principles and way PDM/PLM systems are organized and implemented today. Jim is saying, Facebook’s concepts are compelling, so let’s apply them to PLM. I have to agree. However, what is important is to make a right application. So, I want to try to discover what are key Facebook’s principles and how they can be applied to PLM to make a shift in PLM implementation in comparison to what we are doing today.

Life Before Facebook

Before social sites like MySpace and Facebook were born, our life was mostly concentrated around an email and instant messenger. This is the mainstream communication pathway. So, if I want to communicate with dozens of my friends, I’ll need to send/read emails. When I will be interesting to share something (i.e. picture), I will send an email with attachment or link. IM is pretty similar. It reminds me how we communicate in our workplaces now.

Facebook Experience

What is the major shift Facebook made for me in terms of my communication? As soon as I could find and connect with my friends on Facebook by importing my email contact list, my life moved from Outlook Inbox to my Facebook wall. My communication becomes much easier for situations when I want to share something with my friends. Instead of going and opening multiple emails with pictures, video links and notes, I can see them nicely syndicated on my wall. There are two main components of this shift –  connections and content syndication.


It is all about who are the people I want to stay connected. Facebook allows me to connect and figured out who are other people I’m interested to stay in connection. So, life becomes easy in terms of finding people who have similar interests to me. Comparing it to manufacturing organizations, I can compare initial contacts import as an organization hierarchy acquisition. Rest of connection can be discovered, by multiple ways- common projects, customers, task forces, specialization and knowledge. To help people to connect in a easier way is the first important Facebookconcept.

Content Syndication

In my view, Facebook made a significant shift in the way content can be organized by syndication of multiple content streams coming from different people and embedding various types of rich elements (pictures, videos, commentary, messages, reaction) into a singe syndicated content stream. The I/O (Information Overload) is a huge distraction that we experience everywhere. If we can focus on a single information stream (my Facebook wall), we can improve people’s performance. This is why you like to see Facbook Wall instead of scrolling down multiple emails and IMs. That’s why people can improve their communication in the organization by starting to use content syndication forms.


Facebook embeds people’s activities into the single syndicated content stream. This is a very important function. You should not be distracted by another “Inbox” message or multiple sources of incoming requests. Everything can be concentrated in a single place. Multiple messages on the same topic can be syndicated into threads and co-located with the content they belong to.

What is my conclusion? The core idea of Facebook is a new type of content syndication coming from my social connections. The way Facebook automatically syndicate content and allows me to make my activity related to this content is a key advantage for me to come every morning to Facebook and see what’s up with all my peers. My PLM system can do all these things today. You can manage Files, Parts, BOMs, ECOs, organize processes, make approvals, etc.. However, data organization in PLM is heavy and not comfortable. PLM is not thinking about data syndication. In my view, this is the ABC of PLM Facebooking. This what can empower PLM and make it more intuitive and easy to use. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


How To Redefine Collaboration in PLM?

May 28, 2010

Collaboration is the world that massively used by CAD/PDM/PLM and other non-TLA oriented companies in product development, engineering and manufacturing community. For the last 10-15 years, we had chance to see many successful and un-successful examples. Do you think everything is going well in this space? Should we put “collaboration” on fire in product organization?

Enterprise IT on Fire
Collaboration is heavy dependent on IT organization. I had chance to see Geoffrey Moore presentation during Google’s Atmosphere 2010 event. One of the very interesting points he made was about Enterprise IT on fire.

From his standpoint, for the last 10 years, IT was very busy with consumer’s technologies. In 2010s, IT is going to be very busy with enterprise technologies. So, by redefining what we can get from IT to have better collaboration, we can significantly improve everything. My short list to the IT organization is following:

1. Online access to everything
2. Unified communication
3. Multiple devices

Unified Collaboration

The worst thing we have today is disparate collaborative channels. We need to find a way to end up with this mess. This is the next step after unification of communication channels. Today we started to understand how positive could be to unify email, phone, cell phone, video, etc. After that, to unify multiple collaborative and social channels. Few examples in this space I had chance to see recently. Gist- company that thinks about how to unify all emails, contacts, social networks into one single stream. Huddle – company focuses on how to connect, share and work better together.

Contextual Collaboration
I had chance to write about PLM moving from content to context few days ago. I think, now is a perfect time to say – Context Is King! To make collaboration contextual, we need to think how to focus communication on the specific product data (i.e. CAD, Bill of Materials, etc.). By putting collaboration in the context of the specific data, we can improve people’s performance and decision making process. There are few interesting technologies and initiatives I can see in this space.

In this context, there are few very productive ideas in the Dassault 3D Live. One of the features is the ability to have a contextual connection between various participants during the design and review time.

