Drawing Callouts and Future Google PLM Design

June 27, 2014

google-material-design

For me, Google is one of the symbols of simple software design. Therefore, Google developers event is always a good place to get inspired with ideas and new technologies. Google I/O was this week in San Francisco. I had now chance to attend the event, but was able to watch video streaming of keynote and few other sessions. One of the things Google introduced this year was Material Design - a new approach to rethink user experience to make it more natural, consistent and clean. Watch the following video to learn more.

Material design presentation made me think again about how to develop simple PLM experience. The topic isn’t new. I’ve been talking about it already for few years. Remember my presentation almost 3 years ago at AU 2011?

future-plm-ux

The time of complex and cumbersome enterprise user experience is finally over. Simplicity is an obsessive motto of every enterprise software company these days. However, to develop good UX is a big deal. It requires time and effort. “Don’t make me think” is my favorite quote by Steve Krug about how to develop good UI. How to do so? This is a tricky question. In my view, one of the key elements of this process is to capture elements of well known customer behaviors. You need to learn how people work today. It is extremely hard to change existing user behaviors.

I’ve been reading GrabCAD blog post -BOM Find Numbers: Don’t Get Too Attached. Read the article – it is short and sweet. I’m sure you are familiar with “drawing callout” and find numbers. It was absolutely must feature on paper drawing. Should we keep them in the future? This is a question Ed Lopategui is asking in his post? His conclusion – not really. Here is a passage explaining that:

Find numbers will make little sense in the future, so it’s probably best for everyone if you don’t get too attached to them. There will come a day where the find number is finally retired, and we can move on to the next chapter of BOM management. How can you get to that future faster, you might ask? That’s the easy part: move away from all those outdated BOM authoring tools (like Excel for one), and adopt a modern, integrated BOM editing capability.

bom-find-numbers

I liked BOM find numbers example. New technologies can clearly help us to interlink between BOM and 3D models. It is good to shift away from managing Bill of Materials in Excel spreadsheets. At the same time, maybe we need to think twice and not to kill familiar user behavior and experience? Maybe we can re-use it for the future clean user interface design. Users are familiar with existing experience and it can help them to understand how to use the system.

What is my conclusion? Existing engineering behaviors have long history going back to drawing boards, paper drawing and engineers collaborating live in one room. Digital technologies are ripping off these behaviors. We create digital models and collaborate using internet and computer screens. New ideas and technologies are good. At the same time, it is might be a good idea to learn from existing behaviors and preserve some of them in the way that will simplify digital collaboration and design. It will definition good for user adoption. What to keep and how to combine existing behaviors and technologies? This is a very good question. I’m sure it will inspire PLM innovators for coming years. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


Box-Streem and new faces of cloud PDM competition

June 26, 2014

box-streem-pdm

The race toward efficient cloud sharing of files and other information is heating up. While typical photo sharing application is mostly relies on the ability of smartphone and photo app to capture and share photo, the story is completely different for CAD and engineering data. There are pros and cons to have special CAD file sharing tool. I covered it here last year.

The simplicity and cost of generic cloud services is competing with the ability to be integrated with CAD systems and provide CAD independent viewing services. However, here is a challenge both generic and special file sharing services are facing – how to connect to the massive amount of data located on desktop computers and enterprise network drives. To crunch CAD data, bring it up to the cloud and keep updated in sync with local storage is not simple task.

I’ve been reading about Box acquisition of Streem few days ago. Navigate to BOX blog to read more – Box Acquiring Streem: Bringing the Cloud to your Desktop. Box is an interesting outfit. The main difference from services like Dropbox, Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive is a complete focus on enterprise. And it explains their focus on desktop and other local data. Pay attention to the following passage:

Streem has developed amazing technology that allows you to mount a cloud drive onto your computer — making documents, presentations, videos and files available to you without the limitations of your local hard-disk, effectively turning the cloud into an “unlimited” drive. Rather than files living directly on your computer’s disk, they are instead securely “streamed” to you on demand when you need to interact with them. And to further optimize the experience and support low-bandwidth environments, Streem has developed enhanced video and media streaming technology to ensure content is accessible from the cloud as fast as it is locally.

