Why now is the right time to reinvent PDM?

August 15, 2014

re0invent-pdm-now

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My hunch is that until last year, PDM market was somewhat stalled and focusing on replacing of outdated versions of PDM software as well as support of new CAD software releases.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


How to re-think activity streams for enterprise?

July 23, 2014

controlled-collaboration

These days manufacturing businesses are more connected than ever before. Every manufacturing company (even smallest startup) has a tremendous need for collaboration – help multiple engineers to get involved into the design process, communication with suppliers, plan manufacturing processes, etc. Social networks and open web inspired many companies to develop collaboration software that mimic consumer social software. One of the main attribute of every social software (Facebook, G+, twitter and others) is so called "activity stream" or "news feed". The trend was strong and produced lots of copycats. The successful and lucky ones got acquired. Many of less successful died.

The idea of activity stream is very powerful. It allows you easy share and consume information. However, here is a thing – it is not protected from "noise vs. signal" problem. The more people you follow – more information will flow into your activity stream(s). You end up with messy stream of information you cannot keep up with. It is probably okay for public news or even for executives in a company interested to keep up with what is going on. However, it is probably not a good experience for engineers that need to work together on the same design or discuss next engineering or manufacturing change request. Also, it is probably not a very useful as a tool to communicate between departments and suppliers. And… this is absolutely wrong model to use for process management.

All problems I mentioned above is actually making the adoption os social system for collaboration questionable. I can see many confirmations to that. CMSWire article The Problem With Yammer? People Don’t Use It speaks exactly about the problem. Here is key passage:

But what if the problem is not about difficulty or learning curves but about culture? What if the problem with Yammer has nothing to do with the product itself and nothing to with usability, but rather with the fact that enterprise workers are holding onto email for dear life and are not prepared to give it up? Microsoft itself appears to be aware of this. The addition of complimentary Yammer for the new Office 365 plans appears to speak to that. However, if Microsoft’s updated offerings are a step in the right direction, they won’t solve the problem of social and collaboration in the enterprise.

Another interesting example – Facebook. Clearly the king of social networks recently introduced simple and very effective feature to get out of noise of your information stream – Save. It can quickly remind you old and well-known list of favorites. Navigate to TNW article – Facebook introduces Save, a new bookmarking feature to help tame your News Feed. Sounds like a simple feature, but it allows you to keep specific post out of noisy channel and focus on them later in a more controlled way.

These and many other examples made me think about what is needed to provide a better way to collaborate. My hunch is that "controlled list of topics" can better serve the need of engineers and other people to work together. How to make it? This is probably more tricky question. I can see it as the next logical step from email that still one of the most favorited tools to communicate. It also reminded me my post Why PLM shouldn’t miss next email move earlier this week.

What is my conclusion? Activity stream is a good way to present flow of information. However, the type of experience it creates is way too open and subject to be affected by information noise. I believe engineering tools should provide more tight way to communicate, exchange information and share data for collaboration purposes. This is main reason people are holding onto email as a best tool. New ways to collaborate is not here… yet. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


PLM for Small Teams – Autonomous Alignment

June 19, 2014

future-of-plm-for-sme

This week is very fruitful for PLM events. PTC Live 2014, Siemens PLM connection, GrabCAD media event. Twitter and other social networks can help you catch up with multiple events at the same time with minimum time. So, in 1-2 hours, you can get up to speed with news and updates. Chad Jackson’s and Allan Behrens’ tweets from GrabCAD media event turned my head back to small companies and customers that not using PDM/PLM systems these days.

"Per an @SiemensPLM research report, only 70% of #CAD user utilize #PDM." @hardi_meybaum @GrabCAD briefing; @hardi_Maybaum @grabcad says that 70% of cad users don’t use PDM or PLM. That’s their target market.

In one of my earlier posts I wrote – Why PLM stuck to provide solution for SME? Low cost and efficiency – these are two topics on the list of PLM characteristics to be delivered to smaller companies. Easy to say, but very hard to achieve. CAD /PLM vendors are trying to get it done for the last couple of decades. I’ve been scratching my head trying to think what else can be done by PLM vendors to become more successful in SME manufacturing eco-system.