Also, I like very much experiments Vuuch is doing in this space.

What is my conclusion today? The time is coming to change the way we collaborate. Consumer software and social networks will play a significant role in this process. The key question is how to make is seamless and contextual. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


What Are Demands for “PLM on Demand”?

May 27, 2010

Thanks to David Isenhower  for twittering a very interesting whitepaper from Siemens IT. The name of the paper is Software as a Service (SaaS) with Sample Applications. Yesterday, I was able to get this whitepaper without any registration using this link. One of the sample applications discussed in this paper was Siemens “PLM OnDemand” TeamCenter. I believe, this is a sort of visionary evaluation, since I never heard about existance of “PLM OnDemand” TeamCenter before. However, as it seems to me, author is discussing more demand rather than the available solution and presenting the view of Siemens IT on what should be the future implementation of PLM on demand.

It made me think about how PLM can be delivered on demand. I took the proposed vision of PLM on Demand from the whitepaper mentioned above and compared it to PLM Think Tank visionary proposal.

PLM on Demand: PLM “ready to use” industry solutions.
This is a short vision for Siemen’s IT vision. The white paper defines PLM as one of the conservative areas. Companies are always concerned about investments that need to be done in PLM project. It defines a potential demand for new type of PLM solution.

CIOs may see an opportunity to decrease the overall cost of PLM solution by moving to the cloud as On-Demand Services. “Companies are always less ready and willing to bury valuable developer resources in PLM projects for months. In no other corporate process is the wheel reinvented as often as with PLM, leaving significant potential idle at the same time“. Later, in more detailed way, it explained as “…As a special multi-tenant enabled SaaS solution, PLM on Demand bundles PLM industry solutions with high-quality operation and service in a package with a usage-based price model. Options enable the package to be adapted to individual business requirements. PLM on Demand is not only a new financing and operation model however.  It primarily involves the provisioning of a preconfigured PLM application tailored to the needs of an industry. The “price” for this advantage is that the scope of freedom for individualized customer configurations is limited…“.
In addition, I see the mention that PLM solution needs to have a specific industry orientation: “…the solution offered must also actually cover the typical business requirements of the sector. This depends significantly on the sector and process know-how of the provider…“.

Alternative: PLM Marketplace On Demand
Since, I’m taking a role of “Devil Advocate” on PLM Think Tank, I’d like to introduce an alternative version of how to get into Product Lifecycle Management solution on demand. I have to say that I share Siemens’ vision about demand for low TCO solution that may solve problems of manufacturers. However, I see the future in a different direction. The way the solution can be developed will be as following:

Cloud Based Data Storage
The economy of scale can propose a more efficient solutions to store and manage data online. Design, Bill of Materials and other data can be stored on cloud and easy distributed to customers. When typical corporate email storage varies between 500MB to 1TB, cloud can offer enough data to accumulate product and manufacturing information. Just compare it to 8-10GB of Google Mail storage. I believe very few companies will build new data centers in 2010s, so to move data into the cloud will become more natural.

Application Market Place
One size doesn’t fit all. I believe manufacturing represents a special kind of “long tail” and requires a granular set of solutions to solve their problems. If I’m looking on marketplaces proposed by, new solution places developed Zoho and vision of Google Market Place, I can see it as a potential way to develop on demand services for manufacturers.

What is my conclusion? The PLM story on demand is still not discovered. I think, Siemens IT made an interesting try to present a potential for PLM on demand. It can be a choice for a big company. However, in this case, I don’t see how it will be different from delivery on premise solutions we have today. I’m looking forward to your comments and thoughts.

Best, Oleg


PLM – Move From Content to Context?

May 26, 2010

PLM is very focused on what we call content. All aspects of product design, engineering, manufacturing are around the content. We create models, drawings, structures, bills, manufacturing parts and assemblies. So, content is everywhere. However, I think, the absolute power of content is going to change soon. We are moving to the connected environment where to have a content is not enough. Our work life is combined from the set of the events or activities. Many of them are going in parallel, interrupting us, destructing our focus. To have a content doesn’t help. The question is what relevant part of content need to be available, for the moment, of time and for the specific activity.

PLM and Content
Historically, CAD and PLM applications are started from producing content. In the beginning, it was about design, afterward it shifted to other aspects of engineering and manufacturing. In addition, business models of companies in CAD and PLM space is also very dependent on content. Content generated by specific software becomes very much dependent on this software. For a very long period of time, it was a foundation of business.

Welcome To Context World
During the last ten years, we are observing a major shift in the way people are communicating. It started with telecom and internet and changed our life and business completely. In the end, function of communication became much more important. What can create this environment? In my view, context is the king of the communication. To be able to create a very effective environment becomes an urgent requirement that comes from all users. So, context becomes a platform for interaction in a modern world.

