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


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


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


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