PUI: Not PLM UI. Future User Experience.

June 22, 2010

I’d suggest to have some fun in the beginning. What is PUI? Do you think this is a new PLM UI? No, marketing didn’t get it yet… I hope, they will not do so. I’ve got this PUI TLA reading Enterprise Irregulars Blog – Three Types of GUIs: Past Present and Future. Thanks ArnoldIT blog for referencing me to this article. The author explains three different type of GUI – Task UI, Desktop UI and Process UI.  I found it very interesting. It made me think about the evolution of user experience in engineering applications and PLM.

TUI, DUI, PUI in Engineering applications
If you think about CAD applications, they look very task oriented. You have a 2D drawing (lately transformed into 3D model) and everything you do around this drawing or model, can be considered as tasks. You can create a new model or modify an existing one. Another big group of applications, CAE is also focusing on different tasks (i.e. calculations, etc.) around 2D/3D models.

The initial development of data management application created an idea of “Desktop”. In the beginning, data management was focused on “meta-data” management. Meta-data was considered as everything surrounding CAD files. The need to present data in various forms created lots of modifications of data forms. You can find it in most PDM/PLM applications during last 10-15 years.

Process was one of the top ideas that PLM focused on for the past 5-6 years. Organization can understand a “process language”. Software vendors in PLM space learned it from their big ERP brothers. I had chance to see lots of PUI modifications focusing on different processes.

PLM and PUI problem – Scalability
In my view, process orientation was a big excitement for PLM and other engineering software companies. It created a scalable model to grow the amount of applications, they can provide to companies. Since everything is a process, imaging how many process-oriented application you can create using this approach. Licensing wasn’t the last reason in this decision. Looks like PUIs were the way to go. PLM companies are tried to implement PUI approach. Take a look on the quote from Enterprise Irregulars Blog:

Now imagine business or enterprise apps that are process based, not single task items knit together by DIY process: An app that can pick up an idea, issue or request and run it through an unpredictable process that might look like a ball of yarn all the way to an implemented idea, a solved issue or a happy customer.

Where is the problem? In my view, the biggest problem is a scalability of this process. Every organization is different. Process oriented applications became very complex. This is what happens to PUI in PLM. Customers cannot implement an existing process oriented application. However, to tailor it will skyrocket cost of services.

Future User Experience
It is clear to everybody that the level of the complication kills. So, what will be the UI in the future? Many of companies are looking for the next big thing in UI. I can identify two main trends in PLM UI simplification – 1/ Embedding into the mainstream UI (i.e. Email, Excel, SharePoint, etc.), 2/Imitating successful applications in consumer space (i.e. Facebook). What will be the next big thing in UI? Do you think it will come from augmented reality? Games? Voice? I can see SIRI acquisition by Apple as the sign of possible direction in the future. I had chance to write about how I see the future user experience in my blog too.

What is my conclusion? User Interface is a hard problem in PLM apps. I think, we are in the mist of UI discussions. I can see many people are innovating in this space and trying to find a solution to this problem. We are in the beginning of mass migration of application from consumer space to the enterprise software. It will be very interesting to get back to this discussion in a couple of years.

Best, Oleg

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PLM and Scaling Options

May 24, 2010

I’ve been thinking about how possible to change PLM development trajectory and scale PLM adoption in the market. Thinking about other industries, I came to the conclusion that many of them are locked to scale because of two main reasons: 1/ it was too complex; 2/it was too expensive. It was with internet, mobile, cars, airplanes… Think about that, as soon as was possible to make it simple and cheap we got a different trajectory of scale and adoption. On the other side, scaling up industry can really make industry rich.

PLM Complexity
This topic is always trending in all conversations about PLM. Many people are arguing- PLM is too complex, PLM created a complication that prevents people from using concepts, people dislike PLM systems because they are not useful and hard to implement…. On the other side, when people can see the results of PLM implementation, they are amazed to discover how PLM implementation changed the way organization can design, manufacture, operate and, in the end, make money. So, a complexity is a number one problem that needs to be resolved in PLM. To make things simple is not a simple task. When you will watch a very old Apple’s commercials, you may understand that “thinking simple” is a long and extensive process.

PLM Cost
This is another side of PLM story. The initial PLM ideas and implementations came from the large companies. They have been unique, tailored to the specific needs and… expensive. The cost wasn’t a big issue for these companies back 15 years ago. Today, manufacturing is a different. Manufacturing is optimized. The amount of small suppliers are growing. The smaller suppliers need to optimize the way they can work. To use expensive systems probably won’t be an option to them. How we can make systems cheaper? Open source can be one of the options. I had chance to read the following article in Information Weeks couple of days ago. A very interesting example of scaling down in the cost related to SimpleGeo geographical provider:

It’s running a 50-node cluster, which spans three data centers on Amazon’s EC2 service for about $10,000 a month, says CTO Joe Stump, who previously used Cassandra at Digg. By contrast, MySQL premium support would cost about $5,000 per year per node, or $250,000 per year–more than double the Cassandra setup, Stump says, and Microsoft SQL Server can cost as much as $55,000 per processor per year.