PLM In Contextual World
What context can change for PLM? In my view, it is going to shift value proposition from the system that requires to create something to the system that helps. In my view, there is a significant difference. It creates a different attitude for users. How I see PLM become contextual? One of the possible scenarios is an organization of communication and interaction between people and design and engineering content. Focused on applications for communication such as email and IM, content sharing services we can get a significant help to users in the accomplishment of their tasks.

Google Market Place and Google Contextual Gadgets
I had chance to read about Google Market Place and contextual gadgets. For me, it made perfect sense in how to transfer world to become more context oriented. When you think about an email as a primary communication tool, an ability to get contextual access to the additional information can provide a huge advantage. Think about a collection of drawings that can be displayed in the context of a specific email or email thread. You may also gain much higher user adoption by providing systems embedded into a communication environment.

Market Place is a good example of how to deliver application in the contextual manner. So, in this way, context not only create an environment for your work, but also creates a way to deliver an additional content component.

What is my conclusion? Content is a king… Long live context! There is a huge value in contextual work organization. To be able to focus on the particular set of activities and content, as well as to bring applications to do it, can be extremely beneficial. It seems to me that future PLM systems will focus on how to embed everything they are doing in the user’s communication streams. An ability to work contextually will boost performance and simplify PLM product landscape in eyes of users.

Best, Oleg


PLM-less AutoCAD Users And PLM Strategies?

May 25, 2010

A short note on WorldCAD Access by Ralf Grabowski got my attention few days ago. In a very competitive world of PLM, Ralf’s statement “PTC will bring PLM to… AutoCAD users” sounds very provoking.

I had chance to hear multiple discussions related to this topic. The most noted, in my view, is CIMData analytical work earlier this year – CIMData Entitles Autodesk’s Evolution as a PLM supplier.

I will try to clean up this space and discuss what is potential relationships between AutoCAD and PLM.

Organization, AutoCAD Users and PLM
AutoCAD is everywhere. I remember, somebody told me- you can find AutoCAD in every manufacturing organization in the world. Because of such wide adoption, every organization decided to create some of their products related information in AutoCAD. It can be data provided by suppliers, tools design and many others. For a company that doing all in 2D, AutoCAD can be still used as a design tool. In most of the cases, this status quo is absolutely not related with the potential interest of this company in Product Lifecycle Management implementation.

ProductPoint and PLM
Windchill ProductPoint implements an interesting strategy of bundling Microsoft’s SharePoint as a tool to manage CAD data, but not only. Because of wide SharePoint adoption, ProductPoint has a potential to find a path to user’s desktops in a much easier way. From the standpoint of PLM portfolio ProductPoint is just following CAD/PLM practice to get CAD data under control and enable collaboration.

PLM vision and CAD
CAD is playing a significant role in the mindshare of the top three PLM vendors. This vision primary came from CAD direction. The first objective for this type of the implementation is to get CAD data to be managed by PLM system. In my view, this strategy is different from more business oriented strategy in PLM proposed by non-CAD PLM vendors including ERP-PLM apps. There is nothing wrong with this strategy. However, it can steer PLM implementation goals from business direction and to focus on CAD data only.

What is my conclusion? Users are more interested in a practical outcome and less in marketing strategies.There are no dedicated “AutoCAD users” in an organization. Depending on the organization, people may use AutoCAD for multiple purposes, but in a manufacturing organization AutoCAD is just another tool to accomplish a task. AutoCAD data is only part of the overall product data. I think, users can appreciate the fact CAD files comes from multiple provides can be managed by a single system. So, nothing wrong with the ability of ProductPoint to manage AutoCAD files. Will it bring PLM to AutoCAD users? My guess is not. The PLM implementation is not about how to manage CAD files. However, this is an important step in the future ability to implement PLM strategy in the company.

Just my thoughts…
Best, Oleg


PLM and Scaling Options

May 24, 2010

I’ve been thinking about how possible to change PLM development trajectory and scale PLM adoption in the market. Thinking about other industries, I came to the conclusion that many of them are locked to scale because of two main reasons: 1/ it was too complex; 2/it was too expensive. It was with internet, mobile, cars, airplanes… Think about that, as soon as was possible to make it simple and cheap we got a different trajectory of scale and adoption. On the other side, scaling up industry can really make industry rich.

PLM Complexity
This topic is always trending in all conversations about PLM. Many people are arguing- PLM is too complex, PLM created a complication that prevents people from using concepts, people dislike PLM systems because they are not useful and hard to implement…. On the other side, when people can see the results of PLM implementation, they are amazed to discover how PLM implementation changed the way organization can design, manufacture, operate and, in the end, make money. So, a complexity is a number one problem that needs to be resolved in PLM. To make things simple is not a simple task. When you will watch a very old Apple’s commercials, you may understand that “thinking simple” is a long and extensive process.

