Do We Need Engineering Note App?

March 27, 2014


Yesterday’s post about how engineers can collaborate in the office, made me think about another aspect of collaboration – taking notes. You may argue… Taking notes isn’t specifically collaborative activity. However, I can see it very tightly coupled with our ability to communicate and collaborate.

There are lots of applications for notes taking these days. Just to mention few of them – Evernote, OneNote, Word processing applications such as Microsoft Word and Google Docs. You can see a comparison of some popular applications here. Mobile is another interesting platform today for notes taking and it created a separate niche. Take a look here – Five best mobile note taking apps. Expanding even more, Evernote is transforming into platform and allows to other development specific note taking apps – The Best Evernote Apps for Organizing Even More of Your Life.

Do you think engineers are taking notes? I think, they do. I have to admit that I do… I also know few other engineers that taking notes. Now think about engineers using CAD systems and many other engineering and manufacturing applications. Do they need a special application to take notes? Maybe CAD should develop "note function"? Maybe new social collaboration tools will provide it? I don’t know. Nevertheless, I want to outline some specific functional requirements for engineering notes app:

1- Engineering context support. When you take notes, you want to be able to capture snippet of a specific content coming from CAD and maybe other engineering content creation tools (analysis, bill of materials, etc.)

2- Integrated camera for 3D, photo, voice and video capturing. It is very important to be able to capture real world content. Engineers can take this app to field trips or use it at shop floor. Ability to take photo, video or even capturing 3D model is extremely useful.

3 – Integrated measurement tools. Measurement is another aspect of engineering activity. To have ability to take measurement in the field or check dimensions can be extremely important.

What is my conclusion? There are lots of general purpose application for taking notes. Nevertheless, I think, customization is important. To have note taking app tailored for the needs of engineers can be an interesting option. Especially, if this app will support a specific engineering context. If you know one, please let me know. I didn’t find it yet. How to make this app? This is a tricky question. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

PLM Return on Mobility Challenges

March 20, 2014


Almost two years ago I posted my Mobile PLM gold rush – did vendors miss the point? post. Mobile usage is skyrocketing. It is hard to imagine our lives without mobile devices. Is it a good time to get back to the conversation about PLM, engineers and mobile? What is a special purpose of mobile applications for engineers and product lifecycle management?

I was reading The Future of Enterprise Mobility article earlier this week. Article focuses on the research done by 451 Research and Yankee Group about mobile applications and enterprise. I captured two main challenges – data and device type. First one is easy and complex at the same time – too much data is flowing through mobile devices these days. IT cannot protect the environment from mobile devices- this is a reality. Another one is related to a diverse number of mobile developers – Apple, Samsung, Nokia (Microsoft) ,Blackberry. Here is my favorite passage:

Among the changes Yankee Group looks to take place is that mobile applications will move front and center. It’s only in fairly recent times that the tools to help companies affect this shift have been available. Tools that are both enterprise-grade and that offer the type of agility, scalability and flexibility for enterprises to innovate in a truly mobile-world have not long been a reality. They are beginning to emerge, but enterprises are still being sold either the false promise that traditional approaches have all along allowed this capability or the false compromise that you can’t have both.

Another market change is mobile cloud platforms will look to become the new mobile middleware. New mobile cloud development and infrastructure platforms have emerged during the past 18 months with a steely gaze on the enterprise, on the proliferation of internal and customer-facing applications being considered, and on becoming the new mobile enterprise middleware. By abstracting much of the traditional back-end engineering complexity to cloud-based services, these vendors offer a compelling approach, one that will continue to have market-wide impact and be key to helping enterprises scale not only their applications and projects but also their innovation.

So, what are potential problems and issues vendors are facing developing their mobile strategies. Is it just "another screen" with a little bit different user experience? From my view, many of enterprise people including engineers, this is how mobile devices was perceived for the last few years. Mobile applications for engineers and PLM, specifically, used mobile coolness factor, but didn’t deliver much value. Thinking about that, I thought ROM (Return on Mobility) topic introduced in the article is a good parameter to manage before deciding about future mobile options for PLM and engineers.

