PLM, Enterprise Social Software and Excel Litmus Test?

August 9, 2010

I want to take another round of thinking about Enterprise and Social Software. My last post related to that was followingEnterprise 2.0 conference in Boston in June – PLM and Enterprise 2.0: No Fight… Yet.

Few days ago, I posted about PLM, BOM, Excel – How to Make it right? Chris Williams at Vuuch made an interestingcomment that made me think again about existing PLM problems and potentials of social software for enterprise organizations.

Excel Litmus Test
I’m coming to the conclusion that enterprise software vendors can use MS Excel as a Litmus test for potential problems. Depend on the amount of MS Excels, you can make a conclusion about the quality of solutions they provide. Users are voting Excel each time enterprise software doesn’t work or too complex to be used.

Enterprise Social Software
The term ESS (Enterprise Social Software) first appearance happened during Enterprise 2.0 conference couple of years ago. Here is Wikipedia definition:

Enterprise social software (also known as or regarded as a major component of Enterprise 2.0), comprises social software as used in “enterprise” (business/commercial) contexts. It includes social and networked modifications to corporate intranets and other classic software platforms used by large companies to organize their communication. In contrast to traditional enterprise software, which imposes structure prior to use, enterprise social software tends to encourage use prior to providing structure.[citation needed] Carl Frappaolo and Dan Keldsen defined Enterprise 2.0 in a report written for Association for Information and Image Management (AIIM)as “a system of web-basedtechnologies that provide rapid and agile collaboration, information sharing, emergence and integration capabilities in the extended enterprise”.[1]

Back in 2006, Social Software was defined as one component of Enterprise 2.0.  As of 2006, “Enterprise 2.0″ had become a catchier term, sometimes used to describe social and networked changes to enterprises, which often includes social software (but may transcend social software, social collaboration and software).

Another marketing buzz was Enterprise Web 2.0. This term related to the software making intensive use of Web 2.0 technologies for creating Enterprise applications.

Enterprise Portal Renaissance?
Let me move you back ten years. Do you remember Enterprise Portals?

An enterprise portal, also known as an enterprise information portal (EIP) or corporate portal, is a framework for integrating information, people and processes across organizational boundaries. It provides a secure unified access point,[1] often in the form of a web-based user interface, and is designed to aggregate and personalize information through application-specific portlets. One hallmark of enterprise portals is the de-centralized content contribution and content management, which keeps the information always updated.

I found this definition very interesting. If you replace “organization boundaries” with “product lifecycle” you are getting almost the definition of PLM. I found an old report provided by Delphi group in Boston in 1999 about Enterprise Portals. Download it navigating to the following link. You can see below a diagram I took from this report.

I can see lots of correlations between functional categories of Enterprise Portal model 1999 and Enterprise Social Software model 2010. It looks like we may have a second wave of Enterprise Portals coming with a new name – Enterprise Social Software on top of Web 2.0 technology matured during the last ten years of Web 2.0 deployment.

What is my conclusion? Complexity is hard. In my view, Excel Litmus Test can help you to identify it easily. PLM is in the deep complexity recession. Enterprise 2.0 and Social Software can provide some fresh air. However, as it usually happens during the hype period, many companies will try to sell you old stuff with a new name. Then we will be in danger of double-dip recession. Ask about functionality and technology? Try these things out and see if you remember the same stuff with old names. The good thing about Enterprise Social Software is try to bring modern Web technologies to enterprise. The last make a lot of sense to me.

Just my thoughts…
Best, Oleg

Emerging Social Economies and PLM communities

October 7, 2009

Two published stories drove my attention and got me to think again about various dimensions of social PLM development. Dion Hinchcliffe “Twenty-two power laws of the emerging social economy” and “DS Web 2.0 community platform“.

I’d put an interest of PLM providers to discover values of relationship in the new economical situation as something very positive and powerful. The new social approach will allow to get out of a closed world of organizational structures and very structured business processes. However, I see few potential conflicts that PLM can face following these directions.