One of the trends that getting more visible these days is related to growing dominance of small organizations or groups. Large companies leaning towards small team to get more agile and efficient. Agile development methods. Two pizza box teams. Many other buzzwords…

My attention caught the following blog post – Cells, Pods, and Squads: The Future of Organizations is Small. Article speaks about what can future organization looks like. Read the article and draw your opinion. Here is my favorite passage that speaks about matrix product organization:

At Spotify, engineers and product people work within a kind of matrix organization that evolved out of a need to scale agile teams. Their basic unit or “cell” is called a “squad,” a cross-functional, self-organizing, co-located team of less than eight people that has autonomy on what to build and how. While each squad has a mission to work towards, they still have to harmonize across many levels — on product, company priorities, strategies, and other squads. The trick, Kniberg explains, is not to frame autonomy and alignment as poles on a spectrum but as dimensions. The goal is high autonomy/high alignment within this framework.

I liked the term – autonomous alignment. You may ask me how is it connected to PLM? Here is the thing… Majority of PLM systems today are designed for high level of alignment and low autonomy. PLM is focusing on how to support processes, getting people fill their role in the process. Then PLM can run the show. The combination of high autonomy and high alignment doesn’t fit existing top-down hierarchical PLM models.

What is my conclusion? Old technology, new reality. This is what happens with PLM these days. And this is what happens in many small organizations. Existing PLM experience doesn’t fit. Try to apply existing PLM products cause failure and inefficiency. New type of systems needed – flexible, agile and social. It will help people to get work done autonomously and keep the alignment on goals, data, processes, deliveries and, what is more important, company outcome. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Photo credit idonethis.com blog.


Will Yammerized Office help to shape CAD/PLM social future?

June 17, 2014

yammerized-office-356

To connect relevant pieces of information is one of the long time dreams developed by many PLM vendors. The pieces of data in design, engineering, manufacturing are intertwined. However, in many situations they are managed by different systems and/or located in different places. Communication behaviors are applied on top of these pieces of information. Lots of communication behaviors and data sharing was captured by social networks these days.

I’ve been following what Microsoft is doing with social systems earlier in early versions of SharePoint and later with Yammer acquisition. Take a look on some of my earlier write ups here – Will Microsoft Yammer Kill Social PLM… Not yet. I’ve been reading CRN article Microsoft Deepens Yammer Integration With SharePoint Online, OneDrive For Business during the past weekend. The article speaks about an interesting feature – Document Conversation. The following passage explains that:

Microsoft Tuesday unveiled a new feature called Document Conversations, which adds Yammer conversations to more than 30 different file types, including Office documents, images and videos. When a user opens a document, image or video file in their browser from SharePoint Online or OneDrive for Business, a contextual Yammer conversation pops up. From there, users can talk with other colleagues to get more insight about the file…

You can get more details in the Office blog article. The following video shows a little preview how it supposed to work.

Office/Yammer document conversation feature made think again about how important to have the ability to add contextual features applied to a specific content. By doing that, you have the ability to step down on the more granular level of communication between people. In the past, I’ve seen similar features applied in CAD and 3D model viewers tools as well. Navigate to one of my previous posts – From design collaboration to CAD social tools shows similar functionality in AutoCAD 360, Dassault UC tools and Vuuch design discussion.

One of the most important element of discussion is to have the ability to apply it to a specific “context” in the document / file / 3D model. It will make collaboration more precise and efficient.

What is my conclusion? The idea to make a contextual conversation applied to a specific content is the one that will allow to user to have a better, granular way to communicate. In the past world CAD/PDM/PLM world, “file” was the most granular communication medium. It is clearly not enough these days. To apply “document level” discussion and having the ability to identify granular context is the key. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


Design Collaboration and Google+ Lessons

May 15, 2014

social-design-collaboration

Recent management changes in Google+ attracted lots of conversations about social products experience as well as speculations about Google+ social future. It is also made a reflection on how "social theme" will be developed in enterprise companies. In the past few years we’ve seen few examples of social products for enterprise – eg. ExoPlatform, Jive, SAP Streamwork, Socialcast, Yammer, etc.

