Why graphs are important for social PLM strategy?

December 9, 2014


I want to continue my series of thoughts about PLM and social technologies. If you missed the beginning, you can catch up here – It is not easy to add social to PLM. The topic I want to bring today is graphs. The topic of graphs became popular for the last few years as technology moved into social networking and social data analytics. We can see a growing amount of examples while graph technologies are successfully used to boost social strategies.

I’ve been touching graph earlier on my blog – Social PLM, graphs and organization overlap. Large companies are looking into more use cases. One of them is to leverage graph for collaboration. Here is an example from Microsoft – Oslo and Office Graph: new technology in data discovery and search. Another example is Facebook graph search. Last, but not least – Google Knowledge graph.

However, graphs are not limited to Google, Facebook, Microsoft and few other large companies. Graph technologies are getting more popular and we can see companies applying them to variety of scenarios related to analysis of connected information.

Medium article – How Medium Goes Social speaks about how Medium publishing website answering on typical questions like – Have any of my friends liked this post? Can I tell all my friends once I’ve published something new? How can I find new people to follow? The picture below shows example of graph information. Medium is using Neo4j to capture and query graph data.


The following video shows how to develop social recommendation algorithm using Neo4j and cypher language.


All examples together made me think about usage of graph technologies to boost a specific "social" strategy for PLM. In my presentation last year – PLM and Data Management in 21st century, I’ve been demonstrating variety of modern data management technologies and how they can be used in different PLM applications. It looks like graphs can work well for social and provide real benefits. Graph databases are getting popular. Wikipedia article about Graph databases contains 20+ different names. It is maybe a time for PLM architects to have a look.

What is my conclusion? Graphs and social are coming together. In my view, low value proposition was the main reason behind failures of social technology application in PLM domain in the past. Rethinking value proposition is important. To combine social value proposition with efficient technology can be a way to bring some interesting new social features into PLM space. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

photo credit: Matthew Burpee via photopin cc

IBM+Twitter: Social PLM requirement management?

December 9, 2014


To add “social” to PLM is not a simple task. I shared some of my thoughts about it here few days ago. Part of the problem – clear value proposition. To find a single social function is a key thing that can help PLM vendor to provide. Do you think requirement management can be one? Traditional requirement management is set of excel spreadsheets and word documents. More sophisticated companies can use requirement management tools integrated with PLM software. How to link requirement management and social networks?

Fortune article – Why IBM and Twitter did a data analytics deal speaks about potential that hidden in social data. Pay attention to the following passage:

Twitter is ultimately the most important archive of human thought that has ever existed. It really does represent the voice of the planet. The question I would pose to business leaders is, if you were thinking of a particular business decision, would you want the world to weigh in? An example on a more macro scale would be: You manufacture computers. Your big challenge is figuring out what to make and how much to make of it. For the former, you can figure out what people are talking about that they most value and what the weaknesses are in a competing product. You can also talk about what you’re building and get a reaction from consumers.

It sounds like IBM analytic tools applied to an archive of human thoughts can produce an interesting result for any manufacturer. It made me think about potential to use it for social requirement management. The usage can be from finding innovative idea to better prioritization of features.

What is my conclusion? Social technologies are looking for clear value proposition in product lifecycle management. I found the idea of social data analytics combined with structured requirement management functions interesting. To prioritize requirements, crowdsource ideas or provide a feedback to product management about future product feature from online source of social information can be pretty neat feature with an interesting ROI. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

photo credit: Creative Tools via photopin cc

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 to build online community around CAD/PLM software?

October 13, 2014


There is one thing that seems make everyone interested and listen carefully these days – online communities. To build a successful community is a tricky thing. To make a money out of community is huge. Successful online communities can provide a lot of insight about how people are communicating, what is the value of community for different users and businesses. Communities are also a good reflection of business and software vendor ecosystem.

I’ve been discussing communities and marketplaces earlier on my blog. One of the most earliest discussion about that was Marketplace and Engineering software back in 2010. The interest of people to stay in the community is one of the most interesting factors to watch and learn. What will keep users to stay in the community and how to make it grow? Some of my earlier thoughts about that is here – PLM communities and let go threshold.

