3 ways to break PLM social intertia

August 18, 2015

social-plm-inertia

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


PLM Alphabet and Google Hardware Projects

August 11, 2015

google-alphabet-plm-hardware-projects

ECM, PDM, PLM, MDM, ERP, CRM… you are familiar with the soup of acronyms used by enterprise software to fight for a place to provide a holistic solution for enterprise manufacturing business. E[E] blog post by Ed Lapotegui speaks about how to put PLM in the box. I like the conclusion- don’t bother stuffing PLM in the box. Soon enough, there will be no box.

For many PLM companies business it is still running as usual. But, I’m sure you’ve heard the news – Google is restructuring under a new holding company name called Alphabet. An official blog post from Google is here – G stands for Google.

What is Alphabet? Alphabet is mostly a collection of companies. The largest of which, of course, is Google. This newer Google is a bit slimmed down, with the companies that are pretty far afield of our main Internet products contained in Alphabet instead. What do we mean by far afield? Good examples are our health efforts: Life Sciences (that works on the glucose-sensing contact lens), and Calico (focused on longevity). Fundamentally, we believe this allows us more management scale, as we can run things independently that aren’t very related. Alphabet is about businesses prospering through strong leaders and independence. In general, our model is to have a strong CEO who runs each business, with Sergey and me in service to them as needed. We will rigorously handle capital allocation and work to make sure each business is executing well. We’ll also make sure we have a great CEO for each business, and we’ll determine their compensation.

Now we can officially speculate if one of the letters in Alphabet will be used by Google to create a company focused of product lifecycle management software. So, does P stands for PLM?… After laughing for some time about the idea, it made me think about Google hardware projects. Seriously… The number of hardware businesses under Google umbrella is growing. Think about products like Nest, Google’s prototype of self-driving cars, running robots and many others. The last year The Verge article – Google is building a hardware empire, and this is what it looks like can give you a glimpse of what is a scope of Google hardware projects.

I’m sure you remember why software is eating the world. We can see the impact of that around us. Here is the thing… software revolution is coming to hardware companies. Another year old article – With software eating hardware, Silicon Valley enters hard time speaks about coming revolution in hardware development. Hardware is becoming more like software:

Thankfully over the last decade, hardware design has become easier and more democratized. 3D printing and better software tools have accelerated the ability of many startups to build their prototypes, allowing them to speed up their product iterations. Early hardware startups now often feel like lean software businesses, with much more interactive product development, thus allowing for more rigorous analysis of product-market fit.

In the past, when it came time to manufacture a product, only the largest companies used to have access to assembly lines in places like China. Minimum order sizes were often completely unaccommodating for startups. But as competition has intensified, custom manufacturing has become easier, and labor costs have risen, manufacturers appear to be more willing to engage with smaller orders, and they have also decreased their average turnaround time, as well.

What is my conclusion? The original idea of PLM came from large defense and aerospace companies several decades ago. Nothing wrong with that – PLM fundamental concepts are reflection of the way large manufacturing OEMs are working. Here is the thing… new manufacturing companies can develop new ways to work – agile, lean, easier, more democratized. It will bring new create new ways to design, engineer, manufacture and build software – different from what we know as of today. PLM acronym can die. We will have find a new letter. Would it be part of Alphabet (Google) soup? I don’t know. But, it is a good time for PLM companies to think about future competition trajectories. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Picture credit Bloomberg business article. Illustration by Nick Edwards.

 



Cloud CAD and Offline Internet

May 29, 2015

online-offline-cad

I had a chance to attend Google I/O extended 2015 event in Cambridge, Mass yesterday. If you follow up Google I/O, you might be already up to the speed with all Google announcements around Android, Wear, Internet of Things, Photo, etc. If not, check Google I/O 2015. What caught my special attention is Google’s focus on offline. Offline is starting to be important, since Google is thinking about future internet expansion. Think about questions like – how to search on mobile when Internet connection is weak? or How to navigate using Google Maps with no internet connection?

Offline is an interesting topic. We want to have our life connected and collaborative. But at the same time, we are trying to think how cloud applications will work with absence of internet connection or in the situation when internet connection is very weak. TechCrunch article Google Quest to bring the internet to 7 billion people can give you some brief about what Google plan to do. The following Gizmodo article specifically talks about YouTube offline and Maps offline.

offline-google-maps

Another thing that Google did is optimized download time for bad network connections. I’ve seen a demo and it really makes a difference.

optimized-download

It made me think again about offline topic in the connection of cloud CAD. The “offline” topic is one of those things Autodesk Fusion360 and Onshape are different these days. Read my earlier post – Autodesk and Onshape disagree about cloud technology and focus. For the moment Fusion360 is an app that requires installation and it works connected with Autodesk 360 cloud platform. It can remind you Evernote – you can install it and it will sync data instantly and keep your records so you can access it from any device. Onshape is taking a different route – full cloud CAD application and it works completely in the browser. You can think about it as Google Apps and Gmail-like approach.

