Why Social PLM 1.0 Failed?

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

3 Responses to Why Social PLM 1.0 Failed?

  1. Jim Brown says:

    What metrics do you use for failure? The factors I see are:
    – The hype has calmed down
    – The entire PLM ecosystem didn’t change overnight
    I sugges those two things were entirely predictable. You could use many models to explain why that would happen, the one that comes to mind for me is the Gartner “hype cycle.” It is not a failure, it is the reality that we as an industry were (are) trying to figure out the best way to take advantage of it.
    I don’t disagree with having a single system (I brushed my teeth with wasabi on Tech4PD for my belief). But, I don’t think it’s realistic to think that a single solution will be solution for everyone. One reason is. That it is often harder to organize implementation of new features (assuming you have PLM). Another is the fact we hit in collaboration all of the time – suppliers, customers, and partners are not likely on the same system as you and solutions that fit “in between” are attractive.
    I would say we are on the path to an inevitable transformation, and if you take a long view we are still early in learning and adopting what will eventually be second nature.
    To be fair, I firmly believe it will be a part of all viable enterprise solutions. But I don’t think the fully integrated solution is the only path.
    My 2 cents. Sorry not to provide links, I am on my phone.
    Thanks for sparking the debate (at least I think you sparked one). ;-)
    All the best in 2013,

  2. Jim, good point to bring Gartner hype cycle into this conversation. Thanks for you comment! The expectation from adding “social” tag to PLM were set way to high 2-3 years ago. So, in a short cycle, i consider it as a failure. On a wider horizon, it is a time to figure out how to leverage that. Best, Oleg

  3. […] me think about how to find a single utility for user in that context. As Jim Brown mentioned in his comment earlier, the social hype calmed down and PLM eco-system didn’t change overnight. All together […]

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