3 ways to break PLM social intertia

August 18, 2015


You might think "social trend" is over for enterprise product lifecycle management. PLM companies are not buzzing too much about social PLM these days. In my earlier post back in 2012, I shared my thoughts Why Social PLM 1.0 failed? One of my conclusions was that "social PLM" had low value for single user and provided too much focus on enterprise-wide value proposition such as improved collaboration, streamline processes, etc. Nothing wrong with that, but it failed.

At the same time, I think, the fight for social enterprise is not over yet. My attention caught E(E) blog Antisocial Enterprise V: the final Facebook by Ed Lopategui. The article brings few very interesting points related to failure or success of social systems inspired by analysis of Google+ trajectory and his own experience of moving from G+ to Facebook. He summarized it with 3 points conclusion: First movers inertia, network competition and users fatigue, technology is irrelevant. Ed is asking for a system for both – work and play. The following passage can give you an idea and reason in a nutshell.

So it should be rather plain right now that Facebook is eating the world. People want to leave it, but they simply can’t. Lots of upstarts appear to dethrone them, they languish for a while, and are crushed. The only meaningful exodus is younger people who are leaving, not necessarily for a better experience elsewhere, but merely to escape a system that ties them uncomfortably close to their parents. What does that mean for enterprise networks? Competing in this environment may not be an option. It may be high time to change strategy – turn to the Trojan horse approach perhaps. Integration encapsulated within a robust security model to slowly build the inertia necessary to ween users off Facebook altogether, without having to directly give up Facebook. Until it’s too late. That would require a system designed for both work and play that understands and can transparently enforce the needed boundaries between both.

Here is the thing. I’m not sure agree with the approach of building a social system for both play and work. It sounds not realistic to me. But I captured one thing, which is important to understand – inertia. This is a huge deal. Many manufacturing enterprises are operating under high level inertia assumption. It means that they have no real reason to make a specific change decision. Business is operating as usual, until something really bad happens. To take a decision and introduce a change is risky and people are afraid of making mistakes. This is what happened with social systems. Systems such SharePoint took enterprises by storm. It means that IT managers discovered one day that all employees in a company is using SharePoint, but central IT has no idea where servers located and who installed them.

So, how to design a Tojan horse that will solve a problem of social inertia. I think, a deeper look at Facebook story as well as experience with other systems. Here is a potential options of how to make it happen.

1- Ease of data capture. The massive success came to Facebook with availability of camera on every mobile device. We can think about ease of capturing data for social PLM system. If a "social Trojan horse" will be able to capture data in the organization and help share it with other people can be a good way preventing people to leave a system.

2- Open – to prevent data locks. People are afraid of data locked in a specific system. Each time they think, that social system is another silo to lock data, they will run away. Make it easy to get in and out can be another way to eliminate initial inertia.

3- Innovate in business model to make it available for a whole organization. Social software brings value when it used by many people. The more people you bring in, the better is system behavior and more substantial is value proposition. Lucrative licensing and business models of PLM vendors are not very much appealing to most of social PLM software to be used by all people in an organization.

What is my conclusion? Social inertia is a big deal. Few tricks like real identity and pictures made a change for Facebook and allowed to spread across communities and people. Looking for something similar for enterprise can be a key to unlock the future of social enterprise PLM system. Who will find that key first, will have it all. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Image courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Facebook’s new search – why PLM vendors should care?

December 24, 2014


I’m following Facebook search development effort. Maybe you had a chance to read my earlier post about that – Why PLM should pay attention to Facebook Graph Search? Search development in Facebook is interesting lead by ex-Googler Lars Rasmussen. You can read some interesting materials about that here Facebook’s Bold, Compelling and Scary Engine of Discovery: The Inside Story of Graph Search and here.

Few days ago, my attention caught by new updates about Facebook search updates – Facebook search now lets relive old status updates. This update was also mentioned on Facebook’s news room here. The following passage is very interesting.

Speaking about the function of post searching, Facebook VP of Search Tom Stocky said “With a quick search, you can get back to a fun video from your graduation, a news article you’ve been meaning to read, or photos from your friend’s wedding last summer…Your search results are personalized and unique to you and, as always, you can only see things that have been shared with you.” Conceptually, you should be able to type a few key words that you recall from the original post in order to make the post in question appear within the search results.