CAD / PLM vendors made their experiments and products to bring social theme in designers, engineering and manufacturing communities. The fundamental idea was to leverage all social experience from Web 2.0, social networks and online communication and change the way people communicate in business. We’ve seen few successful product. Few companies got acquired. However, speaking about CAD/PLM specifically, most of products got declined. The adoption level of PLM social initiatives was very low. I wrote about it last year in my post – Why Social PLM 1.0 Failed? In my view, the idea of structured enterprise discussion made a promise to lead re-thinking of social collaboration. However, as we learned from Facebook decline, social communication is getting noisy. Signal to noise ratio is declining and, as a result of that, the attempts of companies to make collaboration easier adopting social networks techniques requires some re-evaluation.

I’ve been reading TheNextWeb blog – Product Lessons We Can Learn from Google+ by Paul Adams. Even the article is very focused on specific Google+ related topics, I found some of them resonating well with what CAD/PLM companies are trying to do in the space of design and product collaboration. I summarized some of my thoughts about that as following 4 major lessons: 1/social collaboration & product silos; 2/ease of use; 3/life is messy; 4/network effect.

1. Social collaboration won’t solve product silos problem.

Design groups, engineering departments and manufacturing companies are running into the same problem of applications and data silos. It is natural to people in different departments and even in the same group to store data differently and use different applications. Application and data interoperability is well known problem. Social tools won’t solve this problem magically. The main goal of social application is to make communication easy. Social design collaboration should provide something beyond traditional data-message-comment user experience from Facebook. To build product focusing on how to improve communication scenario is a key to for social apps to success.

2. Ease of use vs. effort required.

The effort needed to make social design collaboration work is a critical element to success. Significant effort leads to slow adoption and decline in usage. Facebook and other social tools drove the adoption by capturing data (photo, videos) via mobile devices and exposing them directly to people. People stalked photos and videos of close friends, co-workers, ex-girlfriends and other people they barely know. It is fine. And it drove adoption. Designers and engineers is another story. To capture design data is not a simple task. People want to re-use free stuff, but in general protective about IP and work they do. To capture organization structure with all dependencies, groups and authorization is even more complicated. Without these two elements, social design collaboration won’t ramp up.

3. Accept the fact "life is messy"

People don’t like to be organized. If social design collaboration requires formal work organization and getting data under the control, it will hit the wall or rejections. The reality is that data and communication are messy. To accept that and help people to communicate on top of data mess can be a possible approach to start without changing the way people work. By trying to force people and data to order system can get rejected in the same way many other "data management" initiatives got rejected for the last 10-15 years. .

4. Build for network effect

Adoption. Adoption. Adoption. Social tools success is heavily built on network effect. Low adoption is a red flag. The use of social design collaboration should be skyrocketing. If it happens, you are on the right path. If not, check your fundamental assumptions and look for a problem to fix.

What is my conclusion? Technology made a significant impact on the way we communicate. Mobile email, internet, web and cloud file sharing – these are examples of successful technological applications. However, technological changes cannot be applied automatically to all fields. Design and product collaboration is a tricky. It requires deep understanding of data and innovative communication techniques. In my view, simple Facebook copycat won’t work. Innovation will happen – lots of opportunities are still open. Developers need to crack the magic of social design collaboration. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


Social PLM and Mobile Dribbling

May 6, 2014

Once “social” was a hot topic for PLM developer and analysts. In my view, the hype went down. Ask PLM people about social applications and be prepared for very neutral response. I asked myself – why so? Social applications can improve the way people communicate and should bring value. Nevertheless, social revolution in PLM is kinda “postponed”. You might be interested – will social apps back, when and how?

My attention was caught by WSJ.D article – Data Point: Social Networking Is Moving on From the Desktop. These numbers made me think about potential benefits between “social” and “mobile” in PLM.

social-network-mobile-social

Similar to social apps, the popularity of mobile PLM application is not skyrocketing too. Once excited about the ability to run “everything from iPad”, users got back to their desktops, CAD workstations, BOM Excels and browser applications. Did PLM vendors miss the point of mobile? I asked about that two years ago here. The confusion between “mobile web” and “native app” is probably only part of the problem. When world is going to be even more distributed than today, the efficiency of mobile PLM applications and intuitiveness of how mobile app can present the data becomes absolutely critical. However, mobile app will be used only if it is easier and brings additional value. The best example is taking picture during the presentation and sharing it via Twitters and/or Facebook.