The Return on Mobility scorecard is a new research methodology that calculates the value enterprises achieve from their investments in the platforms they use to develop, deploy and manage mobile technologies and services. It’s an ROI specifically for mobility. With the increasing importance of mobile, social and cloud technologies enabling business success, it’s crucial for companies to make the right, informed decisions concerning the solutions and platforms they use. – The focus of the RoM scorecard goes beyond total cost of ownership to measure ROI for enterprises through benefits such as application integration, employee productivity and customer experience.

It made me think what can be an easy ROI from mobile technologies in product development and manufacturing. Here is my guess. Process speed. By increasing and optimizing processes, we can improve decision making and information flow. An example can be ECR/ECO process. Cost of ECO is one of the highest for every manufacturing and development organization. One of the opportunity to get ECO process faster. Email and messaging are two top scored mobile applications. We use it everywhere. It must be a very good way to get people involved into the process and speed process up. For the last years we gathered lots of experience in mobile email. To connect mobile email to ECO process with right context can provide high ROM.

What is my conclusion? In my view, we came to the end of "mobile for the sake of mobile" story. ROM is an absolutely right approach that must be taking into account before every mobile application for engineers will be developed. PLM process speed and specifically ECO/ECN turnaround can be a good application for mobile platforms and tech. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Cloud CAD and PDM will become easier for Android and GDrive?

January 22, 2014


The topic of network performance is one of the favorites when it comes to discuss viability of cloud storage and cloud systems. Will it perform well for slow network and disconnects? In my view, technology is going towards better transparency of network for connected and disconnected apps. And, for the sake of truth, most of us are using it already today. Think about our loved and hated Outlook. It syncs data transparently and practically seamlessly for users.

However, mobile world is a bit different. Mobile device memory, OS and browser capabilities are different. With growing capability of mobile devices, to leverage device storage can be a straightforward solution to solve slowness of network (especially when work with heavy information such as CAD data). Engadget article Google Drive dev tools promise better and more powerful apps shows new capability of Google Drive API available for Android devices. If you are developer, watch next 6 minutes video.

The following passage is key in my view.

The main attraction is a feature called transparent offline syncing, which, for users, means that cloud storage is treated the same way as local storage. So, you get the benefits of massive amounts of storage provided by GDrive, without needing to spend on more storage in your phone. And, should you not have a good enough connection to the cloud, the API automatically shifts to storing your data locally until it has good enough reception to send it to the servers. Because of this, developers can design more capable, powerful and generally better app user experiences for less endowed (read: cheaper) and flagship handsets alike.

What is my conclusion? As we move forward, technological showstoppers will disappear. I can see CAD viewers application leverage transparent offline syncing to bring better viewer performance and experience. Later, I can see cloud data management apps (read "Cloud PDM") smoothly transfer data from devices to cloud storage. Technological leaders must take a note. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Why do you need to ask PLM vendor about JavaScript?

August 10, 2013

Customization is a great deal in every enterprise software deployment. Despite all efforts of vendors to invent out of the box (OOTB) enterprise software deployment, most of systems are requiring significant customization and coding. This is not a healthy situations, but with absence of better choices, manufacturing companies need to look for systems that can be flexible enough and supporting easy customization. In one of my previous blogs – PLM customization is Data Management titanic, I’ve been talking about challenges of customization as well as mentioned example of customers migrating between heavy customized PLM systems.

A typical PLM customization includes variety of tasks including changes in data models, tailoring of user interface and integration with other enterprise systems. To make your hands dirty and write some custom code is almost unavoidable task in this situation. If you long enough, you probably remember, VB and/or VB script were king of the road in all implementations and customization for many years. You practically had no choice to make any changes and customization without knowing this language.