What is my conclusion today? Scale is a hard topic. If something doesn’t work, it will be very hard to scale it up. PLM ideas are awesome. People are getting it pretty well. You can control product lifecycle, connect processes, optimize development and manufacturing, speed up innovation. However, here is the problem. PLM business doesn’t work to scale today. The two main PLM killers , in my view, are complexity and cost. We need to think how to unlock it for manufacturers to make PLM ideas to scale. What is your view on this?

Best, Oleg

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How To Visualize PLM Excels using Microsoft Pivot?

December 30, 2009

If you haven’t had chance to see Microsoft Live Lab Pivot project, please do. I found this approach as somewhat very interesting. The idea of data visualization is not new. However, the key question is how to make it simple? My view is that “collections” of data are a very strong and simple presentation abstraction worked well in many cases such as – SharePoint lists, Excel and many others. You can see trends towards simplification of user experience in Facebook and Twitter too.

When Pivot is still prototype and Lab product, I bet play around can give you couple of fresh ideas of what you can do with your PDM/PLM experience. The biggest amount of engineering data today is concentrated in what I’m calling “Corporate Strategic Excels”. So, maybe Pivot will be the right way to present Engineering and Product Excels to us?

What do you think?

Best, Oleg


PLM Alert: Google Image Swirl User Experience

November 18, 2009

Short alert on Google Labs Releasing Swirl. Google Image Swirl allows you to organize and search images. Official Google’s blog announcement is here. You can run Google Swirl from here.

I think, this user experience can be kind of beneficial for engineers working on 3D and 2D drawings.

Just my thoughts. What is your opinion on that?

Best, Oleg


PLM Plus User Experience Minus Complexity On Demand

November 11, 2009

Few publications around a new company called PLM+, which left stealth mode this week, drove my attention. There is not much information about PLM+ product. You can take a look on Josh Mings post in SolidSmack and Al Dean publication in develop3D as well as research PLMplus web site. So, I did.

PLM+ hit me to think again about second-mover innovation. I had chance to discuss second-movers before in my post “PLM in an economic downturn – Is there a place for second mover innovation?”. Looking on everything, I know about PLM+ for the moment, it makes me perfect sense to innovate in the place where all PLM companies already made their trials and investments. Original born for big companies like Boeing, Toyota and others, Product Lifecycle Management aimed to resolve complex needs of these big OEM’s design and manufacturing processes. Since that time and especially during last 3-5 years, most PLM vendors claimed their SMB-oriented product lines and brands – Siemens PLM Velocity with TeamCenter Express, Dassault PLM Express and various combination of ENOVIA SmarTeam products, Windchill OnDemand from IBM and Windchill Product Point (just released earlier this year). All these products claimed simple, yet powerful product capabilities fully loaded with a set of known PLM buzzwords ready for SMB.

And, of course, I need to talk about Arena Solution (former bom.com). Reading about PLM+ and looking on old materials about PLM products, I found very interesting use case from Arena Solution back in 2002. Unfortunately, web history is pretty clean and even Google wasn’t able to track this publication 7 years backward online, but I have copy of document and would like to share a fragment of this use case below. Take a look – I think it is self-explained.

Picture 44

So, what are my thoughts about PLM+ today? I think, to innovate in the place where all competitors spent a lot of money to research and build their own products is a very interesting approach that fits today’s economy. And, it was successfully done by many other companies in the past. Without going with big examples like AMD vs. Intel, there are many others. I personally liked company called Xobni – think about what possible to invent in email these days? So they did, in my view. For me PLM+ is a very interesting try to achieve “simple” in PLM and, I agree with Josh, saying that it’s very hard to write these two words together anytime. Knowing personally Guy Alroy and Benny Shaviv, I just want to tell them good luck!

Best, Oleg


PLM Prompt: Why Excel is not Enterprise System yet?

August 28, 2009

I was reading the following article “Why Excel is not Enterprise BI Solution Yet. What I liked is the way author presented the anti-Excel case in BI. I thought, this is very co-sounded with my Excel-PLM discussions. Everybody like Excel, but Excel have hidden cost and complexity you won’t be able to manage.

What is my conclusion? There are two possible ways:

1. To transform Excel into Enterprise Platform. Microsoft is trying to do so by introducing Excel Services and marriage of Excel and SharePoint.
2. To think about how to improve usability of enterprise solutions.

Just my thoughts… Best, Oleg


Top annoying things about PLM software.

August 26, 2009

PLM as a combination of technologies, software, and methodology came long way from initial CAD systems, followed by CAE, Product Data Management and Collaboration Software. Some of the PLM-software components are very mature, but some of them are still in the early beginning. While we’ve innovated in many PLM products and technologies, we’ve also continued to disregard pre-existing PLM issues.

Here my list about top annoying things in PLM with no specific order, however, I do believe I started with the most significant ones.

PLM Implementation Scope. PLM software pretends on overall control of product IP and data. By saying that PLM companies, in my view, try to boil an ocean and claim to support unlimited capabilities in management of information and business processes around product development and manufacturing. Multiplied by marketing and sales, PLM creates perception of “do everything” software.

