PLM Gaps and Social Software Liquid

May 10, 2010

I’m getting back to my thoughts related to Social Software and Product Lifecycle Management. Jim Brown defined the role of Social Software as an intelligent network for PLM in his last post. It turns me back to one of my previous posts-  PLM and Social Tool: The Odd Couple. I’ve seen the potential entrance of social tools into PLM space as something that can disrupt PLM and change status-quo of current products. In my view, there are three fundamental gaps in PLM that need to be fixed (not filled) by Social software.

Integration
This one was mentioned by Jim in his post. Integration is long time PLM gaps and problem. Vendors gave up and move this problem to partners, service providers and customers. It is nice to think, Social Software will magically solve this problem. However, I don’t think it will happen. Integration in PLM related to the wrong technological assumptions and implies lots of manual procedures and hand-wiring to make it work.

Openness
This one is extremely important to make PLM and Social working together. Currently, PLM tools see openness as “another API call” or “export/import” function. In my view, it should be more. I’d bring self-descriptiveness as the most important change in PLM openness state of mind. PLM need to make data discoverable in the same way, web is doing it today.

Cost of Change
Last, but not least. The biggest problem with all PLM software these days is a huge cost of change required to make any modification with PLM implementation. It won’t work well and prevent integration with social tools. This problem needs to be fixed.

So, what is my conclusion today? Will Social Software fill gaps in Product Lifecycle Management? I think, this is a challenging question. PLM vendors are trying to apply Social software principles and ideas to come with new products and technologies in this space. I think PLM need to fix gaps and don’t fill it with Social Liquid. Social tools are not universal fixing solution for enterprise software like ERP, PLM or CRM. I don’t see social tools as “yet another communication protocol”. Social tools can take a role of next collaborative technologies for enterprise and change this world. I’m thinking about the path – Collaborative PDM, Collaborative Business Processes in PLM and finally Social Collaboration. There is certain potential here and it will be interesting to watch the development of this in the next couple of years.

Just my thoughts…
Best, Oleg

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PLM Content and Facebook Open Graph

April 28, 2010

Facebook F8 conference this week was a place for some very interesting announcements that, in my view, may have an impact on PLM too. I can recommend you to read a good summary of news introduced by Facebook here. In my view, it presents a very interesting dimension in the future development of Facebook. The question I’m asking – should PLM care? Is there something new presented by Facebook, that can catch a focus of current and future PLM development?

Web Content Creation

Facebook is making next steps in the development of content on the web. FB introducing a new way to build social sites where a site itself converted into meaningful content item able to accumulate links to other elements of web content. It presents another dimension in the way web content can be structured.

Social Graph

The notion of connection between social sites is presented in the Open Graph Protocol. Facebook OGP API will provide a way to browse through dependencies and connection between content elements based on social dimension. This is a very interesting approach in the development of rich metadata about web content.

PLM Content

I see a comparison between the way Facebook is building social web content and PLM content. For the last few years PLM presented a very hardwired way to create structured content. It creates a lot of complexity in user interaction and tools integration. The fundamentals of this content are in the ability to structure product information in various dimensions – design, bill of material, projects, etc. The similarity between Facebook social content and PLM structured content is obvious to me. However, Facebook presented an interesting approach to build it. There are several developments on PLM horizon that can fit such concepts – DS/BlueKiwi, PTC Windchill/SharePoint, Vuuch. It will be interesting to see the future development of these products.

What is my conclusion? Facebook is going to change a way to create the web content. Current PDM/PLM software seems very cumbersome from the standpoint on how to interplay with user on content creations. PLM can learn few lessons about how to create a content in the organization and across the value chain. Some concepts and ideas can be replicated in my view. What is your opinion?

Best, Oleg

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PLM and Social Tools: The Odd Couple?

April 13, 2010

The number of companies and products that are trying to jump into the social tools bandwagon is growing. At the time when social tools impose a significant influence on the minds of corporate decision makers, I want to discuss how potential implementation of social tools will influence the development of PLM and PLM processes management in the organization. There is no strong definition about what is “a social tool”. When I’m thinking about them, I assume the number of tools focused on the ability to provide communication and collaboration in the style development by Web 2.0 -like websites. Web 2.0 communication practices moved from the web inside of organizations. You can take a look more on this in the following wikipedia article, which, in my view, requires on going review and adjustments.