1. Openness and Social Collaboration.
In my view content is the kind in social communication. This is true when we discuss blogs and social networks, but this is even truer when we want to discover the power of social communication for communities of manufacturers, developers, PLM service providers and independent consultants. All these companies and individuals are working using different CAD/PDM/PLM software and this software is not coming from the same PLM vendor. My question is how organizations will build their social communication based on software incompatibility and proprietary formats? Big question for me and I’m not sure PLM vendors have a good answer today.

2. Business Processes and Flexibility. PLM, ERP and BPM companies spent a significant effort and investment in showing values of business processes, industry best practices and well organized collaboration. Now, this is a time to change it or combine with very open and unpredictable social communication. Does it fit? I’m sure it will, but in order to make it happen the community of PLM vendors, VARs, integrators and resellers will need to spend time and effort to establish new collaboration principles and  approaches and find the right balance between organized business processes and PLM communities.

So, what is my conclusion today? PLM is trying to adopt social trends. Like in the childhood initial steps are not always well organized and not always in the right direction. I think, an importance of this social trend is well understood in PLM vendor’s community. This is time to have customers on board. Only together, we’ll be able to bring PLM solution on the next social level.

Best, Oleg

Social PLM challenges

August 21, 2009

social-plm-challengesIn my view, there is a very strong interest from PLM community to something called “Social PLM”. You probably had chance to follow “social PLM discussion” on plmtwine, on Clarity on PLM blog by Jim Brown, Social Product Development blog by PTC or by experimenting with Vuuch design discussion software.

I’d summarize my view on definite advantages in bringing social technologies, tools and methods in PLM as following top three: 1/ability to cover non-formal processes in organization; 2/crowd-sourcing; 3/openness. But, by analyzing these advantages, I came to the conclusion about potential challenges and risk relating to social tools and their implementation in context PLM/product development in organization.

#5 – Selecting the right tools. The choice of social tools is not obvious. If you seek for something that will be ready to use, out of the box, I don’t think you will find any product/tool today. Your choices will be from big environments provided by IT behemoths (i.e. Microsoft, Oracle, IBM) and going down to small experimenters and startup companies.

#4 - Organization alignment with social practices and organizational policies. Second challenge is to take people on board in your organization. Social means “openness” and, unfortunately, the opposite side of openness is IP leak, security and confidentiality problems. So, be prepared…

#3 - Building organization (or even extended) community. As soon as you decided about a tool and got organizational approval, your next challenge will be to build the actual network of people. So, be prepared to intensive community building- you will need to accelerate discussions, coordinate communication and check for the right content coming to community and other social PLM tools.

#2 - Connectivity and Integration with traditional PLM implementation and other Enterprise tools. Your new social PLM baby can be potentially is very disconnected from existing corporate infrastructure and tools. To build this integration and bridges is very important. Don’t overkill yourself, since you won’t be able to resolve all integration problems. Try to achieve functional acceptance when trying to control cost and complexity of integration.

#1 - Getting people to use these tools and systems. As soon as you solved all challenges before, don’t think you are on the road to the bright future. Your next challenge will be to make people go after you. Practically it means, in organization, people are busy. They have a lot of things to do, and they have already lots of other tools. So, you need to win time and screen real-estate for your social PLM tools. In my view, user’s adoption in organization is top challenge for social PLM future.

Despite these challenges, I think we will have change to see some very interesting results from early adopters of social PLM.

As usual, these are my opinion and thoughts, and I’m interested in knowing what experience you had and your thoughts about social PLM.

Best, Oleg

PLM Goes Social – don’t forget your daily job!

August 5, 2009

social-toolsProduct Lifecycle Management is going full speed to social tools and technologies. With two companies, PTC and DS articulated their social plans as Social Product Development and Social Innovation, no doubt this will  be major move to absorb technologies, to build tools and develop best practices to involve social communication into Product Lifecycle Management. So, a lot of excitement comes on the side social tools, and how they will improve way PLM doing their job. But, at the same time, this is scary me a bit. Since many of PLM problems were not very related to ability of PLM to become social. So, I’d try to analyze what are potential drawbacks from social hype and PLM.

