How CAD collaboration can avoid competition with OneDrive?

April 15, 2014

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Collaboration is the name of the game today for many vendors. CAD and PLM vendors are included. Cloud technology is opening many new capabilities to collaborate and it is captured by existing players and newcomers. Sometimes, it happens so fast that it even create an internal competition. Image and Data Manager article Is OneDrive for Business the SharePoint alternative? speaks about interesting transformation that happens these days around file collaboration using Microsoft family of product. We knew about SharePoint capabilities to collaborate and share content (files). However, the new born child – OneDrive is growing fast and potentially can capture some spaces occupied by SharePoint today. I liked the following passage explaining how OneDrive takes on SharePoint:

OneDrive has a very simple interface (one that has been simplified further with recent updates). So it’s easy to upload your files and share them. You can also sync to all your devices, desktop, tablet, smartphone, giving you direct access to your content when you are online or offline. You even have mobile apps for iOS, Android, Windows 8 and Windows RT.

OneDrive even has this cool feature that allows you to grab a file from your PC even if you haven’t uploaded it to OneDrive. You have to turn that feature on, but it’s pretty nice to have.

SharePoint’s interface is OK, but it’s the subject of much debate. It’s not very intuitive to use and requires a fair amount of planning and organizing to get it set up in a way that’s easy for people to understand. Getting access to SharePoint on mobile devices has been spotty at best. Access via mobile (tablet or smartphone) has improved a lot with SharePoint 2013, but for those on SharePoint 2010, the story is not so good.

What I learned from this article is that file sharing, collaboration space is getting busy and competitive. Which brings me back to the discussion about specialized CAD collaboration tools. It made me think about some strategies CAD collaboration tools can use in order to avoid frontal competition with OneDrive, Dropbox and other file sharing and sync tools.

The name for this game is "layers". Creating of layered architecture will allow to CAD collaboration tools to store data using OneDrive (or other storage and share service) and, at the same time, enhance it with the data layer providing rich access to CAD specific content, viewer and other CAD data relationships. Think about it in a similar way how Google organized information from web for you. You are not necessarily store data on websites and other locations. Nevertheless Google gives you easy access to this information via different services. The basic service is search. Enhanced services can provide a specific vertical slices of information (think about Google Flight as an example).

What is my conclusion? To separate vertical application and horizontal services is getting more and more important. It was true in the past to build right enterprise architecture, but it is getting even more important in the era of cloud services. To be successful, cloud vendors will have to learn how to recombine and reuse technologies provided by different players. File Share and Synchronization is a very good examples to start with. For CAD vendors it means to learn how to share data on OneDrive or Dropbox, but at the same time to provide vertical experience specific for CAD content. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


CAD and Future Office Design Walls

March 26, 2014

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Collaboration is inspiring. It is very overloaded word in engineering space. Collaboration is often used in the context of CAD, design and engineering environment to allow engineers and other people to work together when they are located remotely and disconnected from each other. This is sort of mainstream collaboration scenario – to connect people.

While, this is absolutely true and important, I want to raise another perspective on collaboration. What about people working in the same office? How team of designers located in the same office can collaborate and discuss their ideas. What can help to the team to exchange information and discuss what they do. You may think – it is not a problem. When people co-located, the collaboration is not an issue. I don’t think. Sharing information together in the same place, exchanging ideas and discussion design options can be equally hard.

I’ve been thinking about office collaboration comparing it to our home communication. Our homes are getting more and more digital these days. Think about such a popular communication as photo sharing. Everybody knows Facebook, Instagram and other social apps. I’m sure you use it a lot, but it is mostly imply to the situation when you share photos with people connected by internet. However, rules are different if you are at house or in the party. You want to exchange photos and information. Facebook is too complex and won’t provide you the way to collaborate. My attention caught by Google Photowall announcement. This application allows you to share and stream information from multiple mobile devices to Chromecast player connected to TV set. Read more here. The following video give you an idea how it can work:

Google Photowall app made me think about potential opportunity to help engineers and designers to collaborate at office. Are you familiar with the way people stick drawings on office walls for review and discuss design options? What is you can replace it with special "design wall" collaboration app that will beam drawings on the screen from multiple devices and computers? It can be scalable, easy and won’t require to print paper and stick it on the wall. To me it sounds like a good digital alternative for 21st century.