PLM and Process Management

For the last few years, PLM implementation started to focus on the practice of collaborative business process development. It was an interesting turn, since it provided a way to move out of simple data hostage with check-in/checkout/release procedures. For PLM it was a way to develop business process management practices for the organization in the area of product development and engineering.

I had chance to discuss PLM process management before. You can take a look on some of my previous posts: PLM Process Management Technologies and What is beyond Collaboration and Process Management in the organization?

Social Tools and Collaboration.

Collaboration was always in the hot spot of PLM process management discussion. Design and engineering require massive involvement of people communication and, therefore, was different from typical BPM (business process management) practices. Social tools presented a new, attractive way to collaborate between people. Web groups, online chats and instant messaging are going to convert themselves into Business Communities and Social Collaboration. It looks like a very nice marketing. What technologies are behind of that marketing buzz? Wiki, Blogs, Microblogging and Social Networking tools with modern web based user experience. These technologies emerged as a new wave of tools that might change the game of collaborative practice in the organization.

There are few very interesting examples in this space. Last week I came across the following announcement made by Chameleon Software Launches its New App on Salesforce.com’s ChatterExchange. Also, I had chance to discuss various options in the development of social tools for PLM before in the following post – Social PLM Options. There are many other examples too…

PLM Process and Social Tools Flirt
What happened to PLM Collaborative Business Processes Practices? The situation became really though, in my view. Part of PLM business process management move was to provide a valuable solution in their competition with ERP and BPM tools. However, the situation changed and social tools presented as a new attractive game changer for the enterprise organization. The obvious reaction of PLM market was to develop various offerings such as – Social Product Development, Social Innovation, etc. By doing that, PLM is trying to slide on Social Tools Wave and proliferate their offering into additional groups of users in the company. The place, which is currently occupied by Email and Microsoft Office. I see that as a nice flirt…

What is my conclusion? I think, social tools bring a new a significant wave into enterprise software development. However, I see social software entrance into PLM space as a very disruptive. PLM has a chance to lose all collaborative product development practices developed over the past 5-7 years and replace it by new technologies for social collaboration, which are basically a copy of Web 2.0 technologies transferred into enterprise. Where is the danger for PLM? Social tools and Web 2.0 practices impose a significant openness and absence of control over the content. It comes from the open web world. This is what users want. CAD/PDM/PLM considered a significant control over the content (IP) and processes. This is what IT wants. So, for me, they are looks as an odd couple. Will they be able to succeed together? This is a good question we’ll continue to ask in the coming years…

Just my thoughts..
Best, Oleg


PLM and The Collapse Of Complex Societies

April 12, 2010

I had chance to post about the issue of complexity in enterprise systems in general and specifically about the complexity of PLM systems. In my view, the complexity as one of the biggest problems in the development of systems for engineering and manufacturing these days. It comes constantly as a feedback from many customers and professional communities. If you had no chance to read it before, please take a look on one of my previous posts about dependencies between complexity of the systems and user’s adoption (Complexity kills or Three Ways To Improve PLM Adoption).

I came across a very interesting book during this weekend – The Collapse of Complex Societies by Joseph Tainter. It made me think again about the problem of complexity. Some thesis made by Joseph Trainer was the following:

[...societies become more complex as they try to solve problems. Social complexity can include differentiated social and economic roles, reliance on symbolic and abstract communication, and the existence of a class of information producers and analysts who are not involved in primary resource production. Such complexity requires a substantial "energy" subsidy (meaning resources, or other forms of wealth). When a society confronts a "problem," such as a shortage of or difficulty in gaining access to energy, it tends to create new layers of bureaucracy, infrastructure, or social class to address the challenge. Eventually, this cost grows so great that any new challenges such as invasions and crop failures cannot be solved by the acquisition of more territory. At that point, the empire fragments into smaller units...]

I’d like to make an analogy between societies and enterprise and manufacturing systems. What is my take? Current enterprise systems supporting product development (CAD, CAE, PDM, PLM, ERP etc.) went through the long path of integration from early 2D to 3D, from MRP to MRPII and ERP, from EDM to PDM and PLM and finally rich the point where the almost cannot respond to the changes required and will tend to break again to the smaller pieces. Does it mean these systems will disappear? No, I don’t think so. However, I think, the new organization of systems can come to the enterprise and this new organization will have an ability to scale beyond the current level of possible complexity. Some interesting trends on this way:

SOA, Web and SaaS
The architecture of most of the enterprise systems was built 15-20 years ago with the state of mind of operation in the scope of a local department and/or company. They obviously outgrew themselves. To bring web experience including SOA architecture, Services and other technologies allowing operation on the global scale will be an approach that allows to bring large enterprise systems into smaller manageable pieces.

