Social PLM: How to pull a trigger?

November 19, 2014

plm-social-trigger

In my yesterday blog, I shared some of my thoughts about “Facebook at Work” and potential impact on engineering and manufacturing software. It made me think again about all discussions and stories related to social software trend and social PLM.

Social was trending topic 3-4 years ago. Many new companies were founded back those days to realize the idea of “social enterprise”. No doubt it was heavily influenced by the large popularity of social networks and web. Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and many other companies supported that trend. In enterprise domains, companies like Yammer and few others made a successful swing by introducing their products in business domain.

CAD vendors reacted on social trend by introducing “social platforms” or “social products”. It was mix of new development (Dassault 3DSwYm) , partnerships with other vendors (Microsoft SharePoint – PTC Windchill Social Link) or technology acquisitions (Autodesk – Qontext). In my view, none of these products and technologies changed a way people used to work in organization. Vendors blamed engineers for anti-social behavior. Customers blamed vendors for non-intuitive user behavior, missed features and bad integration with engineering content.

I put some of my notes about why I think social PLM trend lost the opportunity: Why Engineers Don’t Like Company Private Social Networks? and Why Social PLM 1.0 failed? I guess,despite all attempts, email remains one of the most visible collaboration tool for most of engineering and manufacturing companies.

At the same time, I believe, it is a time to rethink ideas of how to bring social into business eco-system. This is not an easy task. Some of key elements can be – structured enterprise communication, integration with existing messaging and communication system and thinking about social in connection to task management.

I had a short tweeterstorm with Jim Brown yesterday, following my blog about “Facebook At Work”. Jim kind of dismissed my points about usefulness of Facebook as a business social tool. Jim stands behind his old article – What I Learned: We are not Going to Design an Airplane on Facebook!

@olegshilovitsky: Maybe @jim_techclarity will rethink his 5 years old statement about airplanes design on Facebook

@jim_techclarity: @olegshilovitsky No, not rethinking it. Re read the post and you will see my predictions are pretty spot on. This time, at least

@jim_techclarity: @olegshilovitsky There is a lot more low hanging fruit elsewhere. Easier to add social to PLM than PLM to social. Talk to you in 2019 ;-)

jimbrown-olegshilovitsky-tweetstorm-social-software

Most of the time, I’m in agreement with Jim. However, I disagree on his view on social software add-on role. We should not view “social” software as an addition to something else. This is a mistake that many enterprise software vendors did in the past few years. Social is a reflection of people behavior. I believe, this is a fundamental thing in what Facebook did – to emphasize the importance of “real person” identification in social network. All social networks before dismissed the importance of identification. Facebook made it as a core function and won. Of course, it doesn’t mean the same thing will work for social enterprise or PLM.

Facebook at Work is coming to capture attention of people during work time. Today, many places are banning Facebook as a destruction. I guess, Facebook wants to figure out how to offer social value for people during their work time. To me it means to crack “social behavior at work”.

What is my conclusion? The main point of “social” is not to become a nice addition to enterprise software to improve collaboration. Unfortunately, this is how most of enterprise software vendors (PLM included) understood it. Collaboration is important and existing PLM products need to focus how to improve user experience. But, social is not about that. Social is about “behavior” of people at work. Today, it is mostly around email and important business systems. Not much social. We don’t know how to pull the trigger of social software in a company. In order to do that, we need to think about “behavior”. We need to think how to make people addicted to business social function through the value it brings on everyday basis. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

photo credit: Ian Ruotsala via photopin cc


How CAD and PLM vendors will compete with “Facebook at Work”

November 18, 2014

facebook-at-work-for-engineers

Social software was hot topic in engineering software ecosystem for the last few years. The results are somewhat mixed. Start-up companies and well established CAD/PLM vendors learned by mistakes, some of them failed and some of them is still in process of developing new type of collaborative engineering software. I captured some of my thoughts about that here – Why Social 1.0 failed

One of the most famous messages of social software was to create “Facebook for XYZ”. Many companies tried to deliver this message in variety of forms in engineering software. The most impressive one was GrabCAD, which created a community of about 1.5M engineers sharing 3D CAD files. Even so, GrabCAD put their focus on development of cloud PDM software – to find a way to monetize. Some of my comments on what GrabCAD did are here – GrabCAD – from Facebook for engineers to PLM. GrabCAD is probably a company that unofficially can own the tag of “Facebook for engineer”. Google search is a good confirmation for that.

