PLM Social Detours

August 18, 2010

I had a chance to read Enterprise Road Kill by The Vuuch Voice. The discussion Chris suggested in his post is going around usage of social tools in the enterprises. The idea of using social web experience in PLM is actively discussed by many people these days. Just to mention few references. Jim Brown published a very interesting publication Why Facebook Fail for Product Development? PTC is investing in Social Product Development with the new ProductPoint based on SharePoint’s social tools. In one of my previous posts, I discussed “Top 3 elements of successful social PLM strategy” – data, connectivity and devices. According to Chris, Enterprise Social Systems (ESS is a new invented term) will be capable of provide a better model for applying social software principles in organizations. In comparison to consumer social model of “following” or “friends”, the new ESS model defines “content” as a fundamental differentiation factor. It made me think in a broader scope of enterprise software trends and problems new software can solve for enterprise organizations.

Enterprise 2.0 Trend
E 2.0 is about to bring all experience of Web 2.0 and social web sites to enterprise. Thinking in the context of manufacturing organization is about to change the way people communicate. Nowadays, people can communicate easy online via IM, Skype, Facebook, Twitter and other social tools and websites. However, life is not as good inside of enterprise organizations. There are lots of rigid, complex and cumbersome tools. The implementations are long and expensive. Enterprise 2.0 supposed to change it.

Social vs. Collaborative
This is an interesting comparison, in my view. The “social web” or Web 2.0 was created as a web of collaborators. This is Wikipedia’s definition: The term Web 2.0 is commonly associated with web applications that facilitate interactive information sharing, interoperability, user-centric design and collaboration on the World Wide Web. Thinking about buzzword’s simplification, I need to replace a word “social” to “collaborative”. So, the fundamental question is how to re-use Web 2.0 technological and user experience to provide a better collaborative solution for organizations.

Content is a King
What make Web 2.0 powerful? This is my ultimative answer – content! Photo, video, blog article, message, comments – these are all elements of Web 2.0 content. What happens in the enterprise organization? Email is the mainstream content used by everybody in the organization. In order to collaborate successfully, the appropriated content need to be shared between people. Emails and Excel are two major tools that used today to successfully share content to collaborate between people. Rest of the tools is either complicated or very expensive or both.

Social Detour
What social detour can be provided by new tools to resolve problems related to people’s collaboration? I found the following quote from Chris’s post interesting:

OK so why not make the PLM tools social? PLM tools cannot be social. PLM targets structure, control and is only embraced by a small number of users. Design issues are connected to everyone in the enterprise and cross multiple applications. Imagine a simple design problem that connects together a purchase order, a part and people from purchasing, the vendor and engineering. This simple problem touches the CAD and ERP systems and maybe PLM (in many cases it would not), but most certainly it connects to people who will never be a PLM user.

If we want to address issues that require involvement of many people in the enterprise, we need to have a tool that everybody can use. Obvious. These tools need to use PLM content to collaborate. All major PLM providers are experimenting with social technologies to improve their collaboration tools. PTC Social Product Development with SharePoint, DS Social Innovation with BlueKiwi,Siemens with HD3D and TC communities. PLM is pretending on the role of a tool (or set of tools) that allows to everybody in the organization to collaborate on product design issues. However, this is not what happens. The reality is that Email and Excel are these tools today. PLM social detour is about how to improve PLM or create a new tool that can be used by broader community of people in the organization to collaborate. Web 2.0 and other social software experience can definitely help. To find appropriated Web 2.0 tools technologies and practices is the right way to do it.

What is my conclusion? PLM doesn’t proliferate well in organizations. The main reasons are complexity and cost of implementations. However, there is a need for better mainstream collaboration in the product development organization. Enterprise 2.0 trend presented a set of interesting options related to broad introduction of Web 2.0 technologies and experience of social websites (Facebook, Twitter and others). Will it serve as a “social detour” to take product development collaboration on the next level? This is a valid and important question, in my view.

Best, Oleg

PLM Collaboration: 5 Questions to Ask Before You Make a Choice

August 3, 2010

Collaboration is a widely used term, and I found it sometime even overused. Collaborative development, Collaborative PDM, Collaborative PLM, Collaborative design, etc. Collaboration market has grown rapidly over the past few years with many companies are trying to get slice of this huge market space. However, I found, people usually can be confused when they need to decide about what collaboration tool to choose. So, I wanted to come with this list of questions that may help you in during this choice.

1. Where will your team be working?
This is a very important question to answer. Despite a wide adoption of the internet, the availability of high-quality fast internet lines is going down significantly if you move outside of North America and Europe. You need to take into account how the tool of your choice will perform in such a situation.