I have to say that situation changed since the last decade. Intensive development of web and mobile application made VB/VBScript usage going down. JavaScript becomes a new king on the road. The following ReadWrite Web article caught my attention earlier today – Why Javascript will become the dominant programming language of the enterprise? Read the article and make your opinion. I found the following passage interesting:

There are strong odds in favor of JavaScript becoming the dominant language ofthe enterprise. This isn’t to say every other language will atrophy overnight (they won’t; too many legacy systems count on them) nor that JavaScript is free of issues (no language is). But the gigantic efficiencies to be gained by having a lingua franca for the enterprise, especially when that lingua is easily learned and already in wide adoption, makes the case for JavaScript very strong. Even Microsoft has warmed to the JavaScript movement, promoting it to first-class citizenship in Windows 8.

All of this is good news for the enterprise. A simple, open language, equally adapted to building both client and server-side apps? There’s no such thing as technology utopia, but JavaScript looks like the next best thing.

I often use Google Trend to capture dynamics of people interest. The following chart presents some dynamics between VBscripts and JS.

What is my conclusion? The landscape of software development is changing dramatically these days. Cloud, web and mobile development are main driving forces together with open source software. It will impact enterprise tools and introduce new requirements for integrating PLM products (and not only) in the enterprise and beyond. Important. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

PLM and augment reality in consumer products

August 9, 2013

You think PLM is boring and complex. Actually it can be fun and easy. I think simplification is one of the most important trends today in enterprise software. It helps to take complex technologies mainstream. Mobile devices made it possible by combination of camera, power computing capabilities and accessing data on the cloud.

I’ve been positing about two application realizing the potential of capturing user input last year in my post – PLM, mobile devices and capturing input. Two applications I featured were Autodesk ForceEffect and Dassault 3DVia mobile.

Augment reality can go long way. If you remember my another post – COFES, PLM and Augment Reality. I featured some very interesting futuristic examples of augment reality usage in BIM.

However, some of vendors and companies in consumer product space is taking augment reality mainstream even today. Take a look on the following article in The Verge magazine – IKEA app projects virtual furniture into your living room. It looks easy and simple by use your mobile device in your home. IKEA app is gathering information from IKEA catalog or online could store.

What is my conclusion? To simplify technology and make it easy to use and affordable. This is a way for many PLM projects these days to show their value. I imaging many companies today have product information located in their PDM, PLM and PIM systems. However, how to make this information shine out? Mobile tech and augment reality is one possible way to make it happen. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


Why PLM vendors need to learn about hybrid mobile platforms?

July 10, 2013

Mobile development is skyrocketing these days. Everybody wants to be mobile. Enterprise vendors slowly discovering the power of mobile apps. However, to develop a robust and powerful mobile applications is not a simple thing. One of the biggest challenges many enterprise developers are facing these days is diversity of mobile platforms combined with high cost of development.

With high level of complexity required to deliver mobile enterprise apps like ERP, CRM and PLM, it is not surprising that software vendors are looking how to optimize mobile development. One of the potential challenges many of vendors are facing is so called "mobile web" vs. "native apps" development. I’ve been posting about it couple of months ago – Mobile PLM Native App Challenges. Mobile web can provide advantages of unified development, but limit the richness of native app development that most of users are regular to have on their iPad, iPhones and other mobile devices.

Complexity of mobile development created an interesting opportunity in mobile development space – hybrid mobile app development platforms. In a nutshell it means that you can develop your application using web development technologies (eg. HTML5) and it will be embedded via wrapper into native mobile app on iOS or other native mobile platforms. The following TechCrunch article gives you few references and examples of companies that embarked towards hybrid mobile development. Two names I captured from the article – PhoneGap and AppMobi. The last one was acquired by Intel few months ago. Take a look on the following video to get more info.

It made me think that development of hybrid mobile apps can be an ideal option for many CAD and PLM developers looking how to combine the power of rich user experience and beauty of native mobile application. Another video captured from TechCrunch article shows how TradeMonster created very powerful and rich user experience for iPad using hybrid HTML5/Mobile app framework.

What is my conclusion? To optimize enterprise software development on mobile platform is an interesting opportunity. With a pressure to deliver more apps with rich user experience in short time, PLM and CAD companies can think about hybrid platforms as almost ideal choice to optimize their software development cost. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

What CYOD means for PLM?