What is my conclusion? We are moving into digital life everywhere. Screen size is getting bigger. New visual experience will replace the traditional paper communication. It is fascinating to see how it will happen. It is not in the future. It is here and coming. Just my thoughts…

Oleg


How engineers find path from emails and messages to collaboration?

March 14, 2014

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We are really bad about managing ourselves. The natural people behavior is to create mess. Life is getting more dynamic these days. We are swamped into the ocean of information, data streams, social networks, emails, calls, etc. If you want me to do something, send me an email. I’m pretty sure you are familiar with such type of behavior? I’m sure you do. This is our way to get our of mess, so we can track everything. It is true for both private and business life. One of the most requested feature in all PLM workflow systems I developed was to send notifications via email. HRB article Stop using your inbox as to-do list speaks about why we should stop this bad behavior. I liked the following passage:

The reason so many of us fall into the trap of conflating email and task management is that email is inextricable from much of what we do in work and in life: many of our tasks arrive in the form of email messages, and many other tasks require reading or sending emails as part of getting that work done.

While there are those who solve this problem by simply tracking their to-dos using the task manager within Outlook (or another email platform), that approach comes at too steep a cost. Keeping your tasks in your email program means you can’t close that program (and its attendant distractions) when you want to plow through your task list. Having both activities as part of one application also means that you’ll still have to flip from one view to the other; even if you open a separate window for your task list, you risk losing sight of it in a sea of open emails. Most crucially, defaulting to the task manager that is built into your email client means you don’t get to choose the particular task manager that works best for your particular kind of work, or work style.

Email became the pile of all activities I need to do. It is a mix of emails, tasks, alerts and everything else that eventually comes to my inbox to distract me. I want to resolve this mess. At the same time we all panic when messages are starting to come into multiple channels, since we are afraid to miss them. So want both – to keep all messaging activities together and focus on what is important and what needs to be done. It is a time to come with David Allen’s Getting Things Done method. Such method and systems can work for individuals, but what happens in groups, especially when these groups are sharing common tasks? This is where we get social these days.

Social became such a buzzword for the last few years. How many times you’ve heard "Facebook for xyz" or "Twitter for abc". I guess a lot… One of the companies that comes to my mind in that context is Yammer. The idea of Yammer was simple – go viral by combining people messages in activity streams. Microsoft snapped Yammer for $1.2B few years ago. Now Microsoft is converging Yammer with SharePoint – an attempt to create social collaboration system. Mobile has very strong impact on our life these days. Does mobile+social is a future big deal? For some of people it is really big deal – especially when we speak about Whatsapp acquisition by Facebook. Companies are recognizing the importance of messaging platforms. Example in engineering and CAD space – Autodesk (disclose – my current employer) just released mobile group messaging application Autodesk Instant.

So, social chat, social messaging, social networking are good. However, where is the line that turns emails and messaging into collaboration? The difference is big. What can differentiate between social email facilitating communication and system that allows people to collaborate (work together)? I posted Will Microsoft-Yammer kill social PLM? Not yet… The topic differentiating messaging and collaboration is context (piece of data). This data is presented in a contextual form allowing people to make operations and activities together. The simplest "collaboration" is commenting on Facebook photo. In the context of engineering activity, it can be more complex. What about drawing or 3D model? This is a good context for common work. So, collaborative nature of the system is first of all to allow access and common activity on the contextual data. Technically it can be done by sending email with link to the file on FTP site. But it is so 95…

What is my conclusion? I don’t think there is a clear boarder between email,messaging and collaboration. It is blurred. However, access to contextual information and data representations such as photo, spreadsheet, drawing or 3D model is the most important thing that differentiate between any type of fancy email / messaging and collaboration. By accessing these pieces of information together people can work together and get job done in an organized form. Engineers are surrounded by huge amount of complex information. So, collaboration is clearly way to go. However, don’t underestimate simple messaging, especially for some downstream tasks. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