2. What is the scalability of a tool?
Another, obvious, but extremely important case is a scalability factor. How the tool will be able to scale up. There are multiple characteristics, I’d propose to use here: 1/ the ability for more than 2 people to participate in a collaborative session; 2/ the ability to scale up with the number of people in an organization; 3/ ability to run multiple collaboration sessions concurrently.

3. What is the level of integration?
You definitely want to have a tool that able to provide you integration with your environment – operation systems, virtual environments, design tools and many others. For design and product development, the integration with CAD viewers, CAD systems and other specific tools can be a significant portion of your decision.

4. How stable is a company producing the tool?
There are two main criteria you want to analyze with regards to a company-vendor stability. 1/ the newcomer factor; 2/ merger and acquisition factor. There are many newcomers who are trying to provide solutions in this space. You want to estimate the level of risk in working with a new vendor. Another one, you need to estimate what is the potential of a company-vendor to be acquired and stop providing a support for functions that will be important for you.

5. How bleeding edge do you need to be?
This is last, but not least. New technologies are fascinating and important. However, you need to decide and balance between new technological beta versions and stable applications that need to be used in a production environment. Your team will not appreciate multiple disconnects, interruptions and other “premature effects” that usually coming with new products.

What is the conclusion? Collaborative tools are very important, in my view. Global development environment, manufacturing and need to support your customers and vendors can put collaboration tools in the list of mission critical applications.

I know, it is hard to come with a short list. Nevertheless, this is my initial shot. I’m looking forward to hearing if you had an experience in your decisions related to collaborative tools. Please share it with me.

Best, Oleg

Social PLM: More Syndication and Less Communities

July 7, 2010

I’ve been thinking more about what are the gaps in taking PLM to the next level of collaboration. Social trend started on Web 2.0 sites got explored more and growing Facebook population is just another confirmation of the fact that people are looking for new ways to communicate and work together.In the past few months I had chance to share my thoughts about how I see PLM development catching up with various social trends. Facebook is having the most strong influences on the way social aspects of PLM can be developed for the future. You can take a look on my previous posts related to this topic:

The ABC of PLM Facebooking
PLM and Facebook Open Graph
How To Facebook PLM?

Facebook and Content

In my view, content is one of the big misleading elements of Facebook’s strategies. Lots of people are thinking about Facebook as an ultimate way to generate content. However, posting content to Facebook is not creating desired effect. Facebook is predominantly about people communication and not content creation. I found a very interesting observation about what Facebook is doing in Ken Auletta’s book – Googled.

The comparison of Facebook with phone communication where all participants are on the same line made me think there is a potential to create some similarity in product development organization.

Communication and Context
When Facbook is associated with a single phone conversation, it may not be so practical to be implemented exactly in the same for the business in an organization. The biggest difference, in my view, is that fact business by definition cannot be focused on a single conversation between friends. People in the business can have multiple contexts that create need to communicate. There are many examples – projects, ECOs, design discussions and many others. When using Facebook, your context is a single ‘online conversation’ that happens all the time. To be able to provide multiple contexts can be a challenging task for PLM.

Connect vs. Syndicate
In Facebook-like communication, the connection between people created an ultimate way to syndicate information. Is it true for organizations? No, I don’t think so. Connection between people in the organization has a different meaning. The fact I want to stay connected with a person, still doesn’t mean I want to syndicate an information stream coming from him. The syndication needs to be done on the contextual level, rather than on personal. So, community will have less importance to have a successful social PLM implementation.

What is my conclusion? Facebook provides a new paradigm for information sharing. The way doing so is to syndicate on the fly multiple information streams coming from people you are staying connected. This is the ultimate way to create a single conversation and not multiple conversations. What is the value in Product Lifecycle Management? The idea of syndication is extremely powerful. The way it is catching up now with different “communities concepts” and “social product development” stories might be wrong, in my view. There is a fundamental difference between a need of people to stay connected and information sharing. To apply this difference in a successful manner will be a key question in the future of collaborative systems for product development. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


How PLM Can Catch Up Cloud 2?

July 2, 2010

I have been discussing Cloud-related topics on PLM Think Tank actively since last year. I think, the term is hugely overloaded, I can see horizons where cloud becomes a kind of reality for engineering and manufacturing software. This is still not much real, up and running solutions. However, there is a constant stream of attention, awareness and trials that is coming from multiple providers in CAD/PLM space.

