Workspreadsheet and workmessageflow

July 16, 2015


When screening tweetstream yesterday, I caught CIMdata’s Stan Przybylinski question on twitterWhat % of product development data authored and/or resides in Microsoft products (Office, Exchange)? Thinking IP not number of files or megabytes“. The question itself is interesting. How to measure the % of IP? And how IP is created?

It made me think about IP creating paradigms and engineering software. Decades ago, before computers came to organizations, IP was created in engineering and drafting offices. I remember the office my dad was working in decades ago. The picture above (credit to Armstrong Siddeley car and aircraft engine works) can give you an idea of what was that. IP was created on paper and it was visible. I remember how my dad was walking alongside of drawing boards to review project progress. Processes were visible too – notes and papers were moving around and clipped on drawing boards.

Benedict Evans’ blog Office, Messaging and Verbs brings an interesting perspective on evolution of productivity applications and changing paradigms. My favorite passage is related to evolution of tools and changing the way to address the same business problem.

When people talk about productivity – about PowerPoint and Excel and how Google Docs and the cloud will or won’t kill them, or messaging and the cloud, or how you need a PC for ‘real work’ – I’m reminded of CC Baxter and his Friden calculating machine. What killed those machines was not better, cheaper competitors but a completely different way to address the same underlying business need. Instead of hundreds of people recalculating insurance rates, the company bought a mainframe. The business need was being met, but the mechanism changed completely and the old tools disappeared.

That is, the way forward for productivity is probably not to take software applications and document models that were conceived and built in a non-networked age and put them into the cloud, or to make carbon copies of them as web apps. This is no different to using your PC to do the same things you used your typewriter for. And of course that is exactly how a lot of people used their PCs – to start with. Just as today we make web app copies of software models conceived for the floppy disk, so the first PCs were often used to type up memos that were then printed out and sent though internal mail. It took time for email to replace internal mail and even longer for people to stop emailing Word files as attachments. Equally, we went from typing expense forms (with carbon copies) to entering them into a Word doc version of the form, to a dedicated Windows app that looked just like the form, to a web page that looked just like the form – and then, suddenly, someone worked out that maybe you should just take a photo of the receipt. It takes time, but sooner or later we stop replicating the old methods with the new tools and find new methods to fit the new tools.

Tools following workflow and then overtime changing the workflow itself. I can see it happening in engineering software too. Drafting paradigm created 2D CAD drafting software, which later on changed and transformed into 3D modeling tools. Despite many earlier predictions, 2D is not dead and many engineering and manufacturing companies are still using 2D paradigm to fit their working processes.

PLM tools were born in large companies to solve complex configuration management processes – to manage complexity of data and changes. Therefore PLM systems we have today is a reflection of existing workflows. Tools just reflecting existing working processes. Now, it is a time to for tools to evolve and change existing workflows.

I want to come back to my observations about problems with “analog PLM”. This is what we have today. Existing PLM systems are actually a reflection of existing workflows. We are getting into “better” version of existing workflows and tools. But, better and cheaper version cannot create a change. This is exactly the same point I’ve made in my blog about what cloud PLM cannot do for you. Yes, cloud PLM is better than on-premise systems. But this is still the same way to solve business problem.

What is my conclusion? Existing PLM systems built around two fundamental paradigms – product model and message workflows. Although these models are very fundamental, they are reflection of paper oriented models engineers used before computers came to our working environment. For the past 20-25 years, CAD digital models shifted existing workflows and created new design paradigms and environments – 3D design, simulation, etc. Existing PLM environments are complex. It takes long time to setup and it is hard to use. In my view, product lifecycle management is still waiting for new digital paradigms to take over existing workflow message flow. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

PLM, Digital Native and Human Interaction

November 7, 2012

Digital Native and Digital Immigrant. Have you heard about these terms? Lately, we are starting to hear about it more and more. Our familiarity with technologies is different. This is not only a result of our professional interest, but also something in our roots and… age. Navigate to Wikipedia’s article about Digital Native. I captured few definitions there:

A digital native is a person who was born during or after the general introduction of digital technologies and through interacting with digital technology from an early age, has a greater understanding of its concepts. Alternatively, this term can describe people born during or after the latter 1960s, as the Digital Age began at that time; but in most cases, the term focuses on people who grew up with the technology that became prevalent in the latter part of the 20th century and continues to evolve today. Other discourse identifies a digital native as a person who understands the value of digital technology and uses this to seek out opportunities for implementing it with a view to make an impact.

The same article provides us with a definition of "digital immigrants". As you can imaging, these are people that need to accommodate to the changes digital environment brings to our life and work. Here is the passage from the same Wikipedia article, which explains also the term as well as some additional aspect of relations between generations and different communities of people.

A digital immigrant is an individual who was born before the existence of digital technology and adopted it to some extent later in life… Due to the obvious divide set between digital natives and digital immigrants, sometimes both generations are forced to meet which commonly results in conflicting ideologies of digital technology. The everyday regime of worklife is becoming more technologically advanced with improved computers in offices, more complicated machinery in industry etc. With technology moving so fast it is hard for digital immigrants to keep up… This creates conflicts among older supervisors and managers with the increasingly younger workforce. Similarly, parents clash with their children at home over gaming, texting, YouTube, Facebook and other Internet technology issues. The Pluralist Generation, with birthdates between 1998-2012, is made up of digital natives.[5]

I’ve been reading and observing different aspects of digital immigrants and digital natives, including the way they are interacting. It made me think how we build products and communicate these days. Clearly, the majority of manufacturing companies and engineering firms are run by people born before 1960s. As we move forward, I can see many questions arise. Some of them are related to existing product and working methods. However, it is also important to analyze and see how modern software products and eco-system will influence a product-development process.

The following Instagram photo caught my attention. It provides a quote from Facebook’s S-1. I found this passage interesting and connected to PLM and product development – We think a more open and connected world will help create a stronger economy with more authentic businesses that build better products and services.

Another example that came to my attention is related to the company taking their roots in Facebook, the internet and "digital native" paradigm – GrabCAD. The company grew up fast as "facebook for engineers". Recently, GrabCAD announced their new strategy to develop "collaboration platform and products for engineers". Navigate to the following GrabCAD blog by Hardi Meybaum speaking about the future of GrabCAD engineering collaboration with Jon Stevenson (VP Technology). This passage caught my attention:

Having built the world’s largest active community of mechanical design professionals, GrabCAD will change the way products are designed and manufactured. GrabCAD is changing the way engineers and companies collaborate to build better products.

Another passage from GrabCAD blog related to human interaction and collaboration (now between engineers and sales people)

GrabCAD was started by mechanical engineers to build tools for mechanical engineers. We are not going to make overly complicated, difficult to use PLM/PDM/ERP tools for enterprises. We will not sell our product through middle men who cause higher prices and prevent direct feedback from customers. Instead we are going to build a product engineers enjoy using, something that solves engineers’ problems. Everything we build is distributed through, so we can work to create an amazing experience from start to finish. Everyone in the GrabCAD team responds to customer questions and needs, so we know your pain and can act quickly to resolve issues.

What is my conclusion? Human interaction. It is something that different between digital natives and digital immigrants. What is the difference? Here is my take for digital native – open, online and the internet. Opposite to that, this is how I can summarize it for digital immigrants – close, offline and email. It will create a big difference during the next few years. Companies are going to build a new experience of designing product, engineering and manufacturing stuff. Interesting time. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Image courtesy of [watcharakun] /


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