Social Hummer for PLM complexity. PLM considered as a complex software. ROI, adoption, training, best practices, out-of-the-box etc. All these issues are new and widely discussed by many vendors, consultants and customers. A dangerous curve in these discussions is to say – we will make PLM social and solve all complexity issues, we had before. No, it won’t happen.

Social Tools Flexibility. Yes, you can do everything you want in the way you organize your social communication. However, organizations will continue to be structured. Processes will continue to play a very significant role in the way people work in organization. Don’t think social tools will re-solve problems  with processes in your organization. Social tools will streamline communication, but will not streamline processes. This is still needed to be on your action list.

Tool disintegration. As we discussed many times, there are lots of tools in the PLM landscape. Question of integration is not simple one. Do you think social tools will solve a problem of tool integration? I don’t see it this way. You will be better connected to “people”, but these people will continue to use disintegrated systems with all old problems you have.

Data availability. Social tools bring better communication. So, you think information access issues will  be resolved, just because you can stay connected with EPR folks? I don’t think so. Still communication between people will not be able to replace need to expose information and make it available in organization.

So far, this is my initial look on some of the places where social tools can be used to resolve core PLM problems. I’d like to mention one more… In the end of the day, social products are “yet another tool to use”. When I hear about “additional tool”, my question first – we already have many, why should we use another one? So, after all excitements, facebooks and twitter, designers, engineers and other users will need to think how to adopt all these tools as part of a daily job. This will  not be easy. My core thinking is about how “social” can be integrated into daily life of users without becomes “yet another tool to use” statement.

Best, Oleg.

PLM Prompt: SharePoint FAST Social Move

July 30, 2009

Short prompt - Steve Letford, technical solution specialist in Microsoft New Zealand mentioned that FAST Search Technologies will be mated with SharePoint for social networking. Looking on coming SharePoint 2010 it sounds like interesting statement. FAST, acquired by Microsoft in the beginning of the last year was targeted to reinforce Enterprise Search domain (also part of SharePoint). It will be interesting to see what will be meaning of social networking in context of SharePoint. In my view, it will make SharePoint even stronger, comapred to what exists today.

In parallel, it will need to compete or co-exist with some PLM initiatives such as Social Product Development and Social Innovation announced earlier this year by PTC and DS.

What do you think about it?

PLM Way to Enterprise 2.0

July 10, 2009

e2confLast week BlueKiwi and Dassault Systems announced their strategic alliance to delivery Social Innovation for PLM. I was very excited to read about it. BlueKiwi is interesting software that enables communities. Some of them are very useful, and I had a chance to use them by myself. I believe BlueKiwi product can be compared to the other social enabling technologies like blogs, social networks etc.  The best place to read about those technologies is to browse through materials of Enterprise 2.0 conference (actually E 2.0 event took place last week in Boston, Mass).

I had some thoughts while reading the following article on the same topic. Enterprise 2.0 is looking for the way to be adopted by Enterprises. This is interesting perspective. The author mentioned that one of the ways for Enterprise 2.0 tools to be adopted by Enterprise is to be linked to Business Process tools. The whole idea, if I understood it correctly, is that Business Process in organization will be fed up by social networking tools. For example, an innovation process needs to get more ideas and these ideas can be captured by tools like BlueKiwi…

In my view, the fundamental idea is interesting. I can imagine many people in organizations struggling to find the email with their idea how make product better or something they worked on last week, month, year…

Where I see a problem? Every business process is structured by its nature. Opposite to a business process, an innovation process is very unstructured. To connect structured and unstructured communications is not a simple task. One possible way to resolve this conflict is to make business processes in an organization more flexible.

This is my opinion. What do you think about it?

How we can socialize PLM Bill of Materials?

May 6, 2009

Last month, I wrote a few posts about Bill of Materials. My interest was to investigate how to improve Bill of Material and BOM management in the organization. In the post <Search for the right BOM – I’m feeling lucky? >, I discussed how many different BOMs we can discover in the organization and later <When BOM seeks the right enterprise nanny… >, I discussed the various trends in BOM management. I came to the conclusion that the organization is interested in managing a single Bill of Materials, but every person in the organization may have a different point of view on the same BOM, representing different aspects of product development.

