PLM problem with mail – final sentence?

July 30, 2009

There are numerous ways in which people changed way they communicate for the last decades. Email is definitely one of them. Email came to our life in the end of 80s last century and fundamentally changed communication between people and social groups. Despite significant challenges, email brings huge rational in the way people communicate. Email becomes very popular also in business eco-system. These days you almost cannot imagine organization working without an email system. Email resolved lots of communication and logistical problem between people working in different departments and locations.

At the same time email brings a lot of challenges. Email overflow, tracking of mails, threads – these are the most significant email challenges that comes together with email when you apply it in the space of business collaboration. Product Lifecycle Management is not exclusion in this business collaboration. PLM is heavily relies on collaboration and communication and therefore question of email came very soon to the level of how PLM need to re-use, ignore or improve email capabilities. So far, PLM, in my view, have long love and hate relationships with email systems. From side of the advantages, email can significantly improve communication of people as part of collaborative business processes proposed by PLM systems. From the other side, complexity of email communication kills and people stack in the end with inability to resolve email overflow and other peoples.

There are few interesting trends and examples I see in how companies use (or ignore) email systems. Some of them I’d like to discuss more in deep.

Unified communication concept and SharePoint

Micorsoft takes unified communication as an extreme version of messaging and collaboration between people. By enabling multiple ways to communicate, Microsoft breaks email communication into pieces and allows people not to be locked in their communication on email only. SharePoint makes future, even deeper, step in messaging and mail collaboration by allowing to post mail (message) to folders and workspaces in SharePoint. Combined with Unified communication it creates interesting environment for collaboration. Main disadvantage in  my view is removal of “single focal point”, which significant point of success for current mail-based collaboration.


3DLive Collaborative Environment

Dassault Systems introduced new collaborative environment (3DLive) about 2 years ago. This tool (as well as future coming V6 capabilities) provides people with capability to work directly with people and eliminate email communication. With his own pros and cons, this is very interesting approach.


Google Wave

Redefine email. This is Google Wave mission. By focusing on two most significant pains with regards to email – collaborative work and structured messages, Google Wave predicts change in the way people communicate today. This is still in the future.


At the same time, there are quite many examples of tools and systems lately introduced on the market that focuses on pain relief for disappointed email users. I’d like to feature two of them – Vuuch and ShareFlow.

Vuuch, a new “design discussion” tool, is focusing on how possible to bring relevant context into discussion between designers and engineers and, by doing that, improve way for designer and engineers will communicate. Significant advantage of Vuuch, as I see them, will be eliminating  need to follow complicated email threads. I see it as very interesting experiment and innovative development.


ShareFlow from Zenbe, this is another example of “follow email pain” strategy. Their value proposition came from the point where to use email is next to impossible. ShareFlow product is promoted to become email problem solver.


I understand that it’s almost impossible to cover all possible and impossible combinations of mail usage and also solutions. I’d not be able to cover all. I’m looking forward to your questions and discussions.

Best, Oleg

What is the right time to implement PLM Workflow and Processes?

July 23, 2009

PLM-process-workflowEvery time I’ve been talking with customers about processes, work flows and PLM, the conclusion was that one of the important factors of process implementation is to choose right timing. You need to have company ready to think about process improvements. So, the point was very clear – to change business processes in organization is not simple. To make it happen you need to have all stakeholders on board and do it with timing, which will be aligned with overall organizational changes.

In today’s turbulent time, many companies are thinking about rationalization, improvement and changes. So, I think this should be right time for companies to think about PLM processes in organization. I want to propose a possible 3-steps plan to achieve it.

Step 1: Make analyses of existing organizational processes. To focus on these processes that require improvement first. Capture existing process definitions with process/workflow tools you have in your PLM systems.

Step 2: Plan your data and IP management for these processes. Your processes and workflow can work efficiently only in the case they will have access to the right data. Without accessing right data, your processes will not reflect reality, and you will not be able to follow them as well as use them for your decision support. So, by creating right data modeling and/or connecting PLM system to right sources of data, you will prepare solid basement for good process orchestration.

Step 3: Optimize and run your process/workflow environment. As soon as you existing processesand data in your hands, you can start planning process optimization and executing. This is time when you will need to analyze captured processes, make improvement and right first pilot and second production environment.

What is my short conclusion? Use right timing, capture and improve your PLM related workflows and processes now. You will  be able to optimize your organization now and be prepared for future growth.

Who Owns (or Pwns?) PLM Master Data in Your Company?

June 11, 2009

Who Owns Data?

Continuing my series of posts about fundamental PLM topics this week, I’d like to talk about PLM data today. Below you can see my previous posts related to core PLM topics this week:

Do we need to fix PLM basics?