CAD Collaboration & Cloud: Chat With GrabCAD’s Hardi Meybaum

March 12, 2014

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I had new kind of experience yesterday. It was on demand webinar. To me it was more like live blogging conversation. In case you following my twitter closely, you probably noticed Engineering.com webinar yesterday – CAD Collaboration & the Cloud: On-Demand Webinar with GrabCAD & Beyond PLM. I had a chance to meet and talk to GrabCAD CEO Hardi Meybaum. That wasn’t our first meeting. Hardi and I had many conversations in the past. The first one was back in October 2010 when we spent couple of hours in nearby Starbucks shop speaking about what GrabCAD is up to. This is an old post with my thoughts after that conversation. I’ve been blogging about GrabCAD and related topics such as CAD files sharing, Collaboration, Cloud and others a lot. Somehow, Hardi and I developed an intensive conversation via blogs and twitter. So, yesterday webinar was a first experience to turn our online social experience into live conversation.

If you want to listen to the record of our conversation, navigate your browser to this link with webinar recording. I found myself in agreement with Hardi about many related to CAD, Collaboration and cloud. I captured top 5 things to outline my agreement with Hardi:

1- CAD collaboration is very relevant and cloud is a right way to improve the collaboration among individuals in engineering and manufacturing companies. The fundamental questions related to how people can work together are still with us.

2- Globalization create an additional need to improve collaboration. Even small companies these days are not located in one place. Engineering and manufacturing can be done in multiple places to optimize for the cost. Individuals can work from home. This is an absolutely different environment and eco-system compared to what we had 10 years ago.

3- Expectations of people about collaboration, usability and speed of communication are changing these days. The reason is a lot of technologies and products developed in consumer, social and mobile space for the last decade.

4- Engineering workflow is absolutely important. CAD collaboration tool must be focused on how to make collaborative workflow painless and simple.

5- IT and other parts of organization must be focused on how to simplify communication and collaboration and stop behave as "police force" and focus on policies and restrictions to make collaboration more complex.

One of the feedback I’ve got after webinar is that it went too peacefully. It was also final Hardi’s conclusion – we need to disagree more. So, to inspire future conversations, I wanted to bring top 5 things to outline my disagreement with Hardi:

1- Hardi: File is primary things people are working on and file will be still important.

I think by keeping "files" in focus, we’re increasing the complexity of user workflows. If you think about social tools and web today, files are getting less and less important. Think about photo sharing. It was complicated when the scenario required to download files from SD card and publish it on the website. With development of modern mobile applications, photo sharing skyrocketed. One of the reasons – the ability to bypass "file" representation and publish directly from phone/camera. So, file must disappear and software vendors must do it by deep integrating with CAD and other tools.

2- Hardi: There is no technical challenge to get CAD data to the cloud.

The challenge of getting files to the cloud is significant. CAD and engineering data is very complex. Today it is resided on PCs and corporate network drives. It is huge (in size) and complex (in terms of dependencies). To make this data available online for collaboration via slow speed connections is one of the major competitive differentiation specialized vendors can develop against mainstream collaboration tools like Dropbox, Box.net and others.

3- Hardi: Goto market & price is a challenge

Price is not a challenge- cost is a challenge! The challenge is how to keep cost of CAD collaboration services low. Despite the common perception of web as a free resource, cloud is expensive. Storage, viewing, communication, global access, etc. – this is only short list of factors that can push cost of CAD collaboration services up. Dropbox and other mainstream vendors will use scale as a factor to bring cost down. So, to succeed in CAD collaboration and compete with mainstream vendors, every vendor needs to develop technologies to keep cost of the solution down.

4- Hardi: To develop tools with good user experience sounds like an ordinary development task.

User experience is never easy. To get data to the cloud seamlessly is very complicated tasks. Most of CAD engineers today are using Windows based desktop CAD tools. Majority of people are saving data locally. Asking engineers to bring data to the cloud can be a challenge. Another challenge is how to make desktop based design tools seamless connected with cloud environment without disrupting traditional engineering CAD desktop workflow.