Online activity is a good indicator of community potential. I’ve been using blogging community as one of my own checkpoint about potential of users and customers to form a successful online community. Go online and try to find number of blogs about specific topic and their traffic. Do it for well-known MCAD packages (CATIA, Creo , Inventor, NX, SolidEdge, SolidWorks) as well as for PDM/PLM products. Google is of course not the best reflection of community size and activities. But it can give you some idea anyway.


Another interesting observation is related to how customers are sharing their knowledge. You can see very different behavior models. One of them is practically – share everything. This model is creating high viral content online. For this group it is not unusual to see how users are sharing their best practices and problems. Another group is conservative and closed. It is hard to get people to speak about this software. Most of information about it is curated either by software vendors and customers.

So, what are examples of successful in creating CAD/PLM communities? I can come with few examples. The list below is alphabetically sorted and I’m sure miss few communities (so, please don’t hesitate to suggest me additions to this group)

Aras. Back in 2007, Aras Corp. turned their Aras Innovator PLM product into so called “Enterprise Open Source”. This community demonstrated steady growth and I can see lots of information about Aras customers, open roadmap and open source development.

AutoCAD. The community of AutoCAD is big and reflect wide spread of this package in a very diverse set of verticals. I can see some association with community of users working with DWG. However, these users have the tendency to follow specific CAD packages developed around DWG formats.

GrabCAD. This is an interesting example of 1M+ engineers sharing 3D CAD models and related work online. GrabCAD website contains about 400K CAD models and this is probably one of the biggest in this kind.

SolidWorks. The community of SolidWorks is not a typical online (web) community. It was created around SolidWorks software back in before-web days. Nevertheless, this community demonstrated very high engagement level and shared lot of their work online in for the last 10+ years.

I guess “one million dollar question” is how to create a successful online engineering community. One of the myths of engineering world is that engineers are representing very anti-social group of people. The CreativeEngineer blog – A Few Common Myths About Engineers is actually bringing some opposite facts.

If you are thinking of being an engineer, you need to think of yourself as a leader, not a cubicle dwelling, anti-social, door mat. Here’s an except from Geoffrey C. Orsak, Dean of Engineering, SMU: In today’s reality, engineers are the new leadership class. Don’t believe me? Well, consider a recent survey of the S&P 500 CEOs by the global executive search firm SpencerStuart. Of these 500 key corporate leaders, nearly a quarter (23%) were educated as engineers and computer scientists.

So, is there an opportunity to create a larger community for engineers and users of CAD / PLM software? I guess the answer is yes. The shift towards online work is in a very beginning. My hunch existing engineering communities were just a beginning of future online working environment. The real community can be build around economic or social interest. In my view, the center of gravity will be moving from a specific CAD/PLM software towards companies and individuals. Internet is a new platform and community is a form to run business relationships on this platform.

What is my conclusion? Think about existing online communities: shoppers, open source software developers, education and many others. Try to make an analogy with manufacturing world. The economic and social interest is driving the most successful ones. I guess we just in the beginning of huge shift of engineering and manufacturing community towards online work. Economic interest will lead people to find new forms of business relationships and create new forms of CAD/PLM communities. Just my thoughts….

Best, Oleg

PLM Chat and Twitter Product Checklist

September 4, 2014


Collaboration is critical functions in PLM applications. To unlock the potential of social collaboration for engineers is a dream of PLM vendors for the last few years. At the time people may see Social PLM DOA, I don’t see the opportunity to improve communication and collaboration as a lost one. We certainly passed what I called Social PLM 1.0 era. In my view, absence of ultimate "single social function" made first wave of social PLM products to fail. I can see future opportunities in PLM social mobile applications and some other directions I want to discuss today.

Noise vs. signal ratio was too high for most of social collaboration products. This is true for many "uncontrolled" social communication models based on "following" people, groups or even products/project data. However, direct chatting has no problem of noise. If you can control the way you can take a communication (or discussion) to a closer list of subscribers, it will solve the problem of noise. I explored this idea last week in my post few days ago – Do we need PLM walkie-talkie?

The following WSJ.D article caught my attention yesterday – Twitter’s Product Checklist: Better Search and Group Chats? Twitter financial chief Anthony Noto exposed some ideas about Twitter’s product roadmap. I touched the importance of search in my 2 years old article about future PLM user experience. Today I want to speak more about Group Chat. In my view, this feature is very interesting. Here is a passage from the article that speaks Twitter group chat idea.