The scale of Facebook search is impressive. Here is quote by Mark Zuckerber about search initiative from Facebook 4Q 2013 Earnings Call Transcript:

So starting with Graph Search, we’re really early in the game on this, and I think you can see that because we haven’t even really rolled out our mobile version of Graph Search yet, and we’re a mobile company, right? And we started on desktop and the way that we’re thinking about this is there’s just so much content that people have shared on Facebook that simply building the infrastructure to index all of it and start ranking it is a multiyear effort, which we’re making our way through. So the first release indexed more than a trillion connections between all the people and interests and events and groups and things that everyone was connected to. The second release that we did recently was around all the updates, right? So there are more than a trillion status updates and unstructured text posts and photos and pieces of content that people have shared over the past 10 years, and indexing that was a really big deal, because as the number of people on the team who have worked on web search engines in the past have told me, a trillion pieces of content is more than the index in any web search engine.

Trillion connection between people, connections and updates. This is impressive and clearly can be compatible with scale of data held by manufacturing companies. To complexity of connection embedded into engineering information is very high and it requires a piece of sophisticated technology to crunch it. I’ve been experimenting with Facebook search over the past few days and find it interesting. I found few references on my old posts and unknown before sources of information.


What is my conclusion? The amount of data accumulated by manufacturing companies is huge. As engineering companies are moving their effort towards cloud and online the need to have an infrastructure capable to crunch this scale of data is growing. Facebook is an interesting referencing point to keep in mind. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

It is not easy to add “social” to PLM

December 1, 2014


My recent post Social PLM: How to pull a trigger? became a trigger for me to think and discuss “social” topic again. I found certain level of disagreement with Jim Brown’s position about how to put social in PLM. Here is Jim’s comment:

@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

I’m sure Facebook is not coming after PLM market. Getting back to my Facebook at Work post, my hunch is that Facebook is trying to crack the complexity of social behavior at work. And… this is not easy. And, therefore to add social to PLM is probably not easy too. We’ve seen so many established vendors and startup companies that tried to “add social” to CAD and PLM tools. Even to develop new tools. So far, it ended up mostly with Facebook copycats and collaboration around comments in CAD models and drawings. Is it all about social at work? I stuck with the statement of “easier to add social to PLM”. I don’t see “social” as feature or add-on that you can add to existing tools or technologies. In my view, social is a reflection of people relationships, behaviors and fundamental needs. It took me more than few days to come with some thoughts about that and I wanted to share it with you.

I came back to one of my posts from the last year – Why Social PLM 1.0 Failed? My main conclusion back there was about value proposition of social tools. The fundamental interest of people in social tool was driven by variety of social behaviors. Facebook added true identity into social networking and it gave a spike in usage among people interested in other people activities, social status, relationships, photos, etc. LinkedIn helped to develop our professional identity and find beneficial connections for our carrier and business. Twitter gave us ability to follow variety of information stream in a very easy way.

Adding social into PLM, ERP and other enterprise tools means to improve communication. In my view, this is a place where all enterprise social tools have some sort of mixed achievements. Let me bring some examples to explain what I mean. I can see two fundamental communication patterns in a company – enterprise transaction system (ERP, PLM, CRM) and email.

1- Transactional communication. The main focus of this type of communication is about business processes. It is about adding new position in your organization using CRM tool, creating new Part Number in ERP system and approving ECO using PLM system. There are many other examples. But, in all these cases, people need to perform a transaction – this is a main purpose of their communication.

2- Email. Everything that doesn’t fit transactional communication goes into email. We have many complains about email overload. At the same time, we like email. It creates communication record, can prove what you did and in many situation serves a document. The ubiquity of email and mobility makes email a convenient tool to communicate.

Enterprise social tools are pretending to simplify communication and make information in the organization more transparent. It is true. I can see few situation where social tool can be successfully used by sales and marketing team to update company and synchronize about their activity. I also can see social collaboration as a good tool that can help to find an expert in a company based on previous records and projects. However, it doesn’t replace the fundamental capabilities and functions of email and, as a result, turns out to be another communication channel.

What is my conclusion? Similar to successful social networks, enterprise social tools need to find a single purpose for people to use it. Not as a vitamin, but as a painkiller. It is like a Facebook that gave you a way to watch people activities online. What is that function for enterprise organization? How it will be able to replace email or other tool? How it will make people to justify “another communication channel”? All these questions need to be answered. As a result we will invent “social tool for enterprise” that will become powerful as Facebook or LinkedIn. In my view, enterprise social tools and specifically engineering (PLM) social tools didn’t provide enough value to people to change their traditional communication…. yet. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

photo credit: Nimages DR via photopin cc

Social PLM: How to pull a trigger?

November 19, 2014


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 ;-)


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


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


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


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


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