So, Cloud is coming and this is a perfect time to talk about… Cloud 2. It sounds crazy… huh? No, I don’t think so. On September 23, released Chatter. Mark Benioff and the team presented his vision of Cloud 2 on their conference couple of a month ago. I had chance to get some materials and videos about that reviewed during this week. It made me to think about some interesting behaviors and characteristics Salesforce’s Cloud 2 definition in the context of Product Lifecycle Management.

If you have time, take yourself on the following two videos, otherwise, proceed to my takeaways below.

Cloud 2: Takeaways

There is a huge shift happens in how we are using devices. The massive increase in notebook and mobility created a structural shift in how people are starting to use the internet. This is going to impact the environment in the offices and other professional zones.

Cost, ease of use, infrastructure, content creation, services are in the past of Cloud 1. The fundamental shift is going towards to the collaborative environment of the future – new devices, real time, social environment.

Thank you Amazon, welcome Facebook! This is another major shift in application behavior. It is worth reading some of Benioff’s posts about Facebook’s imperative.

Here are some of my Cloud-2 thinking about how it impacts PLM.

Organization Is Flat and Real-Timed
This is a major organizational shift that PLM needs to learn. Fewer processes, fewer hierarchies, fewer predefined events. More flexibility, ad-hoc, connections and real-time updates.

Product Data with no boundaries
Data need to be available to be able to collaborate on top of all ad-hoc processes. You cannot lock it down to formats, applications, departments. Company’s strategies on data lock-in and data protection are going to die under the pressure of customers to be able to collaborate and share.

Context, Context, Context…
The next king on the road is a context. To be able to work, contextually and having all what you need for decision making, becomes a key. It will be very interesting to see how to bring a new contextual formula to engineers in the organization.

What is my conclusion today? Cloud 2 is coming. Regardless on our agreement and disagreement on names, we are going to see a significant shift in the way application will be delivered and used in the social environment. The question is not how to develop social applications. The right question is how to help people to live in a new environment and achieve their operational goals?  Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


3 Steps To Improve PLM Collaboration

June 28, 2010

In the landscape of PLM, collaboration is overused word. You can hear “collaborative” a lot, and you’d be thinking all problems of collaboration are already solved. However, I think, we are only in the beginning of starting to have a real collaborative solution. The most important thing for a collaborative solution is a context. To have a right context is important, otherwise you cannot efficiently collaborate. Think about emails or files. You cannot be sure your co-worker or manager is looking on the same piece of information.

I had chance to read Google Enterprise blog about New Sharing Options in Google Docs. Take a look on the following video.

It made me think about some fundamental things we are missing when creating PLM collaborative solutions.

Unique names for resources
PLM manages different pieces of product data, documents and many other resources. Depending on what is the scope of PLM implementation, the amount of data can vary. What need to be done to collaborate efficiently is to have an ability to provide a unique name for data (or resources) we want to collaborate on. By doing that, we will be able to have a constant context to use for collaboration. The unique resource name can remind you web (URI) – everything on the web has their own unique naming. We can use the same to identify your product data in the organization.

An obvious, but very important addition to unique naming/identification. If there are resources, we need to apply security rules to ensure you have appropriated rights to collaborate on the specific data set. Security functions can be global for the organization or local to facilitate a collaboration need for a specific person who may be outside of the organization.

Share Options
The third component of a successful collaboration strategy. You need to be able to invite a person and to provide a particular piece of data as a context. If you use unique naming and appropriated security model, you cannot go wrong. Your context will be always well identified and access by multiple people at the same time. You can use various nice options for share such as an ability to transfer, share, ability to redline, edit or just view. You need also to provide information to users who is sharing this context, for the moment.

What is my conclusion? I think, PLM is using word collaboration very intensively. However, there is one thing, many of the collaborative PLM software is missing – unique name of the resources to collaborate on. Unique resource names can solve lots of problems PLM has today. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


How to Manage ECO without paying $1’500 per seat?

June 17, 2010

I had chance to read Buzz message thread about ECO management, initiated by Josh Mings. I found it worth reading. One of the questions stick in my memory, and I decided to put it in the title of my blog post today. How to manage ECO without paying $1’500 per seat? I think the point was made in a very clear way. Changes is a real life of engineering and manufacturing company. However, cost/value seems to be problematic for solutions we have available today.

Please, take a look on Microshare definition in Wikipedia.

To microshare is to offer access to a select piece or set of digital content by a specific group of invited or otherwise privileged guests in a controlled and secure manner. In contrast to public sharing of content, microsharing enables a more private or intimate level of making content accessible by others. Microsharing access can be secured via uniquely encoded urls or by password protection.