Al Dean of Develop3D shared his opinion on strategy and technology of both Onshape and Fusion360 in his article The cloud – a bright future ahead. Here is the passage addressing the “offline” topic.

Eventually, Fusion will be available via the browser (I’d put a fiver on that being before the end of the year). DS’ next generation SolidWorks products will get better and more accessible. Though strangely, this is the unknown in the calculations as DS is reluctant to talk about the whole thing, presumably to protect its dominance with SolidWorks.

And hopefully, OnShape will have a way of working when you’re offline, as well as internet connected. Finally, I’d hope that DS is much more open about getting its customer’s access to the tools it is developing . The excuse that “They’re using our resources so they should pay” simply won’t cut it as these tools need to be played with, discovered and explored. At the moment, they’re not getting the exposure that they deserve — leaving a whole new market open to Autodesk and Onshape.

What is my conclusion? Will CAD vendors take Google way to make cloud CAD offline? This is an interesting place to watch. Google made several attempts for offline work in Google Apps. It didn’t work in the past, but these days I can save my work offline in Google Drive and it is magically getting in sync when my computer connects back to the internet. Google Maps is a great example how to address specific offline needs. I guess cloud CAD vendors can learn a lesson from Google. It seems to me Autodesk and Onshape will be coming to offline mode from two separate directions. However, focus on customers can be a good guidance to see what is important and when. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Google I/O pictures credit Gizmodo.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net


Will search replace engineer’s brain in the future?

January 17, 2015

engineers-plm-brain

Computers are changing the way we work. It is probably too broad statement. But if I think about the fact today is Friday afternoon, it should be fine :). I want to take a bit futuristic perspective today. Google, internet and computing are good reason why our everyday habits today are different from what we had 10 years ago. Back in the beginning of 2000s we’ve been buying paper maps before going on vacation and kept paper books with phone numbers of people we need. Look how is it different now. Maybe we still need to make a hotel reservation before the trip, but most of the thing we do can be achievable online via internet and mobile devices.

A month ago, I posted about connecting digital and physical entities. I was inspired by Jeff Kowalski presentation at AU 2014. You can get a transcript and video by navigating to the following link. The idea of machine learning and "training" computer brain to find an optimal design is inspiring. The following passage from Kowalski’s presentation is a key in my view:

…we’re working on ways to better understand and navigate existing solutions that might be relevant to your next design project. Using machine learning algorithms, we can now discover patterns inherent in huge collections of millions of 3D models. In short, we can now discover and expose the content and context of all the current designs, for all the next designs. Taxonomies are based on organizing things with shared characteristics. But they don’t really concern themselves with the relationships those things have with other types of things — something we could call context. Adding context reveals not only what things are, but also expresses what they’re for, what they do, and how they work.

Nature explores all of the solutions that optimize performance for a given environment — what we call evolution. We need to do the same thing with our designs. But first we have to stop "telling the computer what to do," and instead, start "telling the computer what we want to achieve." With Generative Design, by giving the computer a set of parameters that express your overall goals, the system will use algorithms to explore all of the best possible permutations of a solution through successive generations, until the best one is found.

Another time, I’ve was recently thinking about artificial intelligence, machine learning and self-organized systems was my article – How PLM can build itself using AI technologies. The idea of The Grid that allows to self organize website based on a set of input parameters and content learning is interesting. It made me think about future PLM system that self-define system behaviors based on the capturing of information and processes from a manufacturing company.

The article Google search will be your brain put another interesting perspective on the evolution of computer and information system. Take some time over the weekend and read the article. The story of neural nets is fascinating and if you think about a potential to train the net with the knowledge of design, it can help to capture requirements and design commands in the future. Here is an interesting passage explaining how neural nets are working from the article:

Neural nets are modeled on the way biological brains learn. When you attempt a new task, a certain set of neurons will fire. You observe the results, and in subsequent trials your brain uses feedback to adjust which neurons get activated. Over time, the connections between some pairs of neurons grow stronger and other links weaken, laying the foundation of a memory.