PLM Uniqueness. Ability to support a design process, manage product data and collaboration presented as unique capability of PLM software. Such position creates perception of premium value provided by PLM software and, very often, disregards other available alternatives in managing data and collaboration.

PLM Complexity. I have to admit - product engineering and manufacturing are not a simple topic. To manage such processes and data, software needs to achieve a specific level of sophistication and complexity. However, in my view, PLM often exaggerated needed a complexity level and sophistication. In the end complexity creates a significant adoption rate problem. These time people like simple words and simple software.

Terminology. PLM domain created huge terminological barrier for people to get into this space. Number of multiple buzzwords and terms create difficulties to understand business purpose and capabilities of software. Heavy usage of overlapping and confusing terminology put a very significant constraint on ability to use software and tools that come from different software vendors.

Bizarre User Interface. Because of a long life cycle of a software product, user interface is something that was development during many years and contain multiple “historical reasons”. Even if during last few years, user experience was priorities by most software vendors in PLM space, this is still pace requirement multiple improvement and innovation.

Slooooow…. After all, performance isstill one ofthe most discussed issue software vendors isfocusing on. Refresh time, Render Time, regeneration, display, view etc. All these functions are very time consuming and contains space for innovation.

Best, Oleg


Why PLM Scares Me?

August 11, 2009

Following my previous post about how PLM can go to mainstream, I had chance to discuss this topic with some of my colleagues. We came to some initial conclusions that I’d like to share with my blog readers. Let me put upfront some assumption with regards to main trends I see happens in computer industry and enterprise software.

One of them is a trend for “simplicity”.  This is the biggest trend I see across many of the software systems during the past years. In my view, Google is staying first in the line and promoting the most simple user experience ever – single line. Following Google, I can mention Apple with their multiple products, also promoting simple approach. Almost in an enterprise software world, I can mention Microsoft SharePoint approach, as something maybe not very simple, but definitely less complex comparing to everything else you see around. So, my conclusion is that simplicity created strong trend toward user acceptance and understanding.

At the same time, Product Lifecycle Management became mature and prove success in companies and industries. The strategy of PLM was to move toward ability to support overall product lifecycle and because of that, PLM wanted to gather more and more processes, information, connection with other systems and people interaction. As a consequence of this PLM came to “maturity phase” and… overcomplicating. We got a system that can be deployed in global organizations, manage complex product structures, organization processes, supply chain and more. However, obvious price was big and complicated environment.

So, what happened as a result. Two trends “simplicity” and “PLM maturity” had actually different directions. User demands for simple and elegant solutions came in conflict with mature and complicated PLM deployments. What solution do I see for this situation? In my view, PLM providers understood situation and their immediate answer for short term was as following: 1/best practices; 2/industry approach; 3/education. We had chance to see these trends in strategies of all PLM providers. Would you ask me – is it enough? No, I don’t think so. I think a current “state of the art PLMs” are scaring users and prevent PLM from mainstream deployment.

Just my opinion.

Best, Oleg.


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.

plm-mail-sharepoint-mail

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.

plm-mail-DS-3DLive

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.

plm-mail-google-wave

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.

plm-mail-vuuch

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.

plm-mail-shareflow

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


Complexity Kills or Three Ways to Improve PLM Adoption

June 25, 2009

In my view, one of the things that is killing PLM the most is the level of technical details. I think PLM is overselling complexity and, as a result, moves people out of this space. PLM is perceived as complex and, as a result, a dangerous place. So, I think, in order to improve the PLM adoption rate, we need to rethink why PLM looks like a dangerous technological toy rather than a practical tool for an organization?

So, here are my top three things we need to work on to get out of the PLM complexity game.

1. User Experience. One of the things that is absolutely not accepted in most of the PLM implementations I have seen is the way users interact with systems. Most of the systems expose too many details, overload users with additional information and functions. I’d recommend that all developers implement a way to track usage of your user interface features and analyze the features that are not in use. As soon as you have this indication – remove the features. Nobody will care about menus/buttons/dialogs. As a result, you will have more display real-estate for your core functionality.

2. Mobile Applications. I love my iPhone J… Maybe not iPhone, but my mobile BlackBerry, Windows Mobile, etc. I think we need to come with mobile applications for daily PLM life. It should come in a way that will embed Product Lifecycle Management into my mobile life. People will appreciate it, I’m sure. And this needs to be completely role-based. To allow designers to see a list of documents they need to complete, to allow managers to see and approve lists of ECOs for today. At the end of the day, I want to be able to show the latest cool 3D model on my mobile device to my colleague during lunch time. All these small things will help us influence people’s minds.

3. Plug and Play. Last, but absolutely not least. Today PLM implementation is a 3-step activity: Install, Implement, Use. I want to exclude the “Implement” phase.  I think we need to provide a system that needs to be installed. After installation, we will be able to start using our system. But do we need to develop our processes? Do we need to organize our data? The answer is that we do need to connect to legacy systems and other systems. Think about the old way of connecting devices to Windows. IRQs, reboots, configurations. These days are in the past. The same should happen to PLM. Otherwise PLM will die.

I’m sure that each of you has specific pains related to PLM complexity. I’d be interesting in hearing your voices, and am looking forward to our dialog.


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