A very interesting news came from “original” Facebook. Earlier this week, Facebook leaked the information about Facebook’s intent to create so called “Facebook at Work”. Forbes article gives you some details about Upcoming Facebook at Work service will rival LinkedIn and Slack.

Facebook is preparing Facebook at Work, a service aimed at enterprise customers that will allow them to chat with colleagues and “collaborate over documents,” according to a new report in the Financial Times which cites anonymous sources.

Social business wasn’t an easy job for many companies. For the last few days, I see many speculations and reports about how easy (or not, actually) Facebook can capture a new business niche. Here is the article from ReadWrite – Why Facebook For Work Will Be A Hard Sell To Employers. This is my favorite passage:

Users will be able to chat with coworkers, collaborate on projects, and build catalogues of colleague’s contacts, with each of these services directly competing with Microsoft’s Yammer, Google’s Drive, and LinkedIn. All the services Facebook at Work will offer already exist. Slack, Google Drive, and LinkedIn already do these features well, and have the market for these respective services cornered. If Facebook at Work is going to have a chance of competing, it’ll need to extremely improve on its competitors’ services. And from the little we’ve seen of the service (with Facebook declining to comment), it’s hard to tell if Facebook for Work even has a chance.

“Facebook at Work” news made me think about what it means for engineering software ecosystem? First of all, it reminded me how is dangerous profession of industry analyst. It is still unclear how successful Facebook at Work is going to be, but Jim Brown of Tech-Clarity should be probably concerned about his 5 years old statement – We are not Going to Design an Airplane on Facebook!

All engineering vendors (CAD and PLM companies) just got a new mindshare competitor in everything that can be considered as social and collaboration. In my view it will be hard for Facebook to focus on “project collaboration” for design and engineering teams. The space is too narrow. At the same time, “social collaboration pond” is not as safe as it was before such a big fish as Facebook jumped into it.

My special attention caught by feature related to document sharing and collaboration. In my article – The path towards ubiquitous CAD cloud drive, I mentioned few examples of companies working on how to leverage cloud for CAD files storage and collaboration. Cloud file storage is an interesting place and I expect to see many changes in this domain in coming years. Every engineering company will have to think about pros and cons to have a special CAD files sharing tool. Facebook is just another behemoth convincing companies to store files on their servers and developing slick user experience to collaborate and share project information.

What is my conclusion? Facebook just captured a piece of attention for social project collaboration from everyone. “Facebook at Work” won’t compete directly with engineering software businesses. However, most probably, CAD and PLM vendors have to review their sales and marketing presentations. How to differentiate engineering collaboration software from Facebook? I will put security and CAD viewers on the top of my list of differentiators. Facebook won’t be able to change security perception overnight. Also, it will be challenging to develop 3D viewing solutions. Some specialized vendors can decide to jump and partner with Facebook about 3D CAD viewers. At the same time, there is one thing, which will challenge CAD and PLM vendors already tomorrow. Together with Google, LinkedIn and other web giants, Facebook will challenge engineering teams by setting even higher bar for project collaboration user experience. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

photo credit: aldoaldoz via photopin cc


How to re-think activity streams for enterprise?

July 23, 2014

controlled-collaboration

These days manufacturing businesses are more connected than ever before. Every manufacturing company (even smallest startup) has a tremendous need for collaboration – help multiple engineers to get involved into the design process, communication with suppliers, plan manufacturing processes, etc. Social networks and open web inspired many companies to develop collaboration software that mimic consumer social software. One of the main attribute of every social software (Facebook, G+, twitter and others) is so called "activity stream" or "news feed". The trend was strong and produced lots of copycats. The successful and lucky ones got acquired. Many of less successful died.

The idea of activity stream is very powerful. It allows you easy share and consume information. However, here is a thing – it is not protected from "noise vs. signal" problem. The more people you follow – more information will flow into your activity stream(s). You end up with messy stream of information you cannot keep up with. It is probably okay for public news or even for executives in a company interested to keep up with what is going on. However, it is probably not a good experience for engineers that need to work together on the same design or discuss next engineering or manufacturing change request. Also, it is probably not a very useful as a tool to communicate between departments and suppliers. And… this is absolutely wrong model to use for process management.

All problems I mentioned above is actually making the adoption os social system for collaboration questionable. I can see many confirmations to that. CMSWire article The Problem With Yammer? People Don’t Use It speaks exactly about the problem. Here is key passage:

But what if the problem is not about difficulty or learning curves but about culture? What if the problem with Yammer has nothing to do with the product itself and nothing to with usability, but rather with the fact that enterprise workers are holding onto email for dear life and are not prepared to give it up? Microsoft itself appears to be aware of this. The addition of complimentary Yammer for the new Office 365 plans appears to speak to that. However, if Microsoft’s updated offerings are a step in the right direction, they won’t solve the problem of social and collaboration in the enterprise.