Global Data Models
As we had chance to discuss in the end of the last week, PLM data, PLM data models and identifications are still in the state that fundamentally assumes the possibility to build “unbreakable” standards and “single data models”. The data identification problem is a very complex issue, especially in case of multiple enterprise systems. We had chance to discuss it on the example of Part Numbering. This problem is real, hard and seems to me not resolvable in current systems.

What is my conclusion today? Current product development systems (EDM, PDM, PLM, ERP) are showing signs of over complexity. Following Tainter’s theory, they are trying to create news layers of bureaucracy and infrastructure. Industry best practices and out-of-the-box solutions are great examples of such new “organizations”. The potential solution will be in restructuring of these systems into smaller functional pieces, including the ability to handle globally scaled data and self-organized components.

Just my thoughts…
Best, Oleg

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Social PLM and Customer Data

March 18, 2010

The online space influence on the enterprise systems and processes is increasing. During the last year and half, we have seen a significant move of enterprise software vendors to step into the social online environment. Various projects, ideas and innovation sparked. PLM was the not outstanding body in this process. We had multiple conversation and discussions about various social aspects of PLM. Most of the discussions we had so far were about what is the potential of social software application in the enterprise domain. This is so called- social software imitation. There are many examples of such imitations. Actually, I’m not taking imitation as a bad thing. So, some of the examples like Twitter vs. Yammer or Facebook vs. Chatter or system like Vuuch thinking about Facebook for Files. I’d like to speak about another Social PLM options – customer data.

Customer data is something that traditionally considered as a domain of CRM. At the same time, I think, we are often eliminating a huge benefit customer data can bring us as a source of information that can help us during product development and planning. In the end of the day, most of the manufacturing businesses are selling their products to people (I’m excluding some specific defense projects, of course). Knowing various customer data pieces and connecting them together with a product development process, we can gain a different level of customer need understanding, trending topics, priorities, interests and even current product problems. I’d like to identify three potential steps into Social PLM work with customer data.

1. Product Marketing Initiatives
The first rule of all social systems is very simple. You need to give away something valuable to get traction of data backwards. So, in the context of product development, I think, the best thing is to benefit marketing with some new opportunities related to product materials based on modern PLM technologies. 3D, Visualization, Simulations, Product Configuration and many others. All these stuff can excite customers and helps to establish customer-manufacturers relationship

2. Data, Trends and Analytic
This is simple and complex at the same time. Online social data provides a huge resource of information about various aspects related to demographics, personal and group interests and many others. If you are not taking care of this information, your business is simply blind… I think, manufacturers already started to understand it. However, to have a good product related context in such researches is very important.

3. Monitoring and Communication
You need to watch what your customers are doing all the time. These are the best indicators and alerts for many processes in the organization. A good example is product quality issues. If you can be on track with what your customer is saying online about your product, you will be a King of the future social product development.

So, this is my short insight on potential opportunities of Social PLM and Customer Data. What is my conclusion today? I think, PLM heavily underestimates the value of customer data. For most of the organization  Product Development communication with customers and channels is on a very low level. Ability to track social and customer data, understand trends and run various analytic inside of the product marketing and development is very limited. It sounds as an opportunity for me.

Just my thoughts… I’m interested to hear your voices on that.
Best, Oleg

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PLM and Product Innovation

March 2, 2010

Few weeks ago, I promised to blog about PLM and Innovation. It started by the following post – “PLM vs. ERP: Don’t manage innovation“. Thank you all for great discussion since then! Now, this is a time for me to summarize and share my thoughts.

My short conclusion about Product Lifecycle Management in the context of innovation is as following. PLM is one of the ultimate systems that can enable innovation in the organization. However, I don’t see how PLM can literally manage innovation. I think about innovation as a process in the organization. The core idea behind this process is how to manage risks related to overall innovation activities. I’ll explain this using something I call “Goose Innovation Strategy”.

