Social PLM: From File Explorer to Activity Streams

Social hype is getting down. I can say it about PLM industry too. We can see less “social startups” and less marketing hype about how next big social revolution will come and solve all existing problems in PLM technologies and systems. If you want to catch up with my previous thoughts about social PLM, I recommend you to read – How to prevent social PLM from marketing fluff? and Why Social PLM 1.0 Failed? My conclusion about the failure of Social PLM focused on the fact “social PLMs” missed the value of customer function and instead of that, focused on value proposition only. As a result of that, they missed usage and customer adoption – two factors that absolutely important to make a shift in PLM systems.

It is interesting to see how social systems are expanding their influence in other enterprise systems like CRM and ERP. One of them is Chatter for Salesforce.com. I’ve been reading TechCrunch article about Chatter update for mobile yesterday. Navigate to the following link to read it – The New Salesforce.com CRM Platform Is Chatter And It’s Made For Mobile. What was interesting is how Chatter is proliferating to become a universal way to get information out of CRM system and communicate with other people. It made me think about social system and shifting paradigm from File Explorer way to Social way. Here is an interesting passage I captured:

Chatter, the company’s activity stream service that it launched in 2010, now has the capability for a customer to access records, edit them and take action on an account, all from a mobile device. It essentially brings CRM to the customer’s mobile phone, iPad or tablet. The updated app is now available in the Apple App Store and Google Play. The app is a significant improvement over the Salesforce.com mobile app, and has one feature that is particularly noteworthy. Chatter Publisher overlays the Chatter activity stream. Its look is reminiscent of the tiles feature on Windows Mobile Phone and the overall Windows UI.

File Exporer Paradigm

For a long time, File Explorer was a main user experience paradigm we had on the computer. File explorer was with us from early days of Windows. File explorer (folder) paradigm expanded with the tools like Outlook and becomes even wider discovery paradigm for information – folders / hierarchical discovery.

File explorer paradigm expanded even into first versions of mobile devices. On the following picture you can see an early version of mobile device UI also presenting sort of file explorer.

PDM/PLM systems are inherited File Explorer paradigm in many ways. Most of successful PDM projects inherited File Explorer user experience because it was familiar and usable. Even today, many PLM UIs looks like File Explorer.

Social Paradigm

Social paradigm roots are taking us to early days of social networks. It started as a communication tools only (messaging, chatting) and expanded as a tools to share content among group of people (Twitter, Facebook, Google+). The function of content share became even more important when mobile came to place. The ability to embed content such as video, photos in communication expanded the reach and value of these tools. The information delivery model shifted from “folder, file and share” to “activity stream with embedded content” coming from social peers.

Enterprise vendors took the activity stream paradigm beyond the point of photo/video sharing. Social applications like Chatter and others are helping you to share information content coming from files and other enterprise application in the way similar to Facebook and Google+ are sharing photos and videos. The last Chatter update just proved it again.

What is my conclusion? Shifting paradigms. In my view, we see it just in front of our eyes. What was obvious and straightforward experience for PDM/PLM systems for the last decade will become a nonsense for the generation of 2010s customers. People want their working environment to have the same experience as games, internet and mobile devices today. I can see “activity streams” paradigm as an an interesting experience that will displace current enterprise systems UI in many places. I don’t expect enterprise systems to be like Facebook. However, I think social applications will play a significant role in the future of user experience. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

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