A neural net essentially replicates this process in code. But instead of duplicating the dazzlingly complex tangle of neurons in a human brain, a neural net, which is much smaller, has its neurons organized neatly into layers. In the first layer (or first few layers) are feature detectors, a computational version of the human senses. When a computer feeds input into a neural net—say, a database of images, sounds or text files—the system learns what those files are by detecting the presence or absence of what it determines as key features in them.

So, who knows… maybe in a not very far future CAD and PLM systems will be providing a specific search based experience helping engineers to design and manufacturing in a completely different way.

What is my conclusion? While it still sounds like a dream, I can see some potential in making design work looks similar to search for an optimal solution with specific constraints and parameters. A well trained algorithm can do the work in the future. Just thinking about that can fire so many questions – how long will take to train the net, what will be a role of engineers in the future design and many others. But these are just my thoughts… Maybe it will inspire you too. Have a great weekend!

Best, Oleg


Mobile CAD and PLM development options

December 10, 2014

mobile-web-cad-plm

Mobile PLM is one of the topics I’m following on my blog. You probably remember my post – How PLM vendors can find mobile moments. Today I want to speak about technological aspects of mobile development. For the last few years, mobile development took us into the world of multiple platforms and device compatibility. I posted about challenges of mobile and native web development in the past – Mobile PLM: Apps vs. Mobile Browsers? and Mobile PLM Native Apps Challenge.

If you think, mobile development is “native apps” now, there are some of good news on the horizon. ReadWrite article – What Google Has In Store For The Mobile Web brings few interesting data points about underline mobile development from Apple, Google and Microsoft. Article mentioned Apples WKWebView inclusion in iOS 8 as well as Microsoft’s WinRT. Google’s Chrome team is working to improve performance. If you want more technical details, the following article – The future of Web according to Google can give you deep insight. I found the following passage capturing the momentum well:

In other words, Google is about to bring the Web back to parity with native. In some ways, actually, it’s making the Web better than native, because the Web doesn’t have the same problem with app distribution that app stores have. As Google makes the Web a first-class citizen on mobile, there will be less cause to worry about Apple and Google duopolizing our newly mobile world.

One of the main aspect of to be in love with native mobile apps is offline. It is a huge factor and today native apps have an advantage here. However, it won’t stay that way for long time.

Offline is a big deal, it’s one of the most defining features of native apps vs. web in today’s climate. As Alex Russell put it in his talk: “It isn’t an app if it doesn’t run when you tap.” Once ServiceWorker lands [around the end of 2014], it’s only a short time later that we’ll see Push Notifications in the browser (they use ServiceWorker to coordinate). This will mean that, with a simple permission opt-in, a website will be able to notify you days, weeks, or months after you visit it. With the growing importance (and interactive nature) of notifications on mobile platforms, it’ll be great to see the web get to participate.

What is interesting that even today some iOS and Android apps are not purely native. Here is an interesting chart I captured from another ReadWrite article – HTML5 has a new best friend –and it is Apple, not Google.

native-web-dev-in-mobile-apps

These mobile web news made me think again about what it can give to CAD and PLM developers in a near future. PLM vendors invested in mobile development and you have mobile app for almost every PLM today. It added lot of complexity to development team – getting back to web can be a good news for development and product managers working to align mobile and web features. Offline wasn’t supported for most of mobile app, so it was never a case. However, offline work can be a big deal, especially for CAD tools.

What is my conclusion? CAD and PLM development (as well as most of enterprise software) has longer lifecycle compared to consumer application. To cut development cost can be interesting option for engineering team. Users will have benefits of better alignment in functionality between mobile and web versions. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


Future of design: how to connect physical and digital entities?

December 3, 2014

connect-physical-digital

Technology can help us to expand horizons of possible and impossible. I’ve been experiencing this expansion earlier today while watching AU2014 keynote session online while physically traveling to Denver, CO. Twitter and streaming video are quite efficient way to stay in touch with event virtually everywhere. If you missed AU live streaming earlier today, you can catch up on it in recording here.

Autodesk’s CEO Carl Bass was talking about changes computers bring in our lives and how it impacts engineers. He spoke about interaction between physical and digital worlds. Scott Sheppard summarized key points of Carl Bass speech here. I specially liked the following passage:

Computers and software are great tools, but only if the data they are computing is in the right form. When they know what to do, computers can do awesome things, but they are almost useless when we have problems we can’t communicate in terms they understand. Technology is the driving force behind the biggest changes in the future of how we design, engineer, and make things. There are two fundamental shifts in play: (1) The first is narrowing the gap between the physical and digital world — essentially what’s on the two sides of the screen; (2) The second big change is getting the computer to understand the relationships and interactions of the people and companies doing the work.In each case, our ability to represent the problem in the computer determines how well we can use the computer to solve it.