PLM Cost
This is another side of PLM story. The initial PLM ideas and implementations came from the large companies. They have been unique, tailored to the specific needs and… expensive. The cost wasn’t a big issue for these companies back 15 years ago. Today, manufacturing is a different. Manufacturing is optimized. The amount of small suppliers are growing. The smaller suppliers need to optimize the way they can work. To use expensive systems probably won’t be an option to them. How we can make systems cheaper? Open source can be one of the options. I had chance to read the following article in Information Weeks couple of days ago. A very interesting example of scaling down in the cost related to SimpleGeo geographical provider:

It’s running a 50-node cluster, which spans three data centers on Amazon’s EC2 service for about $10,000 a month, says CTO Joe Stump, who previously used Cassandra at Digg. By contrast, MySQL premium support would cost about $5,000 per year per node, or $250,000 per year–more than double the Cassandra setup, Stump says, and Microsoft SQL Server can cost as much as $55,000 per processor per year.

What is my conclusion today? Scale is a hard topic. If something doesn’t work, it will be very hard to scale it up. PLM ideas are awesome. People are getting it pretty well. You can control product lifecycle, connect processes, optimize development and manufacturing, speed up innovation. However, here is the problem. PLM business doesn’t work to scale today. The two main PLM killers , in my view, are complexity and cost. We need to think how to unlock it for manufacturers to make PLM ideas to scale. What is your view on this?

Best, Oleg


Out-Of-The-Box PLM and Open Source Option

May 21, 2010

I had chance to read the story “Is PLM software OOTB Functionality a Red Herring?” by Marc Lind on Aras’ community website. I definitely can see a growing amount of debates around PLM Out-the-box story or how software vendors call it very often – Best Practices.

Do you remember the name “turnkey solution”? This is one of the previous names for out-of-the-box. Welcome! You can buy a system, turn a key on, and you are done :)… The definition of “turnkey” solution was different and changed within a time. In the beginning, it was about how to not to “rebuild” the system for every customer. Then it moved to installation option that not required 10 people work for few months to install and configured system. Finally, it comes to the point when “a turnkey” started to focus on engineering and business problems.

Engineering Foundation of Out-of-the-Box (OOTB)
The invention of OOTB system as a system that can solve engineering and business problems had very good roots. A majority of engineering and manufactures software companies were started by engineers. Engineers tried to solve problems for engineers and definitely could find a solution. After the problem was solved for more than one customer, the obvious question was how to scale up?  There are few possible ways to move forward – to create a configurable and modular system or to open system to be modified and adjusted by customers themselves and partners. Vendors tried to solve both. The first seems to be complicated. The second was expensive and long in time.

Marketing Damage
At the time engineering tried to solve a problem of how to configure systems to fit needs of different customers, marketing came with a nice proposal to re-sell existing customer implementation packed as best practice solutions . Basically, it was a good idea – why not to re-use existing experience with customers? The implementations done by many of them represented state of the art and considered as best in their class. However, here the problem- engineers are not running their shops in the say ways. They strongly believe in their uniqueness and specific manufacturing practices. The marketing story becomes a story of long implementation cycles after deals were closed and money paid.

Open Source Option?
There are two important aspects of open source that can give a potential chance to PLM open source to grow in a current situation. The first is emotional – you are not paying upfront, and you pay for maintenance and support. Even if everybody understood that the same or comparable amount of money can be paid in different ways, it creates a social empathy to the solution. Second one is real – you can have a wider distribution of software. By doing so, open source creates the situation where the effect of scale can be significant and crowd sourcing will become a real option.  So, I see community building as a top factor that can make PLM open source real. In the case engineers will start to collaborate, it can create a potential network effect.

What is my conclusion? Selling Enterprise Software is a hard job these days. People stopped buying marketing stories. They need software to solve problems today and not tomorrow. Out-of-the-box started as an initiative to compensate long, complicated and expensive implementation cycle. The fundamental idea was simple- you pay more, but you can take a system and work now. One of the reasons it wasn’t successful is in the nature of manufacturing organization. If you talk to PLM vendors, they will give you PDM CAD document management as an example of the successful out-of-the-box functionality. However, when it is probably easy to agree on check-in/check-out/release commands, it won’t be so easy to produce “the universal change management module”. In my view, PLM needs to run a recovery mode now to get back from spectacular marketing presentation to nuts and bolts of engineering and manufacturing implementations.

Just my thoughts…
Best, Oleg



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