Manufacturing (and not only) companies are clearly on the path of Box and Streem.

For customers across data-intensive industries like Media & Entertainment, Oil & Gas, Healthcare, and Manufacturing, this means instant access to far larger volumes of data than what your local drives can support. For enterprises in regulated industries like Life Sciences and Financial Services, it means better protection and control of information and where it lives.

BOX-Streem made me think again about PDM cloud competition. The ability to cope with massive amount of data can provide an easy path to sync all CAD (and related data) to the cloud using future BOX generic service. What called StreemFS (cloud file system) can generically support not only CAD files, which will simplify the work for IT-related people. The challenge for BOX will be to integrate viewer and other specific CAD related features allowing to manage CAD data in more granular way.

What is my conclusion? Cloud companies will keep challenging Cloud PDM services. Scale, simplicity and cost are clearly advantages on the side of companies like Google, Microsoft, Dropbox and Box. It will be very easy for cloud PDM vendors to bring more specific CAD -related functions. It was done in the past when CAD/PDM vendors competed with SharePoint and other content / document management systems. The result was bad – extra complexity and lower adoption rate. We are going to see future trajectories of specialized vendors to balance between features and complexity. Interesting balance to keep. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


Security and permissions are showstoppers to adopt search

June 25, 2014

search-top-secret

Search and information discovery is a big deal these days. Inspired by Google and other web search giants, we want information at our fingertips at the right time. I’ve been following topic of search long time. You can jump on few of my previous articles about search – Oslo & Grap – new trajectories in discovery and search; Why engineers need exploratory search? and Pintrest will teach CAD companies to search.

You may think cost and complexity are top problems of search technologies. Crunching lots of data and connecting relevant information requires application of right resources and skills. You will be surprised, but there is one more element that drives low adoption of search in manufacturing companies – security.

Information age articles Enterprise search adoption remains low – survey speaks about survey done among 300 Enterprise IT professionals conducted by Varonis Systems. According to this survey – enterprises are afraid good search solution will allow to people o find information with no permission. Here is the passage which explains that:

The respondents were surveyed at two major security-themed industry events, the RSA Conference in February and Infosecurity Europe in April. When asked to choose the biggest obstacle to enterprise search adoption, 68% cited the risk of employees locating and accessing files they should not have permission to view. Further, even if an enterprise search solution perfectly filters out results based on established permissions, the majority of respondents indicated they are not confident that their organisation’s existing permissions are accurate. Additional obstacles to enterprise search adoption most commonly cited were accuracy of the results (36%), end user adoption (29%) and the ability of solutions to scale enough to index all the data (24%).

It made me think about complexity of manufacturing companies and enterprise organization in general. Established permissions are part of the story. The search results permissions are as good as data that enterprise systems are supplying to search software. GIGO (Grabage in, Garbage out). For many IT organization, management of security and permissions is a big deal. Think about typical manufacturing company. Tomorrow, search system can find all CAD files that were occasionally copy/pasted in different locations and shared between organizations outside of existing PDM/PLM tools. What else, multiple "publishing solutions" created variety of published copies in different formats. Add SharePoint and similar technologies sometimes adopted by divisions against approvals of central IT. Good search solution can be a litmus test to many IT organizations.

What is my conclusion? Manufacturing enterprises are complex. As I described, it driven by strategic, political and cultural lines. Search is disruptive technology that has a possibility to cross these lines and expose many elements of corporate IT problems. So, once more, we learn that only mix of technological and people skills can solve the problem. Strategists and technologist of search vendors should take a note. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

[categories Daily PLM Think Tank]


PLM, demolishing silos and closed BOM loop

June 24, 2014

bom-closed-loop

Product development and manufacturing is getting more complex every day. The complexity comes from both direction – product definition complexity and globalization in manufacturing, supply and customer experience. As we move towards future cloud software, the importance of data platforms is growing even more. For the last 15-20 years, we are living in a realm of siloed and fragmented parts of business applications. Integration and connectivity heavily relies on integration services and expensive integration toolkits.