One of the key things I captured is related to understanding of relationships between physical and digital assets. This is where things are getting really interesting. This is also something that connected me to Jeff Kowalski’s story about design for live objects.

It made me think about how future design can be connected to real information we are capturing today online. Google is ahead of many other companies in building online knowledge base about the world we live in. It comes in variety of digital forms – maps, traffic, information about physical entities and many others. If I will try to connect Jeff’s example with self made bridge, I guess information about this bridge, city and traffic is already available on Google in different forms. So, how future design companies will create technologies with information that can be intertwined between digital and physical entities?

Google Knowledge Graph is one of the technological elements to represent a diverse set of information about physical and digital entities. I’ve been writing about it before. A new article caught my attention few weeks ago – Insightful Connections Between Entities on Google’s Knowledge Graph. Read the article and draw your conclusion. Here is the most interesting passage speaking about data connections:

The node in a data graph may represent an entity, such as a people, places, items, ideas, topics, abstract concepts, concrete elements, other things, or combinations of things. These entities in the graph may be related to each other by edges which connect them. Those may represent relationships between entities. For example, the data graph may have an entity that corresponds to the actor Tom Hanks and the data graph may also contain information about other entities such as movies that Tom Hanks and others have acted in.

google-data-graph-nodes-edges

Google Knowledge graph is not the only way to embrace connection in digital world. Facebook, LinkedIn and other web companies are focusing on building of information graphs about digital assets and physical entities. I’ve been touching it in my semantic enterprise graph post. Together with design and engineering information it can provide a view of future physical and digital universe.

What is my conclusion? The border between digital and physical entities is getting blurred. According to Carl Bass, in the future we will capture physical entities and re-use it for design of new products. We will capture experience of live object and build models to make analysis and improve them. It will require deep understanding and management of connections and relations to create a giant model of future hybrid universe of physical and digital world. Just my thoughts and thanks Autodesk for inspiration.

Best, Oleg

Disclaimer: I’m Autodesk employee. However, the views and opinions expressed in this blog are my own only and in no way represent the views, positions or opinions – expressed or implied – of my employer.


Cloud PDM hack with Google Drive and other tools

November 6, 2014

google-drive-app-launch

Earlier this week I talked about future of ubiquitous CAD cloud drives. My hunch CAD and other engineering software companies will be trying to use new cloud technologies to improve the way people collaborate on design. The question what tool to use for CAD file collaboration is not simple. I discussed it last year – Top 3 pros and cons to have a special CAD file sharing tool.

Engineering software vendors are trying to bring values such as collaborative viewing, redlining and even project collaboration. At the same time, companies focused on generic file sharing and collaboration are in a full swing to improve their mainstream solutions as well.

Some interesting news came from Google yesterday. Read Google blog post – Launch desktop applications from Google Drive in Chrome. The story is quite simple – Google is chasing Dropbox in the way how to make Google Drive even more transparent to work with desktop tools.

But here’s the catch: when it comes to browsers and installed applications working well together, they aren’t quite on the same page. To change that, today we’re launching a new extension for Chrome that lets you open files from Google Drive directly into a compatible application installed on your computer. This includes apps like advanced image and video editing software, accounting and tax programs, or 3D animation and design tools. So, no matter what you keep in Drive, using the web to access and manage files doesn’t mean you’re limited to using applications that only work in your browser.

Unfortunately, CAD files are not in the list of supported file types. I guess, it may change in the future. A transparent sync of files between cloud and local file storage can open a new opportunity and hack the way to simplify future cloud PDM solutions. Still, majority of tools used by engineers today are desktop tools.

One of the biggest challenge I can see here is speed of synchronization and work with multiple dependent files. It can create an opportunity for cloud PDM vendors to innovate. Some of these problems can be solved by software technologies – cloud PDM and Dropbox Streaming Sync. CAD vendors are looking how to innovate in cloud PDM as well. Example – Autodesk adds PDM functionality to PLM360. Alternatively, I can see some potential in hardware solutions to create virtual cloud file system. Here is one possible example of such solution – Panzura Global File System.

What is my conclusion? Cloud to desktop transparency is a big deal. There is no magic. If you want to use desktop tool you need to sync files. However, technology that can make it transparent can simplify user experience and make users unaware about actual location of files and the way files are going to be synchronized. It will allow to use existing CAD tools but and manage and collaborate using cloud. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


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