5- Hardi: Local PDMs are not allowing to non-engineers to use the data.

I want to defend existing PDM technologies and products. So-called "local PDMs" developed multiple tools to allow people outside of corporate firewall to stay connected with data. Most of them developed web clients or mobile apps. In SolidWorks community, e-Drawing is another successful tool to share and collaborate on CAD data. Yes, these tools are not ideal. But companies are using them a lot in production these days.

What is my conclusion? I think CAD Collaboration is very interesting and still very relevant. There are lot of challenges and lot of opportunities. Seamless communication and efficiency are clear priority for companies and individual. The demand for new business models and pricing will push company to develop cost-effective services to support it. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


Who will create Google Sheets BOM (Bill Of Materials) Add-On?

March 11, 2014

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For the last few years, I’ve been chatting about the opportunity to use Google infrastructure and tools to innovate in PLM, engineering and manufacturing. Google enterprise apps influence on PDM/PLM market is still minor these days. However, I believe, Google cloud infrastructure and tools are consistently inspire established vendors and new companies to develop better solutions.

Earlier last week, I was discussing about how PLM can take over Excel spreadsheets. For long time, PLM tools have love and hate relationships with Excel. MS Office applications are very popular in every organization for collaboration. Think about SharePoint, Word, Excel. Specially Excel spreadsheet is a king tool in everything that related to BOM management. My old article “My Excel Spreadsheets: From Odes to Woes” speaks about pains related to the use of Excel for collaboration.

Online tools can solve many problems people are facing when use standalone Excel spreadsheets. Earlier today, Google informed about launching so called “add-on store” for Google Docs and Sheets. Read more here. One of the killing aspects related to Google Sheets Add-on is a transparent way to integrated application user experience within spreadsheet. Watch this video to see more.

Several applications were announced together with Google Sheets Add-on. I selected few of them that can make a lot of sense for engineering collaboration – Project Sheet (from forscale.project) and Workflows (from letterfeed.com). The following passage from TechCrunch article is my favorite:

With the help of add-ons, Google is clearly hoping to create a developer ecosystem around Docs. But maybe more importantly, these integrations will also make it more competitive in a landscape where Microsoft is now finally taking the online versions of its Office productivity suite seriously. For many desktop Office users, the ability to bring add-ons to the desktop versions of Word or Excel remains an important selling point

What is my conclusion? Eco-system or how it is now called “community” is an important element of future success. Microsoft relied on openness of Office and ability to develop add-ins very long time. In a modern world, Google Apps is a good infrastructure foundation for collaboration. It is still not clear if manufacturing companies are ready to trust Google as IT provider for their needs. I believe, a critical mass of application can be one of the factors that can influence future CIO and engineering IT managers decisions. Another obvious alternative is Office 365. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


Why WhatsApp is Red Flag for PLM Collaboration

February 25, 2014

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I think Facebook buying WhatsApp for $19B was a refreshing experience for everybody. For the last week, I’ve got tsunami of blog posts, tweets and other messages talking about Facebook, WhatsApp, founders, VCs and investments, influence of Soviet Union past on WhatsApp collaboration ideas and many others. Funny enough, I even found my own post – What Social PLM can learn from Facebook decline just few months ago. Did I predict the deal? I don’t think it matters… Two important points from my previous post I want to repeat again – (1) the relevancy of Facebook social stream is questionable and I can hardly rely on this to follow important information; (2) to communication in small group is sometimes much more efficient than broadcasting messages in wide audience of confused listeners.