PLM vendors understand the importance of broader integration beyond engineering department. We can see it in the strategies and acquisition patterns. The following two examples can show you what I mean. Navigate to the following article by Engineering.com – "Demolish the silos in PLM": Why Dassault’s Bernard Charles believes in the 3D Experience is explaining the vision and strategy of Dassault. The following passage is my favorite:

The zero error BOM (Bill of Materials) demands a zero file solution. 3DEXPERIENCE brings the zero file world into the engineering environment; what we do is to connect directly to product data, not to files”. Every company has a promise to their customers and that promise is eventually realized through a value creation process that touches many different points within an organization. Now, to ensure that a brand promise is consistently and sustainably delivered it has to be managed across the entire enterprise, and we have assembled the necessary IT tools.” He adds that so far PLM has just been about helping companies to develop their products, ”But the world has moved beyond the product; the end-customers are demanding experiences around the product” and the secret of market success is to be able to innovate not only on the product, but also on the experience.

Another example came recently from PTC Live 2014 forum in Boston. The following blog post by Monica Schnitger gives you a very good outline and links to keynotes video recording. However, my attention was caught by another blog by Joe Barkai – Closed Loop PLM. Joe outlines PTC vision to connect important lifecycle tools in a single product lifecycle workflow. Here is the passage explaining that:

While the vision – and company executives acknowledged it’s still a vision rather than a product roadmap – is correct, the tools and “solutions” in PTC’s portfolio are separated by a noncontiguous business strategy (SLM and ThingWorx operate as separate business units), and by the lack of a digital backbone, shared data models, common taxonomies and unified workflows. It will be interesting to see how PTC is going to move from a strategically rich but fragmented portfolio to realizing a connected PLM architecture.

Sooner than later, PLM vendors will come with platform strategies and implementation that connecting complicated product lifecycle. Meantime, engineering, manufacturing, supply and consumer spaces are disconnected and can create some real problems. Few days ago, I stumbled on a very interesting article – Keep a sharp eye on SSD bill of materials by DIGISTOR. The article takes you to the reality of disconnected Bill of Materials between OEM manufacturers, suppliers and consumers. Read the article and draw your opinion. Here is my favorite passage

It appears that manufacturer PNY Technologies has committed the same sin, releasing SSDs with varying BoMs. A TweakTown reader contacted Ramseyer and described how the SSD that the individual purchased did not feature a BoM that matched up with one previously reviewed on the website. According to Ramseyer, that reader bought the PNY product because of his glowing assessment of its performance. Because of the shifting BoM, however, that individual’s SSD did not hit the same benchmarks. A representative from PNY admitted that the company had shipped out SSDs with disparate BoMs, qualifying the move by noting that all of its products fall within "minimum advertised performance levels." When manufacturers neglect to lock down the components within their BoMs, consumers and business users may wind up with a product that doesn’t meet their expectations.

What is my conclusion? To close product lifecycle loop from product requirements to actually physical devices with specific supplied components is a big challenge. It requires significant coordination and integration between applications and data sources. I can see the intent of PLM vendors to come with platforms and solutions. Cloud technologies will play a significant role in the way companies will try to demolish silos and synchronize data across multiple application boundaries. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


You need PLM project to fail… to start lifecycle

June 23, 2014

plm-project-failure

One day you discover that your PLM implementation project is not doing so well. It happens and it called failure. Scott Cleveland’s blog took me back to the topic of PLM implementation failures. Unfortunately, I didn’t find the link on CIMdata research to read the paper mentioned by Scott. According to the post, wrong scoping and failure to get buy-in from users are on the topic of the list. Not a surprise.