Another interesting example – Facebook. Clearly the king of social networks recently introduced simple and very effective feature to get out of noise of your information stream – Save. It can quickly remind you old and well-known list of favorites. Navigate to TNW article – Facebook introduces Save, a new bookmarking feature to help tame your News Feed. Sounds like a simple feature, but it allows you to keep specific post out of noisy channel and focus on them later in a more controlled way.

These and many other examples made me think about what is needed to provide a better way to collaborate. My hunch is that "controlled list of topics" can better serve the need of engineers and other people to work together. How to make it? This is probably more tricky question. I can see it as the next logical step from email that still one of the most favorited tools to communicate. It also reminded me my post Why PLM shouldn’t miss next email move earlier this week.

What is my conclusion? Activity stream is a good way to present flow of information. However, the type of experience it creates is way too open and subject to be affected by information noise. I believe engineering tools should provide more tight way to communicate, exchange information and share data for collaboration purposes. This is main reason people are holding onto email as a best tool. New ways to collaborate is not here… yet. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


How PLM can join semantic enterprise graph?

April 10, 2014

plm-and-enterprise-graph

Connectivity is a key these days and graphs are playing key role in the development of our connectivity. It doesn’t matter what to connect – people, information, devices. Graphs are fascinating things. Actually, I came to conclusion we live in the era of fast graph development. More and more things around us are getting “connected”.

It is almost two years since I first posted about Why PLM need to learn about Google Knowledge Graph. The story of Knowledge Graph is getting more power every day. GKG is growing. It represents “things” in the knowledge base describing lots of topics – music, books, media, films, locations, businesses and many others. Part of Google Knowledge Graph is fueled by Freebase – large collaborative database of structured data. Originally Freebase was developed by Metaweb and acquired by Google in 2010. It is still not completely clear how Google Knowledge Graph built. You can read some investigations here. Nevertheless, it is hard to undervalue the power of Knowledge Graph.

Another well known and publicly developed graph is Facebook social graph. Last year I posted – Why PLM should pay attention to Facebook Graph Search. Facebook graph represents structured information captured from Facebook accounts. It allows to run quite interesting and powerful queries (also known as Facebook Graph Search).

In my opinion, we are just in the beginning of future graph discovery and expanded information connectivity. It won’t stop in social networks and public web. I can see graphs will proliferate into enterprise and will create lots of valuable opportunities related to information connectivity and efficient query processing. Semanticweb.com article Let Enterprise Graph Tell You A Story speaks about enterprise as a set of Facebook pages. It explains how we can build a graph story of enterprise communication, collaboration, people activities, related data and other things. Here is my favorite passage from the article:

Wallace relies on Hadoop and graph database technology, with network data represented as a property graph. “Property graphs are utterly, totally extensible and flexible,” she said, and “the system gets smarter as you add more data into it.” The enterprise social network data generates triple sets (that John Smith created X Document that was downloaded by Jane Doe) that get pocketed into the graph, for example, as is metadata extracted from relational databases. A general set of algorithms can find a user within the graph and calculate his or her engagement level – activities, reactions, eminence and so on. “We now have a Big Data service with a set of APIs so people can query the enterprise graph,” she set, and then run analytics on those results that can drive applications.

I found this aspect of graph development very inspiring. To collect enterprise information into graph database and run a diverse set of queries can be an interesting thing. If I think about PLM as a technological and business approach, the value of graph connecting different part of information about product and activities located in different enterprise systems can be huge. These days, PLM vendors and manufacturing companies are using a diverse strategies to manage this information – centralized databases, master data management, enterprise search and others. Graph data approach can be an interesting option, which will make enterprise looks like a web we all know today.

What is my conclusion? The growing amount of information in enterprise organizations will change existing information approaches. It doesn’t mean all existing technologies will change overnight. However, new complementary techniques will be developed to discover and use information in a new ways. Graph is clearly going to play big role. PLM strategist, developers and managemers should take a note. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

picture credit semanticweb.com


Why WhatsApp is Red Flag for PLM Collaboration

February 25, 2014

plm-whatsapp-collaboration

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


What Social PLM Can Learn From Facebook Decline?