Let me take an example from Josh’s stream and translate it in microshare-like ECO-message-burst.

–>ECR#123 is submitted from customer services @servicecounter;
–>@servicecounter Looking on this ECR#123… Seems like a problem. Hold shipments;
–>Moved ECR#123 to engineering @engineeringhero;
–>@engineeringhero ECR#123 requires analyzes by #allengineeringgeeks;
–>@topgeek solution for ECR#123 is to disable radio switch off function;
–>@servicecounter hold shipments until ECR#123 fixed by @engineeringhero;

I hope you should get my hint now. In the end, I see collaboration as a message sharing in the organization. In before-computers-era, papers functioned as a message transferring mechanism. Then we invented databases, PDM, PLM…

PLM View on ECO Management
When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. When all you have is a database and SQL, you just need to translate all your problems in database and SQL forms. This is the way we have been working for the last 15-20 years. If we got a problem, we need to create a model, keep data in a database, retrieve it, save it, manipulate and, in the end, yikes! – we have a solution. What is the problem here? This is a long way that creates lots of complexities – manage a database, agree about model, implement, agree about how maintain changes, create a user interface, teach everybody how to use it and, finally also to fix bugs. This is a way we are doing PDM/PLM today.

Should Be A Simpler Way?
What if? What if we invented enough technologies that can help us to the same job in a much simpler way? If all we are interesting is related to a particular ECO#123, I can keep reference to these messages without inventing SQL Table Grandiose? I can just record it and want to be alerted, when something happens to this particular ECO. If you are doing something related to this ECO, you can put a message into microshare storage about that. Somebody, who is responsible for shipment need to see if there are any of messages or info that prevents shipment. You can subscribe to messages via something like RSS and get a single channel of messages coming to your mobile device. I know it sounds crazy to any straightforward database and/or IT guy. But, in my view it may work and simplify the life of many engineers in the organization. The infrastructure for microshare and RSS is much cheaper, compared to the development of data models, tables, UIs etc.

What is my conclusion? I think, we came to the point where everybody in the organization is looking how to work differently. It is not only about how much to spend on the particular software package. It is about how to organize work better and simpler. I’m taking “microshare” as an option. Yesterday, on Enterprise 2.0 conference, one of the presenters asked a question – How many user guides did you read in the last year? The answer was ZERO. This is a time to think about a simpler way. I want to credit Evan Yares blog for the picture, I put in this blog post. I think it is very valid these days.

Just my thoughts…
Best, Oleg


How To Redefine Collaboration in PLM?

May 28, 2010

Collaboration is the world that massively used by CAD/PDM/PLM and other non-TLA oriented companies in product development, engineering and manufacturing community. For the last 10-15 years, we had chance to see many successful and un-successful examples. Do you think everything is going well in this space? Should we put “collaboration” on fire in product organization?

Enterprise IT on Fire
Collaboration is heavy dependent on IT organization. I had chance to see Geoffrey Moore presentation during Google’s Atmosphere 2010 event. One of the very interesting points he made was about Enterprise IT on fire.

From his standpoint, for the last 10 years, IT was very busy with consumer’s technologies. In 2010s, IT is going to be very busy with enterprise technologies. So, by redefining what we can get from IT to have better collaboration, we can significantly improve everything. My short list to the IT organization is following:

1. Online access to everything
2. Unified communication
3. Multiple devices

Unified Collaboration

The worst thing we have today is disparate collaborative channels. We need to find a way to end up with this mess. This is the next step after unification of communication channels. Today we started to understand how positive could be to unify email, phone, cell phone, video, etc. After that, to unify multiple collaborative and social channels. Few examples in this space I had chance to see recently. Gist– company that thinks about how to unify all emails, contacts, social networks into one single stream. Huddle – company focuses on how to connect, share and work better together.

Contextual Collaboration
I had chance to write about PLM moving from content to context few days ago. I think, now is a perfect time to say – Context Is King! To make collaboration contextual, we need to think how to focus communication on the specific product data (i.e. CAD, Bill of Materials, etc.). By putting collaboration in the context of the specific data, we can improve people’s performance and decision making process. There are few interesting technologies and initiatives I can see in this space.

In this context, there are few very productive ideas in the Dassault 3D Live. One of the features is the ability to have a contextual connection between various participants during the design and review time.

Also, I like very much experiments Vuuch is doing in this space.

What is my conclusion today? The time is coming to change the way we collaborate. Consumer software and social networks will play a significant role in this process. The key question is how to make is seamless and contextual. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg



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