Do we have problem managing history and time in PLM?

Are you familiar with term Pwn? From Wikipedia: In hacker jargon, pwn means to compromise or control, specifically another computer (server or PC), web site, gateway device, or application. It is synonymous with one of the definitions of hacking or cracking. 

I think that the questions about data are always complicated. There are multiple factors that influence decisions such as what is the master location and system for the data? These factors are sometime technical and related to is the capability of a particular system that a company has in place. Sometimes, this is purely political and depends on who has a bigger influence within the organization.

 PLM Data Landscape

 What is the typical data landscape for PLM? I see two main domains of data in organizations – engineering data and operational data. Engineering data includes information related to product requirements, design, and various aspects of product engineering. Operational data includes data related to warehouse, manufacturing and logistics, supply chain, customer-related and finance information. In my view, there are multiple systems that can be considered either as related to engineering or operational data, such as electronic archive of documents, content management and collaboration systems, but they do not change the basic differentiation between engineering and operational domains.

 Who are the players?

 Without any doubt, there are two main organizational players in the game of ‘who owns product-related data’. One is the IT department in the company and second is Engineering department and/or R&D (depends on company organization). For some situations, manufacturing can also play a separate role if a company runs multiple manufacturing facilities, but in most of the cases I see them as players under the IT department.

 What other (non-PLM) technologies affect decisions about PLM Master data?

 In my opinion, ERP remains the core influence on how a company manages its product data. Depending on the system and country, the influence of ERP will be different. In some situations, especially when a company is using multiple ERP systems on different sites and/or company divisions, the influence of ERP can be smaller. There are some situations affected by the history of the company’s development –homegrown ERP systems can have a major influence not only on operations, but also on all data in the organization.

 Master data management (MDM): I don’t see MDM technologies as something that will be widely adopted by manufacturing organizations, but if this does happen, MDM will be one of the major influences as to how a company manages and stores master data about everything in the organization. And product data will be the first domain MDM will take over, especially in relation to released product information, customer-related product information, etc.

 Business Intelligence: In many cases, business intelligence is a part of the ERP implementation (especially after major ERP players acquired BI companies). However, sometimes it has a separate IT infrastructure. Although I don’t see a significant BI influence on the domain of engineering information, I expect that its influence may increase in the future.

 Supply Chain Management. Mostly related to the operational domain (except the design supply chain) and very oriented towards ERP. Engineering and Product related data have strong dependencies on the supplier’s data, but they are rarely affected by SCM systems deployment, in my view.

 Content and Document Management. This is a strong technological and system player in many cases affecting company decisions with regards to Product data. Since product data historically comes from the need to manage design and other types of documents, content management system (commercial or homegrown) has become the first to pretend to have the ability to manage these documents at a low cost. Content and Document management systems are normally belong to the IT department. Sometimes, these capabilities can be provided by a larger ERP vendor as well.

 Business Process Management. BPM is not related to the system that manages data in the organization. But indeed, it can influence how an organization manages processes related to product information. Therefore, it needs to be taken into account.  I don’t see massive deployment of BPM technologies today in manufacturing, but this domain is growing too.

 Microsoft SharePoint Paradox. WSS and/or MOSS are very disruptive technologies and systems positioned on multiple domains related to content management, collaboration, process management and some others. WSS/MOSS provides very cost-effective solutions for multiple types of information, but mostly for content. For the last 2-3 years, I see SharePoint as one of the significant influences on various domains related to content and product data.

 What are the core problems in ownership of PLM Master Data?

Currently, I don’t see any blueprint solution for how to manage PLM and product data. In my view, Product Lifecycle Management influence has increased significantly during the last few years and has become more mature. However, it still cannot provide ultimate tools to control all product data in the organization. Bill of Materials in various forms and configurations are portions of the data that have to be co-owned by multiple players and systems in the organization – so the discussion about ‘who owns Bill of Materials’ is on-going and non-stop J. IT definitely owns most of the fundamental systems in the organization. Sometimes, IT-related decisions are not always very aligned with the needs of engineering and product information.

 I’m sure that the situation is very different in many organizations, so I’m expecting to have your feedback and good conversions on this topic over the next few days.

 Best, -Oleg.

Microsoft’s Cloud-y Future, SharePoint and PLM Collaboration

March 26, 2009

Previously, I already touched SharePoint on the PLM SharePoint paradox. Thanks to all of you for commenting on this post. I’d like to continue the SharePoint topic in context of the MS Cloud future. After reading the interview with Steve Balmer in the NYTimes, I found this sketch by Mr. Balmer interesting. Balmer is pointing to SharePoint as a tool for enabling collaboration for MS Azure’s cloudy future.