May 28, 2013

mobile-apps.jpgDo you like acronyms and buzzwords? Not much, I guess. You probably familiar with that one – BYOD (Bring Your Own Device). For the last couple of years, BYOD trend transformed and disrupted IT policies in many enterprise organizations by permitting employees to bring personally own mobile devices (laptops, tablets and smartphones) to their workspace and use them to access corporate information as well as use corporate enterprise systems.

Earlier this week, I’ve learned a new one – CYOD (Choose Your Own Device). Navigate to the following link to learn about what Gartner defines as one of the hot enterprise trends in 2013 – Evolving communications: hot enterprise technology trends for 2013. Here is an interesting passage:

This year, Gartner has predicted that mobile phones will overtake PCs as the most common web access device worldwide. As a consequence, increasingly connected consumers and professionals are instinctively evolving the way they communicate and operate. Amidst this surge in mobility, the most strategic enterprises are also proactively evolving their communications, recognizing key trends such as bring your own device (BYOD) and choose your own device (CYOD) as an enabler for business growth, rather than a problem that must be dealt with.

Here, speed could be a critical factor. More specifically, businesses that are swift and agile in the way they use and further the deployment of technologies within the organisation are more likely to realise important opportunities to improve internal productivity and efficiency, as well as seize the potential to further competitive advantage.

It made me think about some potential impact it will create on enterprise software vendors strategies. To increased role of mobile devices and mobile application will create a need to develop a diverse set of PLM apps independently running on mobile platforms leveraging corporate and/or cloud infrastructure. I shared some of the ideas of mobile communication and OTT application in my blog earlier this week – Will PLM pickup OTT mobile communication strategy.

What is my conclusion? The influence of mobile development in PLM will increase coming years. This is a good time for PLM vendors to move from "the same, but mobile" strategy new way to provide customers with new type of mobile applications. Speed will be indeed a very critical factor here. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Office Competition Gets PLMish?

May 23, 2013

Office and other productivity tools are un-separateable parts of product development environment. Some of them such Microsoft Excel literally can stop product development and manufacturing in many companies. I’ve been blogging about Excel and Office many times. Couple of weeks ago, I came back to this topic with my – PLM Excels and Future Downfall of Manufacturing post. If you remember my presentation about PLM development trends, Office is part of so-called DIY (Do-It-Yourself) PLM.

For the long period of time, Microsoft Office was (and probably still is) unbeatable by other Office providers. Word and Excel are ultimately de-facto standards. You cannot live without these two applications installed on your computer regardless on your role in manufacturing company.

At the same time, the competition in Office space is getting more aggressive. One of the Office competitors (Google App) was keeping the status of "good enough" alternative, which make impossible to use Google Docs and Spreadsheets as a real alternative to Excel and Word. There are some news in this space. Navigate to the following article – Google Is Prepping A Sneak Attack On Microsoft Office. Google is planning to play a catch up game with Office. Well, this is a not a very big news.

The following picture made me re-thing some of my thoughts about Google Apps, PLM and competition in this domain. Take a look below.

The keyword is "mobile". Google Apps are getting significantly better on mobile devices for the last year. The ability to edit and work collaboratively on mobile devices can be a groundbreaking feature and game changer in the ability of Google Apps to compete with Office. What does it mean for PLM? Collaboration is very important in product development and manufacturing. Even small companies can be distributed among 3 locations in different continents these days. Google collaborative functionality can provide a very easy and simple way for people to collaborate.

What is my conclusion? Mobile is disruptive. We like this word "disruptive"… It smells good to all technological geeks and bloggers. Will ‘mobile office’ change PLM excel competition ground rules? I think about capability of co-editing bill of materials in online spreadsheet using your iPad or Android device located in different places – manufacturing shopfloor in China and restaurant in Palo-Alto, CA at the same time. Do you like the idea? Well, I’m kidding. Dont’ work in restaurant on you BOMs :). Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Image source – Google.