Another WhatsApp related post on Medium caught my attention yesterday – A Brief Primer on Human Social Networks, or How to Keep $16 Billion In Your Pocket. Have a read – I found it insightful. This post reiterated the same point of small number of friend we actually have in real life opposite the number of "friends" we decide to stalker on Facebook. I liked this passage:

"In buying WhatsApp this week, Facebook is betting that the future of social networking will depend not just on broadcasting to the masses but also the ability to quickly and efficiently communicate with your family and closest confidants — those people you care enough about to have their numbers saved on your smartphone. … Facebook has long defined the digital social network, and the average adult Facebook user has more than 300 friends. But the average adult has far fewer friends — perhaps just a couple in many cases, researchers say — whom they talk to regularly in their real-world social network…"

Facebook bets on co-existence of these two social networks. It made me think about people collaboration, which is a part of every engineering and manufacturing organization. PLM vendors were building application for PLM, design and project collaboration for years. Collaboration was and still is one of the most overused words in PLM and probably in enterprise software too. For the last few years, CAD and PLM vendors are trying to bring new concepts into the world of collaboration. Some of them called "social". However, it is less important how to call them. What is important is that some of them are repeating the same mistake of broadcasting messages in a wide group of people.

I think CAD/PLM vendors must learn a lesson of inefficient collaboration in large broadcasting tools. Having even department group of 50-100 people posting messages in activity stream can be an annoying behavior. I experienced it by myself in some social collaboration experiments. I’d prefer to have a search for more efficient information navigation (actually Facebook Graph Search is a good example of improving efficiency). However, I’d like also to have the ability to collaborate in small groups of people focusing on a specific problem or design issue. Another example of close collaboration is small team working together on a specific project.

What is my conclusion? I think WhatsApp and Facebook story should be red alert for all enterprise vendors mimicking "social collaboration" into enterprise. It finally confirms to me inefficiency of large group message broadcasting and need to find more efficient collaboration principles and user experience. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


CAD cloud colalboration from Autodesk, GrabCAD and SolidWorks

February 4, 2014

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Collaboration was always in the focus of engineering software. Started earlier with CAD and product data management, software vendors tried to create an environment where engineers can easy collaborate and share information about design. The boundary of collaboration never been limited to engineering department. You might remember “extended enterprise collaboration” stories back in 2000s. That was probably first attempt to provide an easy way to share information among engineering and other teams. In my view, early collaboration software provided by CAD and PLM vendors had two main diseases – complexity of user interface (or how we call it these days – user experience) and complexity of computer infrastructure needed to be installed and maintained by IT departments.

The situation is going to change these days. User interface is clearly getting in focus of development teams. Most of CAD and PLM companies are recognizing the importance of smooth user experience. The demand of users set by public web giants such as Google, Facebook, Twitter and not by old-school enterprise software vendors. Cloud technologies are going to simplify IT jobs and provide new generation of IT infrastructure.

So, design collaboration space is getting hot. Established CAD vendors and newcomer start-up companies are trying to innovate by providing new environments and collaboration philosophies. I picked up 3 companies that in my view can provide a good example of the future CAD cloud design collaborative environment – Autodesk, GrabCAD and Solidworks.

Autodesk 360

Autodesk introduced Tech preview of new Autodesk 360 product. Core77 blog article Autodesk 360 Tech preview: it’s like Facebook for designers provides a very good coverage and screen shots. Here is the passage summarized what Autodesk 360 does:

autodesk360

The company has created a Facebook-like interface for projects and design teams; collaborators log on to a cleanly-designed dashboard page containing “all of the data, projects, people, tasks, discussions, activities, issues and alerts that are associated with design or architecture projects that they are working on.” Clicking on a project, for instance, is like clicking on someone’s Facebook wall; you get a linear view of all developments concerning that project, with your fellow collaborators’ updates taking the place of comments. People can upload relevant files as updates, and anyone with access can view any file, regardless of whether it’s an Autodesk format or not. (This includes non-design data, like spreadsheets and such.) And yes, Autodesk 360 can also be used from your phone or tablet, just as with Facebook.

