Why Social PLM 1.0 Failed?

January 7, 2013

What do you think about "social PLM" trend? I don’t see many cheerleaders of social PLM nowadays. The excitement and social PLM fluff is over. Some of these companies turned into boring "collaborating utilities" with a flavor or enterprise security. Some of companies produced good "facebook user experience clones" and got acquired by enterprise vendors. Overall, "social" didn’t created a revolution in PLM. So, it is a good time to think about what happened and learn lessons for the future.

I’ve been reading A VC blog by Fred Willson of Union Ventures. Read this short article – Single User Utility In A Social System. The conclusion of Fred about single utility resonated. Fred brings "delicious example", which is very good in my view. Here is my favorite passage:

One of the most important lessons we took from delicious was the value of single user utility in social systems. It might seem odd that systems designed to leverage interactions between people can have (should have?) single person utility. But I strongly believe they should. The first users of delicious were barely aware of and rarely used its social aspects. They just wanted to store their bookmarks in the cloud instead of in their browser. And they liked the tag based classification system. And they liked being able to use their links from any device. That was the single person utility delicious was built on. But because bookmarks were public by default which resulted in most links being shared with others, a large social system developed. The delicious popular page was an important web destination in its day and most of those visitors never posted a link to delicious. They consumed others’ links.

I’d bring few additional examples. First – photo sharing websites. Most of them started as a place for photographers to keep their photos and only after added an additional function of sharing photos. Another one – GPS navigation, which originally single utility function. Then we can see "social navigation" system like Waze created social value beyond this single function.

Social PLM focus on "collaboration" was a right one. However, it missed a single function that can provide an ultimate value to a single user. What is that function? I can speculate it is the ability to share and manage data supplied be a single user. Similar to photo websites and later to many other Web 2.0 sites, a single content creation and management function was missed. With more systems moving to cloud today, we have a chance to fix this problem.

What is my conclusion? When it comes to enterprise software, value proposition is a key element in a sales process. Nothing wrong here. However, it was a point where "social PLM 1.0" activities failed. Most of social PLM products and initiatives were too focused on company value proposition and missed a single "user function" that can make them useful for people in a company first. However, you cannot stop people from innovation. Next wave of social initiatives is coming and it won’t miss single user function to make it successful.

Best, Oleg


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