Will PLM pickup OTT Mobile Collaboration strategy?

May 22, 2013

Collaboration. Magic and one of the most confusing words. People are using it in so many contexts that it became meaningless. One of the main trends that was dominant for the last few years was social collaboration. Social networks and social tools went mainstream and it impacted the way business applications and tools think about collaboration. I outlined it few years ago in my post – PLM Collaboration Social Trends and Lotus Notes Memories.

To bring the experience and techniques of social tools in business domain became one of the trends in many application and system developments. I can bring you multiple examples of systems that were created for the last 2-3 years to implement social collaboration – Salesforce Chatter, SAP StreamWork, Oracle WebCenter Social, Autodesk Qontext and many others. Social Applications are coming to design tools as well. Navigate your browser to one of my previous posts – From Design Collaboration to CAD Social Tools to read more.

At the same time, new trends are coming. Have you heard about OTT messages buzzword? OTT term was originally used to define the over the top content that you can stream by passing multiple operators. In the context of mobile messages, it used to define messaging application running on mobile phone, but bypassing regular SMS/Text messages. Techcrunch article – The Future Of Mobile-Social Could Spell The End For Social Networks speaks about trends around OTT messaging applications and social networks. The following picture is showing clear trends towards OTT messaging application to capturing the conversation.

Another interesting viewpoint – migration from social platform and networks to point messaging applications running on top of mobile devices. Here is an interesting passage:

The ground has been set for a fascinating next few years as the web-based social platforms seek to own mobile-social messaging and the mobile messaging apps seek to extend into more fully integrated social features. As of this moment the mobile-first apps have the lead measured by number of users and levels of engagement. To keep it they will need to continue to innovate. The human race is already social, and the smartphone has everything needed to enable them to act on their social needs. As the growth of OTT messaging and media sharing shows, a user’s social needs are being met with no need for a social network. In this mobile-social world the only question is, whose software will we all use to enable human social activities?

You may ask me – what is between OTT and PLM? Here is the thing. PLM adoption in organizations is a hard topic. How to make customers using PLM applications beyond engineering (the core domain where PLM is originated in many situations)? One of the possible ways is to come with ad-hoc OTT mobile application allowing to downstream users to get access to data in PLM system for decision making or other workflows.

What is my conclusion? OTT messaging is a new behavior we discover for the last 2-3 years. People are experiencing it in their personal life. In the past, PDM/PLM used File Explorer and MS Outlook user experience to drive user adoption. Similar to that, PLM applications can use the familiarity of people with OTT mobile applications to help driving PLM downstream adoption. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

PLM and importance of mobile apps

May 7, 2013

Mobile is hyping, trending, skyrocketing… You name it. Everything goes mobile these days. Many developers of enterprise apps are asking these days – what does it mean for me? PLM developers are one of them. How mobile apps are important for users of CAD, PDM, PLM and other engineering applications? In the past, I posted – Mobile PLM gold rush. Did vendor miss the point? My main point – mobile is about how to get a specific job done. It is about how to "read email", "approve task", "review change". However, it is clearly not about how to make "everything mobile" .

I was reading an interesting article few days ago. Larry Page Says Mobile Apps Won’t Hurt Search: ‘The Information Wants To Be Found’. Here is an interesting passage you may want to remember.

CEO Larry Page responded that he “always” gets asked about how the popularity of mobile apps affects Google search, but he’s “not super-concerned” about it. “We’ve been dealing with that issue for a long time,” Page said. “Fundamentally search is an amazing thing for publishers and software developers and other apps. I think, in general, the information wants to be found."

The statement resonate. PLM is first about how to make product information available for people. The right information at the right moment of time. PLM system should deliver this information regardless on type of device you are using – desktop, mobile, Google glass (:)).

What is my conclusion? The critical role of mobile apps in PLM is related to ability to deliver information and make a decision regardless on your location. Product development and manufacturing business is dynamic and distributed these days. Mobile apps need to support it. However, it is only possible by establishing core PLM services managing data and processes in a seamless way. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


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