GrabCAD Workbench (Partners Space)

GrabCAD is a newcomer in CAD collaboration space. Started as a space for engineers to collaborate few years ago (funny enough, it was mentioned many times as a “Facebook for engineers”), these days GrabCAD is moving fast to become CAD collaboration solution provider with their GrabCAD Workbench product. GrabCAD blog – Why GrabCAD created a next-generation release process? can give you some insight on GrabCAD strategy and philosophy. Here is what I captured:

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GrabCAD started as a way for engineers to collaborate on engineering projects. Over time, we engineered the secure system GrabCAD Workbench first for external collaboration, then, with CPD, for PDM-style internal collaboration. Unlike PLM systems, which mostly started as CAD-centric data management tools, we have approached the problem by first understanding the social and business problems our customers need to solve. This unique perspective caused us to partition the private engineering workspace from special “Partner Spaces” that make sharing such data secure and foolproof. While the engineering team is working away, each partner has access to the version released to them. The Partner Space also contains a limited and more appropriate set of tools for external collaboration, so the partner sees only what they need to.

SolidWorks Mechanical Conceptual (Dashboard)

Last week at SolidWorks World 2014 in San Diego, Dassault SolidWorks made an announcement about new product SolidWorks Mechanical Conceptual (SWMC). The product was long awaited and raised lots of discussion and controversy in blogosphere and CAD press. My single best link to follow different opinions about SWMC is SolidSmack’s article – What we found out about SolidWorks Mechanical Conceptual and Future of SolidWorks. Another good reference is Graphic Speak article – The business case for SolidWorks Mechanical Conceptual. What captured my attention in SWMC announcement is introduction of so called – 3DEXPERIENCE 3D Space. Here is how it was explained by Graphic Speak:

3dexperience-3dspace

Mechanical Conceptual introduces a new way of sharing data that’s integral to the 3D Experience Platform. Called the 3D Dashboard, it functions like the Windows Explorer for SolidWorks or any other desktop application. All models are saved to the dashboard in a so-called workspace that can be shared with co-workers or customers. The dashboard is accessible by a Web browser. Clients who don’t have Mechanical Conceptual can simply log in to view models

What is my conclusion? Customers have huge demand to improve collaboration. People are expecting collaboration should be as easy as sharing your photos on Facebook. However, complexity of design environment is much higher than sharing photos. This is a clear challenge for all vendors regardless on their status and experience. The simplicity is the hardest thing to deliver. However, it is not all about future of collaboration. In my view, cost will become the next important challenge. Who will be able to provide the best combination of features, user experience and cost will probably lead future CAD collaboration space in the cloud. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


CAD Collaboration: Synchronous vs. Asynchronous?

January 23, 2014

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Collaboration is not a new buzz in engineering domain. CAD and PLM companies are using this term already few decades in order to explain how their products can help designers, engineers and other people in a company to communicate and be efficient. Recently so called "social technologies" came to disrupt this space. For the last few years, we’ve seen many tries to introduce new type of "social collaboration". However, most of them didn’t change much – it was still about "how people can work together".

At the same time, social technologies and (specifically) communities of users raised again an important question related to the value of "asynchronous collaboration". On my long redeye flight back from San Francisco tonight, I was reading 3DCAD World article – CAD Goes Social. Article speaks about challenges of synchronous collaboration using CAD systems. Here is the passage, which explains potential challenges of "working together on the same 3D CAD model".

Nanosoft’s Evan Yares said, “Previous collaboration features were technically interesting, but they failed to impact the market. However, improved standards along with other more advanced enterprise applications might now make the concept more realistic. In fact, current research at Brigham Young University uses existing high-end CAD packages and ties them together with a ‘game engine’ framework. Students work together as if in a multiplayer game to edit 3D models while wearing headsets that let them talk together as they work. The researchers claim that such simultaneous group access leads to significant productivity improvements.”

To understand the concept better, consider the simple analogy of editing a document in Google Docs, a cloud-based application that lets enabled users simultaneously open and edit a document from anywhere. The approach works well as long as measures are in place to prevent users’ edits from “colliding.” But editing a CAD model poses more challenges because models are often built using a recipe of uniquely related and ordered features. Any change in a defining parameter by an uninformed user could cause the model to crash.