Offering SharePoint for Collaboration purposes definitely can be an opportunity for PLM providers to work on PLM collaboration services and expand the across the organization and supply chain.  My usual “SharePoint concern” is about how packaging and implementation services related to SharePoint when it comes together with today’s PLM applications. In this case, it will be interesting to see how the MS Azure SharePoint future will become available, including a more precise set of packages, development tools and pricing. Sounds like a  “cloudy”, but promising future… 

PLM innovation – is it about risk?

December 5, 2008

PLM innovation – is it about risk?

In today’s world everybody speak about innovation. I’d like to ask you about what is needed to step into innovation world. My conclusion about what is silver bullet for innovation – is all about your ability to take risk. No risk – no innovation! Will PLM software companies be able to take risk and leapfrog leveraging new innovative development?

 In my view, this week the most interesting comment on ability to innovate belongs this to Burt Ruthan from Scaled Composites. Burt Ruthan on innovation: Your ability to innovate is inversely proportional to your client’s self-perceived sophistication.” This is why, for example, Rutan’s company Scaled Composites could never have built a spaceship for NASA–they’re too sure of their own expertise to take risks.

Virtual CCB idea: Can we use Wiki for PLM?

December 5, 2008

I think everybody knows about Wiki. (Wikipedia definitions of wiki software).

Today Wiki engines became very popular and affordable. There are a great number of available wiki platforms starting from big vendors and ending with open source and online offerings. You can take a look on Comparison of Wiki Software. Providers of Collaborative Platforms and software classified as Enterprise 2.0 also supplies Wiki capabilities. You can see some successful examples of Wiki usage presented on Enterprise 2.0 conference in Boston this year (Successful enterprise-level wiki implementations). Big providers like IBM, Microsoft and Oracle are including wiki capabilities in their offering.

There are newcomers in Wiki space – Semantic Wiki. The example of semantic wiki is Semantic MediaWiki and some others.

Do you think we can do leverage Wiki in PLM? I’m coming with an idea to implement, for example, ECO management system based on Wiki engine. Today ECO implementation in an organization requires intensive organizational work mostly going beyond of software and technology. This work is focused on understanding of how an organization processes works. By implementing CCB (Configuration Change Board) activity as Wiki we can create a self learning system that can absorb current practices in the organization. Since Wiki Engine provides flexible content aggregation and integration capability this WIKI CCB can evolve and be integrated with another enterprise software – PLM, ERP, SCM and others.

Do we have reasonable alternatives for PLM?

December 4, 2008

Jos Voskuil is blogging about ERP alternative for PLM. This is quite interesting question that can be split into two directions: 1/can we replace PLM from methodological and product standpoint; 2/can we make “non-PLM or general purpose technologies” make PLM job.


On methodology and product side, I think adoption of PLM is very high these days. Many companies understood and agreed on values PLM can bring them

On technology side, I see situation is differently. These days people really care about cost of ownership and overall technological stacks in organization.


The last point is related to ERP adoption mentioned by Jos Voskuil. If ERP already in place – why we cannot get most of ERP to handle product lifecycle.

Other technologies that relevant to provide solution for PLM methodologies are:


1.     General collaboration technologies – Web 2.0, Wiki, Communication, Portals. This is emerging place, especially in the area of Web 2.0 and emerging Enterprise 2.0 (you can see more touching materials of latest Enterprise 2.0 conference in Boston, MA


2.     Business Process Management (BPM) – roots of this technology are going to workflow but in today’s SOA world emerging to much broader topic focusing to resolve business-to-technology connection in organization. Connection between business and IT. There are dedicated pure BPM vendors (,, ). Also behemoths like Microsoft, Oracle and IBM are stepping into this place with their platforms. You can see more in Gartner BPM Magic Quadrant research.

Business Process Management in Wikipedia

Gartner Business Process Management Research

Business Process Management Institute


3.     Master Data Management (MDM) – roots to federation and database technologies. The underline objective is to keep single synchronized space of product information that organization can leverage. Most of big IT technological providers supports MDM today. In addition there several dedicated MDM providers.

Master Data Management in Wikipedia

Forrester Research about MDM Trends in 2008


4.     Portals, Office Tools, Mail,  – this is mostly “horizontal tools” are first coming instrument to implement PLM, often perceived as cheap and efficient option, but probably faced many challenges within time. Cheap becomes the most expensive option in the end.

Gartner Magic Quadrant about Horizontal Portals


5.     SOA platforms – probably less attractive, but still option that company can approach if their view on PLM implementation is focused on development their own tools and services.


I see PLM companies taking most of available technologies today in the way they deliver their products. But diversity of solution is high and very depends on industry, customer, geo and other factors. 


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