The CFO also hinted that group chats might be in the pipeline. Direct messaging, Twitter’s private chat function, has traditionally been put on the backburner. Because Twitter’s service is public in nature, the role of private messaging has always been a subject of debate within the company. Over the last year, amid the explosion of messaging apps, Twitter has given direct messaging a more prominent role. Noto suggested direct messaging might become more social.

Today, users can only send a direct message to one account at a time. But if, say, Noto tweeted about a football game and a couple of his “college buddies” replied to it, “I’m not sure I want to have (that) conversation in front of my boss and the rest of the 271 global users. I might want to take that to a private setting which you can do through direct messaging. Today you can only do that one to one as opposed to one to many. So that’s an example of innovation around sharing or expression that we can pursue over time.”

What I found very interesting is a mix between open and close communication channels. Most of products in engineering collaboration field today today can do one of them. However, to make both and to create a user-controlled switch between them can be a neat feature.

What is my conclusion? Communication and collaboration space is hot. We are overloaded with information. Search can solve the problem of getting right information from your archives. However, search cannot solve the problem of getting right real time information and optimize communication between people. Private chatting applications are booming these days. But we haven’t seen one that fits engineering domain. There is no silver bullet in collaboration domain. To find right combination of features and experience for engineers can be a tricky job. I can see it as a opportunity on the table for existing PLM vendors and startups. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Why now is the right time to reinvent PDM?

August 15, 2014


Product Data Management (PDM) isn’t a new domain. The first PDM systems were invented 20-30 years ago with a simple objective – to manage product data. The scope of PDM was heavily debated and included design, engineering BOMs, ECO and even supply chain. However, the most widely accepted role of PDM is to manage CAD files and their revisions.

For long time, PDM was recognized as somewhat you only need to consider if a size of your engineering department is large enough. Even starting price to implement PDM solution went down significantly for the last 20 years, my hunch average PDM solution starting cost for engineering organization with 10-15 people will be about $30-50K. Cost and implementation complexity made PDM business limited to larger companies and was mostly handled by resellers with special skills and knowledge. Most of them associated with a specific CAD vendor channel.

CAD vendors recognized the need and complexity of PDM. For most of vendors the answer on PDM demand was to develop (or acquire) a dedicated PDM system bundled with their CAD software. As a result of that, most of PDM players were acquired. Most of existing (remaining) PDM vendors are either focusing on a specific geographical niche or developed additional solutions usually branded with "PLM" buzzword and strategy.

My hunch is that until last year, PDM market was somewhat stalled and focusing on replacing of outdated versions of PDM software as well as support of new CAD software releases. Then something happens… For the last months, I can see an increased interested in PDM software. I noticed few focused researches and articles in the field of PDM – Expert Guide to the Next Generation of PDM; TechClarity Expert Guide for Basic CAD management and few others.

Also I want to mention few activities by vendors focusing on basic PDM functionality. It started from more traditional OOTB approach made by PTC Windchill PDM Essentials, SolidEdge SP focusing on SharePoint platform leverage and GrabCAD Workbench using "cloud platform" as a differentiation strategy.

Consilia Vector published CAMScore report for GrabCAD Workbench where CAMS stands for Cloud, Analytics, Mobile, Social. In my view, these major trends are making a renaissance in the space of PDM.

As I mentioned before, because of cost and complexity, PDM software was out of reach for many smaller companies and engineering departments. DIY (Do it yourself) PDM approach combining network file share, Excel files and FTP is a solution for probably 60-70% of market. For many years, to share files using network and USB drives was "good enough solution". But the era of file sharing changed forever with coming trend of social networks, mobile and cloud. So called YAPSA (Yet Another Photo Sharing Apps) became widely available in our everyday life. The question why PDM is so complex and why we cannot manage and access CAD data similar to what we do with photos and videos brings PDM solution back to the innovation room.

What is my conclusion? Cloud, web and social technologies in consumer space reached the level of maturity. It comes to the point where new tech and awareness of cloud and social approach are going to challenge a traditional PDM space. In addition to that, looks like an existing approach to use network drives and file sharing to manage CAD files is coming to logical end. People will be looking how to copy YAPSA approach into PDM space. So, it is time for PDM to change. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


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