Social networks, photo sharing, professional community and online communication are raising question of increased value of asynchronous collaboration. GrabCAD is a community of engineers, open engineering marketplace and provider of GrabCAD Workbench (Collaborative Product Development) tool. The following passage explains some differentiators of GrabCAD approach (including quotes from GrabCAD VP Marketing Stevens):

“From the collaboration angle, our users are professional engineers who want to share their designs with a small group and work together on a project,” said Stevens. So that everyone in the world can’t see the work, we launched Workbench, a private visualization tool for CAD. GrabCAD is almost like a Facebook because it includes a stream of comments about a design. Users can leave for a day, come back, login and see that ‘Bob’ uploaded a new version of a design, ‘Sarah’ didn’t like the color, and ‘Henry’ says it’s too expensive to manufacture. All this is happening in a secure location.”

According to Stevens, the company provides some synchronous tools that let users see who is online, but users are more interested in asynchronous features. “That’s because it’s rare for everyone to be online at the same time,” he said. “What companies are really worried about is how to move projects forward faster by avoiding the lengthy delay of getting busy engineers to take screenshots.”

These two examples made me think about two approaches and use cases that might stand behind. After all, I don’t think synchronous and asynchronous are mutually exclusive.

The main driver of synchronous approach is to put everybody on the same page at the same time. Time is important because not everything can be written. Sometimes, you need to explain the problem and actually show it in the model / assembly. Complex geometry, decision making, analysis, design suppliers situations – these are typical examples when synchronous access to CAD models will provide huge value. It doesn’t mean people will be actually editing models together.

Opposite to that, asynchronous approach can help people to collaborate around the same context regardless on their time and location. This approach can be invaluable for teams working on large projects to improve communication, track decisions and change management. Asynchronous tools can help to crowdsource ideas and sparkle discussion in global teams.

What is my conclusion? Seamless collaboration is key to success in a team. Global teams is a reality in a modern engineering and manufacturing world. The situation is not going to change in foreseeable future. So, companies will continue to invest in how to improve collaboration. The scenarios and use cases can be different and it will require variety of approaches – synchronous and asynchronous. The simplicity and cost are two key elements of successful collaboration. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


PLM Messaging and WhatsApp Moment

December 20, 2013

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Communication and collaboration is an important part of every PLM solutions. To maintain an efficient way to communicate is not less important than the ability to manage CAD or BOM data. At the same time, email still remains the main system to run communication in every company and extended enterprise communication between OEM, suppliers and other parties. For the last decade or even more, the answer of PLM vendors on email challenge was to create an integration of PLM-process communication into Lotus, Outlook and similar email systems.

Recently, social collaboration became another way vendors are using to shake a status quo of communication problems and collaboration challenges. I’ve been observing modern trends and interesting cases around improvements that can be done in communication. Navigate to one of my previous posts – DIY PLM and zero email policy to read about trends in social networking and collaboration. Another interesting use case was the way Google email support integration of other systems for actionable input – PLM Workflow and Google actionable emails.

Here is a new thing I captured. Have you heard about growing popularity of Messaging applications? We can see new entrants (WeChat, WhatsApp) as well as establishing vendors play (Facebook, Skype, Twitter). Pay attention on the following slide deck – Messenger Wars: How Facebook lost its lead. In my view, it brings some interesting information and statistics about growing dominance of specialized messaging applications. If you don’t have time, take a look below – I put few slides that caught my special attention below:

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plm-whatsapp-moment-2

Messaging Apps winning over Facebook made me think about how dominance of one application can be challenged. I can see a potential opportunity to come and change a communication status of email in the company. Messaging apps are proposed address book and social graph integration. PLM messaging apps can suggest a better content and enterprise identity interaction in the organization.

What is my conclusion? I can see clear demand to make communication and collaboration more efficient. Consumerization and BYOD trends are introducing new challenges in front of PLM vendors. This is especially for new generation of users – digital natives. I think, some innovation can happen at this place. Email integration proposed by all PLM vendors is “so ’95“. I can see Messaging apps as a good example how to propose a new way to communicate and challenge existing ways to collaborate and run processes. The key elements are content integration and communication on multiple devices can provide clear differentiation compared to existing solutions. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


Why engineering technology has 10 years adoption cycle?

