The complexity of engineering and manufacturing software is a well-known fact. The topic isn’t really new. For the last couple of years the complexity topic came to me in different context and various forms. Two weeks ago, I was writing about that in my blog – PLM: Data, Search and Future User Experience. If you haven’t had a chance to read it, please take a look.
One of my working hypotheses these days is that consumer market and consumer software provides a significant injection of ideas for user experience. In parallel consumer behaviors of web and other software are changing state of mind of many end users. I was reading an article outline from Gartner about consumer trends that impact technology. I found this write up quite interesting. Navigate your browser to the following link to read it – Gartner Outlines 10 Consumer Macro Trends to Impact Technology, Media and Service Providers for Next 10 Years and have a read. This passage is my favorite one.
Market Trend No. 9 — The Death of Complexity
The consumer market is becoming progressively less tolerant of complexity. Although consumers tend to buy products with ever-richer features, they often prefer those that are simple and intuitive. The ability to provide appealing and intuitive user interfaces has become a critical point of differentiation among competing technology providers. As technology becomes more complex, vendors need to invest more in keeping the user interface simple and intuitive. T&SPs therefore need to focus on simplifying technology, pricing, brand messaging, and feedback and interaction, and consider offering chargeable help services for consumers challenged by installing and configuring new equipment and services in their homes.
It made me think that fighting complexity will be one of the most critical elements of the future CAD/PLM vendor strategies. I was looking on what CAD/PLM companies are doing these days. I can summarize it in the following 3 directions:
1- Leverage OS user experience.
This direction was very popular in the past. In the world of Microsoft Windows dominance, to adopt OS user experience and make your application transparent is an interesting decision. It started from leveraging File Explorer UI and continue towards deeper integration with Microsoft Office, SharePoint and other systems. The examples are SolidWorks EPDM, PTC Windchill and few others.
2- Mimic successful web application in consumer market
Web is the source of inspiration for many startup companies and well established brands in CAD / PLM. The most popular elements of use experience that companies have tried to use were – Google search and Social Networking. The experiments presented by Siemens PLM as Active Workspace is one of the examples. Dassault came with Exalead search SBA, but I have never seen something that was delivered in this space by Exalead after DS acquisition.
3- 3D and Gaming
Because design content in CAD is visual and in many cases is 3D, companies have tried to use gaming analogies to develop the next successful user experience in this space. 3DLive from Dassault was clearly pioneering in this space by delivering their 3DLive. These days, I want to mention Siemens PLM Active Workspace. It is another interesting experience of mixing of 3D and search experience.
What is my conclusion? The death of the complexity is here. PLM and other software vendors in the manufacturing and engineering space need to take a note. The user experience will not be set by enterprise monsters. New generation of people will not tolerate the complex PLM software. This is a time to rest the expectations. Just my thoughts…