Failure is not such a rare situation in IT world. Google "IT project failure" and your can quickly discover that 68% of all IT projects fail. Few months ago, I had long discussion around my Why PLM stuck in PDM? article on LinkedIn. I cannot publish all comments from closed discussion group, but the question about "how to identify what is PLM project failure" was one of the dominant topics in the discussion. Guess what… no agreement about how to identify "Failed PLM project". Few other notable references on PLM failure publications: PLM Failure, you didn’t see anything; Keynote presentation by Martin Eigner on ProSTEP iViP Symposium 2009.

Unfortunately, most of PLM events and publication are placing shining picture of success on their PLM references. The problem that all these successes looks the same. It is time to remember Leo Tolstoy passage from Ana Karenina – Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. One of the interesting place to learn about failures is to attend FailCon – the conference for startup founders to study their own and others’ failures. There is no PLM Failure Con… yet. And I doubt companies will be ready to do so.

Reading and discussing PLM failure articles, made me think that you really want your first PLM project to fail. Why so? Here are few thoughts…

Challenge the status quo. As people often say – PLM exists in every manufacturing company. You do product lifecycle management by the way you manage product development processes, store data, communicate within organization and with outside contractors. At the first attempt you will try to build PLM system that mimic all existing practices. I’ve heard it many times – if you have a mess, don’t bring a computer. Otherwise, you will have computerized mess. First, fix the mess, then bring computers.

Get rid of outdated stuff. Every manufacturing company usually trailing lots of existing software and practices. It is hard to cut the cord and switch and leave outdated stuff behind you. PLM project failure can bring an awareness to the problem and force company to make a change. It is hard to company and people to admit they do something wrong. Especially if they do it many years.

Learn as you go. You have the best chance to learn when you actually do something. Regardless on your experience, every manufacturing company is different. How to see that new system will fit? Put it in action! When it comes to people, they only way to see if it works is to try it. Then you fail and only after, find the right way to do it right.

Think about your PLM system in the same way you think about product development processes. Your design doesn’t fit manufacturing plan, some requirements are failing to communicate and some of them got misunderstood. Your first manufactured item fails and you need to fix issues. These are absolutely normal thing for every manufacturing company. Your PLM is not much different.

What is my conclusion? Failure is not an option is probably wrong PLM implementation strategy. Opposite to that, you need to bring it fast, engage with users, fail, fix it and bring back fixed. Lifecycle. This is the only way to make it right. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


What makes “cloud” a good alternative for PDM system?

June 20, 2014

cloud-pdm-selection

It has been a year since I published my How to select PDM system in 5 simple steps? Engineering.com article The Difference Between Cloud-based and Traditional PDM made me think it is a good time to re-evaluate my writing and see if I need to correct my recommendations. Note, Engineering.com article is paid promotion by GrabCAD. However, as stated in the bottom of the page – GrabCAD haven’t had an editorial input to the post.

The article makes a comparison between traditional PDM and Cloud PDM for three different customer segments – small, medium and large. It brings some very good characteristics of these environments in terms of how companies work, IT capacities, process maturity, etc. Nevertheless, with different pros and cons, after all, the conclusion is simple and straightforward – Cloud PDM maybe an option for all these companies. Here is a passage which explains that:

Whether you are a part of small, medium, or large business, it is clear that cloud-based PDM has a lot more to offer than file system management and in some cases more than traditional PDM. While traditional PDM has been around long enough to be a mature product, there is no such thing as an off-the-shelf installation. Traditional PDM requires experts trained in the front-end and back-end administration. It also requires significant investment in hardware and infrastructure.

The article is long and contains comparison tables. It took me some time to review all of them. I’ve been looking how to capture the enhancement of my simplified PDM selection process. After few reads of the documents, I finally got what I need. Here is my +3 points to PDM selection process:

1. Global access to CAD data: If global access to CAD data is important, you can get significant advantage from cloud PDM system. You will have much simpler access including mobile application option.

2. CAD / PDM integration. Cloud PDM still requires integration with CAD environment and this is important for all types of companies (in my view, this is a missing point in the article, which points on integration needs only for medium-size companies). So, in case, there is no specific CAD plug-in for cloud PDM, you might prefer traditional PDM environment.