Goose Innovation Strategy or How To Convert Innovation to Math? Let think about innovation as a controlled multi-dimensional activity. Our interest is to get a particular outcome, which in case of product development can be considered as next product, versions or the next product features and/or improvements. Nevertheless, developing of something new is a very risky task. What we need to do when we want to  reduce a risk? We want to distribute risk into separate activities. If we develop a single golden egg, it can crack. However, if we will be investing into Goose that laying down golden eggs, our situation can be much  better. You are able to predict results. So, think about hedge fund. Distribute risks, allow to multiple people to product multiple ideas related to the product. In this case, your future might be much more secured. Some of your golden eggs will crack, nevertheless, statistically you should be ok. The bottom line – don’t invest into golden eggs, since they can crack. You better invest into Goose in your organization that laid golden eggs. Your innovation process is how to deliver a decent percent of those eggs. And this is pure math.

PLM Role in Goose Innovation Strategy
So, how PLM can help you to apply Goose Innovation Strategy? I figured out top three factors or components of that. They are belongs to Product Lifecycle Management and needs to be supported for efficient product innovation.

1- Product Data

In my view, you need data to innovate. Period. In context of PLM, this just to say – make your product data available. If you have access to the product data (people like to call it “a single point of truth”), you’ll be able to use it as one source of innovative ideas. It is always good to have a reliable source of information about how a product designed, manufactured and built – this is an endless source of innovation.

2- Product Ideas.

Product Ideas are everywhere. In your organization,  ideas are in the heads of people that bring these ideas. No ideas – no innovation. Remember ideas, capture them, analyze them. Therefore, the next effort needs to be focused on how to capture and access all ideas available in the organization. In my view, all “social” initiatives in PLM should be focused on this too.

3- Product People

People are the source of ideas. You need to have “product people” to think about how to innovate. In order to do so, they need to exchange ideas, communicate, talk, etc. 10 years ago, the only way to do so was a separate room in the building. These days multiple communication and collaboration facilities can help you. Ideas can come to you at any time. You need to keep your “recording device” and “communication device” open. PLM can keep live links between individuals in the organization and stream of product innovative ideas.

What is my conclusion today? Innovation is a controlled activity and need to be organized and managed in the organization. I don’t see PLM as a primary responsible. However, I do see PLM as one of the enablers for such innovation activity by supporting relations between product data, people and ideas.

Best, Oleg

PS. I’d like to recommend few related books. They are essential, in my view, if you want to dive into innovation.

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Social PLM Enterprise and Federated Identity

February 18, 2010

I’d like to put some thoughts about user identity management in the enterprise. In the beginning, you may think the topic is obvious. Enterprises already solved this problem long time ago. Even if your need to login into the specific enterprise system was significantly decreased, it sounds like a problem disappeared. You can think that directory management systems solved the problem. However, is it really true? I’d like to propose to review this problem with a different angle – social.

My guess is that next big competition in the enterprise will be around a user. I think, very soon, enterprise software vendors will learn lesson or two from web and social software. They will discover that the key to know who are your users, how they use systems, how they navigate between different tools and environments. And, of course how they connected between them. All social relationships in the enterprise became very interesting.

I hope you got my point… This is the effect of social networks and communities. For the moment, this information belongs to IT organization. Most of the enterprise vendors are seamlessly agreed to synchronize this information with the available LDAP or similar directory management tool. But, I think this situation can become different soon. My hunch is that first to discover this will be enterprise software companies pushing their social platforms to the enterprise. They will try to take ownership on directory services and expand it to the level of social networks. Another interesting problem is what technologies can be used to do that? My guess that possible candidates can be open standards, like FOAF, and future integration of them into enterprise systems. I think, very soon, we are going to discovered need in the federated identity management for enterprise social nets.

Now let me ask you, what about PLM? My assumption is that PLM is one of the potential originators of the federated identity management for enterprise social networks. Running processes around almost everything in the enterprise, can be a good reason to acquire enterprise social networking. If this task can be accomplished, PLM can drive significant advantages from managing people relationships, product and project belonging, etc. Who are alternative owners? My guess, ERP is a good candidate. They already own a big portion of enterprise cake, so they can do the same for identity management.

Take a look on long, but interesting video on digital identity.

Just my thoughts… I’d be interested to know your opinion on that.
Best, Oleg

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