Chris from Vuuch and Josh made some interesting comments <When BOM seeks the right enterprise nanny>. Their point was about the connection between people and parts in the Bill of Materials. Linking to people in the Bill of Materials can create a social dimension in the BOM. This gave me the idea of how to model Bill of Materials connect it to the organizational social environment.

How can we do that? Let’s think about a model where we can link between <person> and multiple <parts> in the Bill of Materials. These links can be created by users and kept in the database. As soon as the user creates these links, he or she will be able to render or display the Bill of Materials anyway the particular user wants to see it. Since these links will not destroy links between parts, they will be able to use it simultaneously. Imagine a single Bill of Material structure associated with multiple users. Users would be able to open the Bill of Materials and get a customized view, reflecting his or her particular Bill of Materials configuration.


I can think about this feature as a more advanced way of BOM Part <Tags>. Compared to literal Tags, the connection to users/roles allows us to customize way people work on the Bill of Materials and significantly improve the performance of people while they work on BOM.

How can PLM use Social Search to develop the next innovative products?

April 13, 2009

Personalization is one of the today’s trends in product development. More and more manufacturers are discovering the ability to develop products that fit particular customer demands. What is especially interesting is to be able to design and develop products following social demands. I think involvement of individuals in product development is a very interesting trend we are watching now. People are interesting to be involved into product design, they want to impact.

This is place where, I think, today’s PLM technologies can leverage some latest development in the field of Web 2.0 and more specifically, social search. In the chain of social influence –> people demands –> people –> product requirements –> product development, <people> are the missing link in the chain. If we can stay connected with people during the full product development cycle, we can find the special power we are missing.

Social networks today provide the ultimate source of information and connection to people’s minds. How can we use it practically and connect product development to people behaviors, wishes, interests and preferences? I will try to translate this need into practical technological requirements:

1. The ability to mine data in social networks according to specific product behaviors, requirements, needs.

2. To allow people to impact by providing feedback on ongoing product development.

I will take as an example the development of the next model of mobile devices such as mobile phone, GPS system or PDA. Development of these type of products have very a short timeframe which needs to focus on the assembly of the most important requirements for the next product model. These requirements include product features, product look and feel and they need to balance with the right product price to fit a specific customer segment. So, what if the product development environment based on PLM system capabilities were able to mine social networks and the assembly summary of people’s demands? This sounds promising to me… but is only the half of it. The other half is the ability of PLM systems to expose information about a future developed product using social media tools in the social networks , and collect people’s feedback. Now we have a closed loop of product development with social involvement.

I’d like to write a few words about what products example I see today. First of all, the development of vertical search tools. These search tools are tuned for specific needs and can discover particular trends in all available social media – blogs, wikis, Internet forums etc. Next is a search developed specially to follow information in social networks – Facebook, twitter, LinkedIn etc. And finally, development of tools allowing us to expose Product Content (design, features, functional characteristics) out of current development systems (CAD, Industrial Design Tools etc.).

I’m very interested to hear your voices in this discussion – from the standpoint of product development tools as well as a consumer of various products.

Process Thinking with the Development of Social Collaborative Business Processes for PLM

March 6, 2009

I’ve been thinking about how a company can use business process tools to manage their processes. In one of my previous posts, “How to improve PLM process before PLM system using BPMN,” I discussed the possibility of using process tools supporting BPMN to capture business processes in the organization. One of the key ideas in this post was that you can use BPMN tools to capture process definition, and later, to implement these processes using tools and systems you already have in your organization. PLM and dedicated BPMS products are systems that can be used for this process implementation.

 When I started to think about how process capturing may occur, I came to the conclusion that the business process capturing process is very painful for an organization. As for product development in a manufacturing organization, this process can differ greatly from organization to organization. So process capturing is natural step for the organization when they implement Product Lifecycle Management and create a collaborative business process environment. 