3. Cost. Cloud PDM will shift your PDM expenses into operational cost. It is hard to say something about TCO and ROI, but clearly, you will be able to run PDM environment with much lower upfront cost.

If you are interested to read more about Cloud PDM alternative, I can recommend you the following article – Lightweight CAD Management using the Cloud by Jim Brown. The following passage is my favorite:

Living in an unmanaged, manual environment is highly inefficient and prone to errors. For companies that have outgrown chaos and are tired of crossing their fingers and hoping they don’t order or produce the wrong part, it’s time for a practical solution. Fortunately, there are more options available today than ever before, including new cloud-based tools. It’s time for a rational discussion to explore the basic requirements for CAD data management and discuss whether they can be achieved without the cost and complexity that make traditional solutions impractical for many smaller manufacturers.

What is my conclusion? If you have reliable internet connection and not very complicated IT landscape you can find cloud PDM gives you overall advantage in terms of cost and accessibility. If you have complex integration requirements, traditional PDM will be a better option for you. Larger companies might decide to implement multiple PDM systems anyway to match multiple CAD systems environment and/or facilitate work with suppliers via cloud PDM options. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Picture courtesy of GrabCAD.com


PLM for Small Teams – Autonomous Alignment

June 19, 2014

future-of-plm-for-sme

This week is very fruitful for PLM events. PTC Live 2014, Siemens PLM connection, GrabCAD media event. Twitter and other social networks can help you catch up with multiple events at the same time with minimum time. So, in 1-2 hours, you can get up to speed with news and updates. Chad Jackson’s and Allan Behrens’ tweets from GrabCAD media event turned my head back to small companies and customers that not using PDM/PLM systems these days.

"Per an @SiemensPLM research report, only 70% of #CAD user utilize #PDM." @hardi_meybaum @GrabCAD briefing; @hardi_Maybaum @grabcad says that 70% of cad users don’t use PDM or PLM. That’s their target market.

In one of my earlier posts I wrote – Why PLM stuck to provide solution for SME? Low cost and efficiency – these are two topics on the list of PLM characteristics to be delivered to smaller companies. Easy to say, but very hard to achieve. CAD /PLM vendors are trying to get it done for the last couple of decades. I’ve been scratching my head trying to think what else can be done by PLM vendors to become more successful in SME manufacturing eco-system.

One of the trends that getting more visible these days is related to growing dominance of small organizations or groups. Large companies leaning towards small team to get more agile and efficient. Agile development methods. Two pizza box teams. Many other buzzwords…

My attention caught the following blog post – Cells, Pods, and Squads: The Future of Organizations is Small. Article speaks about what can future organization looks like. Read the article and draw your opinion. Here is my favorite passage that speaks about matrix product organization:

At Spotify, engineers and product people work within a kind of matrix organization that evolved out of a need to scale agile teams. Their basic unit or “cell” is called a “squad,” a cross-functional, self-organizing, co-located team of less than eight people that has autonomy on what to build and how. While each squad has a mission to work towards, they still have to harmonize across many levels — on product, company priorities, strategies, and other squads. The trick, Kniberg explains, is not to frame autonomy and alignment as poles on a spectrum but as dimensions. The goal is high autonomy/high alignment within this framework.

I liked the term – autonomous alignment. You may ask me how is it connected to PLM? Here is the thing… Majority of PLM systems today are designed for high level of alignment and low autonomy. PLM is focusing on how to support processes, getting people fill their role in the process. Then PLM can run the show. The combination of high autonomy and high alignment doesn’t fit existing top-down hierarchical PLM models.

What is my conclusion? Old technology, new reality. This is what happens with PLM these days. And this is what happens in many small organizations. Existing PLM experience doesn’t fit. Try to apply existing PLM products cause failure and inefficiency. New type of systems needed – flexible, agile and social. It will help people to get work done autonomously and keep the alignment on goals, data, processes, deliveries and, what is more important, company outcome. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Photo credit idonethis.com blog.


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