December 2, 2013

social-noise

It is hard to find a company that are not trying to do "social" these days. The number of Facebook copycats everywhere is skyrocketing. Engineering and manufacturing software is not an exclusion and run into this game too. Social PLM is part of this trend. Even I can see less trials to develop a system called "social PLM" these days, there are lots of services that claim "social roots" in what they do.

In my view, this is a perfect time to watch some Facebook trends and see if we can predict some potential correction in the growing pile of social services for engineering, manufacturing and enterprise at all. Two data points. One comes from the article – Teenagers say goodbye to Facebook and hello to messenger apps. Author speaks about growing popularity of focused messaging apps (e.g. WhatsApp) and interest of specific groups of people to maintain communication in a closed groups. Here is an interesting passage:

No surprise, then, that Facebook is no longer a place for uninhibited status updates about pub antics, but an obligatory communication tool that younger people maintain because everyone else does.

Another data point comes from Reference Heap. Facebook site became much less useful within time. Sometimes algorithm present lots of pointless and useless information. At the same time, you are in danger to miss a very important message from your friends and families. Here is a passage with angry passage from Dear Facebook, You Suck article:

“One of my best friend’s mother lost her battle with cancer the other day, my friend wrote a beautiful status update commemorating her mother, it got 297 likes and tons of comments before I noticed it… You know how I noticed it? My mother called me and told me about her mother dying and I went to her actual page to see for myself. But you know what I did notice? Becky hates Mondays. My 3rd cousin whom I haven’t seen since a family reunion 10 years ago started playing his umpteenth game on Facebook.”

These two data points above made me think about potential danger turn "social enterprise" software can make by bringing everybody in the company to the "social game". The social stream will become overloaded. The chances to miss the right information will be too high and to signal/noise ratio will become too low. Dangerous place…

What is my conclusion? Social networks became so popular by their ability to connect people and enable communication and data sharing in a much more efficient way. However, I can see a limit to social user and data experience. Think about lots of people in a company sharing their updates and information in the same way we share photos on Facebook. I can see the effectiveness of this communication going down. Pretty much in the same way we are diving in zillions of emails in our email box, we will be smashed by a tsunami of social updates. Kinda different social way? Or maybe not much different from an email? Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


PLM and Common Social Platform Behavior

September 3, 2013

It has been long time since I discussed PLM and social trend on my blog. Social is going mainstream these days. It is hard to surprise people with social things now. People made their conclusions and follow their own social patterns and habits. One of the topics that often brings discussion is related to how “engineers” are getting into social work. Few days ago, my attention caught the following tweet from UpFront.eZine (voice by Ralph Grabowski):

Being an engineer, I just don’t get the whole “social” thing. Engineers are, by nature, not social. So, Dassault, stop forcing social on us.

This tweet made me think again about what means “to get social”. In my view, social network functionality is getting more and more standard. Like Windows File Explorer 15 years ago, the social stream becomes a commodity in terms of what it should provide. Different social networks are experimenting in providing an innovative way to communicate and the functionality gets cross-copy between products.

I’ve been reading Why Twitter’s new Conversations view is a big deal and why it matters for its IPO by GigaOM over the weekend. One of the points in the article is related to the fact all social networks are look the same (or similar) these days. However, I found the notion of standard social behavior interesting. Here is the passage I liked:

What is going on? Well, how about the standardization of all social platforms around the concept of objects and comments, especially on mobile. Objects are photos, videos, links, location data, status updates — and people like to share these pieces of comments. The behaviors around these objects are also getting standardized in the form of likes, shares and re-shares. The content shapes too are getting standard — squares mostly — thanks to the shift to the mobile. In very near future, it would be hard to distinguish the difference between the timelines/social streams/news feeds on anything social: Instagram, Foursquare, Facebook and Twitter.

While I agree with the opinion of authors about standardization of social platforms around such concepts like “object” and “comment”, the first one is the most important when it comes to the conversation about PLM and social. PLM “objects” are special and very different from photos, videos and web links. The nature of PLM objects is structural information with quite complex visualization rules. Think about CAD assemblies, Drawings, Bill of Materials and more. Standard social commentary around photo and video links just cannot work with such complex context. The ability of social PLM to navigate to the right contextual object is also complex.

What is my conclusion? The majority of innovation in PLM and social field will happen around the ability of the system to expose right engineering or design contextual object – CAD model, drawing, BOM, etc. The ability to link the conversation around a specific contextual object will become a competitive advantage as well as unique value proposition of social PLM vendors. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


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