What we can do to change this? One of the ways is to reuse the practice of social networking and crowdsourcing for process capturing. My key point in formulating this conclusion is that process development knowledge in an organization is spread over many departments – engineering, manufacturing and others. It is very problematic to have people efficiently involved in capturing their existing processes – too many people, too much time… Also, people are busy running their businesses and claim not to have time for processes capturing. Allowing all people in the organization to be involved in ‘capturing processes’ which I refer to as “Process Thinking” changes the rules of the game. With everyone involved, people are able to do multiple reviews. Step-by-step adjustments can make a significant change in the product development process implementation for PLM. In addition, this process can improve people’s process adoption. Socially created processes will reflect the existing processes accurately. Afterwards business process management tools can optimize and improve existing processes. 

How can we make this happen practically? The answer probably comes from software providers. What if process tools were to support a staged process of continuous process changes? Each person would be able to adjust the process to reflect the way people manage their work. Allowing everyone to vote and approve process changes will let all people be involved in the process definition possible right from the beginning. Another important achievement would be an increased trust in the process definition – normally, people trust something more if they were a part of it and defined it collaboratively together.

 I believe that you may have some experience in this by trying to centralize the definition and approval of processes. However, making process definition open and transparent for all people in the organization can allow PLM companies to leapfrog the overall adoption of PLM systems in an organization.

Does Folksonomy Work for PLM?

March 3, 2009

First of all, I think we need to clarify terms. Folksonomy is the term used for the classification of mechanisms adopted in social and collaborative environments. This is also known as collaborative tagging, social classification and some other buzzwords you can easily Google. I think that folksonomy is very undervalued by today’s Product Lifecycle Management and Product Development tools. Traditionally, the terms used were classification or taxonomy. Regarding the naming itself, I cannot determine which sounds more complicated – Social Classification vs. Folksonomy – I think both names are bad for end users and tags are much better :)

 The main difference between Taxonomy and Folksonomy is the absence of a predefined schema. This is functionality absolutely essential in today’s PLM. In this dynamic world, you cannot leave classification to the administrators of IT /PLM – instead, you need to create your own classification schemas into the way that you work. Since you work in a much more personal way these days, your ability to adapt your environment is next to mandatory. In addition, social classification can be the outcome of your collaborative environment and help you to navigate your daily tasks and activities. You are probably familiar with Folksonomy in terms of a tag cloud.

A data cloud is normally generated from words or tags related to the content you are working on. But you can control this cloud if you have the capability to add tags.

 To be more practical, how can you start using Folksonomy in our current environment? The beauty of all Web 2.0 related capabilities is that you can simply borrow them from the outside rather than having to ask your PLM vendor to develop them. What practical benefits you can gain from Folksonomy? In my opinion, there are multiple scenarios:

 1.     You can allow to users to add additional tags to objects in the system. This is a free rather than a controlled mechanism. Created tags can provide an ideal customizable environment for navigating between objects and using them for contextual selection.

 2.     You can generate tags out of multiple attribute values such has component characteristics, projects, suppliers etc. Since all these values may be not controlled by the administrator, you will gain an absolute custom representation of values reflecting your system

 Now, how can we implement it? You actually have multiple choices. If your system is completely Web- based, and you can address your PLM content (in simple words, objects) via static URLs, for tagging, you can use the capabilities of available social software,  (providing that they exist within your organization). Or, if your organization allows you, you can use public tagging services (i.e. or, if you have WSS 3.0 or MOSS – use tagging web part for SharePoint

 If you are not running a Web-based system, you are more limited and need to rely on API and customization capabilities of your PLM/PDM system. But if you have customization capabilities that allow you to add Web browser components, you can easily deploy tagging components from any open source or other component providers. And, finally you can use some of already available development of CAD/PLM vendors – SolidWorks Labs Tagger. I think Folksonomy is nice and useful, and  need to be adopted soon by CAD/PLM vendors.

 And, finally if you don’t see yourself starting to explore all these capabilities now, you can simply enjoy this video that will help you to think about the practical use of Folksonomy in your life :) –




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