August 11, 2013

I’m relaxing in sunny Tel-Aviv, removing jet lag and preparing for coming working week here. For those of you not aware, Sunday is actually working day in Israel opposite to Friday, so it is a bit confusing shift after U.S. During my travel time from Boston, I had an opportunity to catch up on my social stream. Some of news made me think about adoption of new technologies in engineering and manufacturing software.

The article I stumble upon was Cadalyst review of SolidEdge University 2013. Navigate your browser here to get some additional information. The topic that caught my attention was related to SolidEdge partnership with GrabCAD. GrabCAD (well known as open engineering portal) is recently getting lot of traction by making announcement about partnership with Autodesk and Siemens. Here is the passage in the article I specially liked:

…the company announced it has become the first to partner with the open engineering web site GrabCAD to facilitate real-time model sharing and review on the cloud for those users who want it. Users will be able to upload files directly from Solid Edge ST6 to GrabCAD Workbench, controlling access as they see fit.

One of the latest GrabCAD moves was introduction of GrabCAD Workbench – secured environment for collaboration using private and public cloud environment. Here is how GrabCAD workbench defined on GrabCAD website:

GrabCAD Workbench is built from the ground up for CAD. We display all major CAD files right in the browser, no special software required. View the design in 3D, explore exploded and section views, and "pin" comments and markups right on the model. Uploads are easy – just drag and drop the full folder structure and we do the rest.

You can get more detailed list of features here. GrabCAD features are including – viewer for CAD files, easy upload, notification, automatic revision control, versions backup and security encryption.

There is something that struck me when I was reading about Workbench features. It reminded me one of projects I was working on back 10 years ago – mySmarTeam (later re-branded as Enovia Community Workspace). I googled old SmarTeam announcement from earlier 2000s. Navigate to this link to read more. Here are few passages from that old press release:

mySmarTeam.com enables product teams to form virtual development communities and instantly share product related information with the different parties involved in the product design and change process, including customers, suppliers, partners, purchasing agents, outsource manufacturing, sales, and marketing. mySmarTeam.com is a user-friendly, browser-based project management environment, that allows product development teams to store, search, view, download and review product specifications and configurations, CAD drawings, Bills of Material, and any other type of documents on the web. Because it is based on the powerful SmarTeam PDM engine, mySmarTeam.com provides functionality for managing product revisions such as check-in, check-out and release, version control, and organizing projects into folders.

According to Avichay Nissenbaum, vice president of product marketing for SmarTeam, "Portals such as mySmarTeam.com provide an affordable, convenient way of expanding the use of PDM to numerous such groups who otherwise might not have on-line access to information. The ability to create a community around an area of interest, expose the appropriate data to that community with the proper security measures, will dramatically reduce errors, speed response time to market requirements, resolve customer issues, and overall time to market."

Avichay’s statement about community around area of interest was the most remarkable. Isn’t it what we are doing now, 10 years later with social tools and social networks?

Speaking about technology adoption cycle and in a spirit of Sunday, I want to point you on another interesting article – The Long Boom: A History of the Future, 1980 – 2020 by Peter Schwartz and Peter Leyden. Navigate your browser to this link to read more. The article speaks about different trends and trajectories of economical and technological development. One of them is related to the birth of networking economy. Here is the passage I found amazingly match to what happened with engineering and manufacturing collaborative tools:

Research by a few economists, like Stanford University’s Paul Romer, suggests that fundamentally new technologies generally don’t become productive until a generation after their introduction, the time it takes for people to really learn how to use them in new ways. Sure enough, about a generation after the introduction of personal computers in the workplace, work processes begin mutating enough to take full advantage of the tool. Soon after, economists figure out how to accurately measure the true gains in productivity – and take into account the nebulous concept of improvement in quality rather than just quantity.

What is my conclusion? There are lots of changes and innovation these days in enterprise environment. Businesses and customers are looking how to improve their productivity, reduce cost and optimize for new business realities. However, you need to be aware about adoption cycle and be prepared for that. Here is my recommendation for all PLM / PDM innovators these days – go and review 10 years old projects. I’m sure you will find something that can be ready for adoptions these days. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


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