Now I want to get back to social PLM option. I just read about new feature – you can tweet to Amazon to put a specific article or item in your shopping cart. Navigate here to read more. There is nothing very special here. It is all about efficiency. Imagine you found something you want to buy at the time you browse your twitter stream in the morning. To stay in the same environment and put an article to the Amazon shopping cart is all about efficiency. So, here is my guess. Social PLM can reinvent itself via mobile option.

What is my conclusion? The efficient interaction is very important when out of the office and not connected to your well-organized desktop. So, specially designed “social PLM” function can be very demanded on mobile devices. However, the fine tuning of functionality and mobile experience is a key. Efficient user interaction combined together with valuable scenario. This is a key for mobile PLM and social PLM to be successful. Without these two elements, customers will keep walking from social and mobile links to desktop. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

photo source – WSJ-D article


CAD, Engineers and Online Communities

February 19, 2014

cad-engineers-community

Remember our life before internet? The meaning of community was about social group that shares common values. Actually, the history of communities is longer than history of CAD software :). So called "Community Rules" were mentioned in one of the first scrolls found in Qumran Cave. Community word often explains common geography or environment. However, in human communities it is usually comes down to needs, belief, intent, risks, etc. Internet expanded borders of social groups and made possible to create virtual communities. The result – massive creation of online communities (social networks). Some of them, such as Facebook, started as a virtual continuation of physical social groups (academic organization). Social networks today represent huge segment of online internet activities.

The success of social business and social networking raised multiple questions among developers of business software. Collaboration still remains one of the biggest problem in organization. Geographical distribution is another reason why companies are looking how to improve communication. Software vendors are coming with the ideas of software to collaborate similar to social networking web sites. In addition to that, community creation is related to customer activities. This is where a potential to link collaboration in an organization and customer activities.

So, what is the secret of successful community creation? I was reading The collision of communities few days ago. Article brings some interesting perspectives on community organizations and some driving factors behind community work. Among them, article speaks about Jelly (Q&A search), Wut and Secret (anonymous status apps). These are communities too. Author compares these communities with communities companies are creating these days. Fundamentally, in order to be successful, communities are sharing the same common behavior and interest. Here is my favorite passage from the article:

Every social startup that launches hope to have a large, organic community organize around their product. They hire community managers and product managers spend a lot of time thinking about how to increase engagement. Jelly, Wut and Secret, each different in application, have at it core, the need to build and cultivate a vibrant community to succeed, and in order to do so, they must remember the first community rule: He shall guide them with knowledge and instruct them in the mysteries of wonder and truth in the midst of the members of the community, so that they shall behave decently with one another in all that has been revealed to them.

Engineering software companies are joining the bandwagon community building. Social CAD, Social PLM, Social Collaboration – for the last few years we’ve heard a lot about how community driven (social) software will change the way we do business. We can only speculate about successes and failures of social software. However, I want to bring two examples of communities related to engineering software – SolidWorks Users and GrabCAD.

SolidWorks has large and successful community. Nobody can argue. The common interests and needs among them is to share knowledge and experience of how to use SolidWorks. In my view, it was extremely important to all participants since it allowed to them (engineers) to get CAD system support. Most of SolidWorks users are working for small firms that had no budget and engineering IT to help them.

GrabCAD is an interesting example. Started few years ago as "Facebook for Engineers", it succeeded to gather about 1 million engineers to share CAD files online. Here is my pure speculation how it was done. Re-use is one of the fundamental engineering behavior. You can save a lot of time by re-using existing design even if you will modify it. Back in my university years, to have an old similar project was a huge time saving factor in every project I did. GrabCAD provided to engineers models to reuse CAD models for the best price – free. In addition to that, it helps engineers to self-promote their work.

Think about these two examples. In both cases, focus on identification of "community rule" was a key to success. It should be something that will drive common interests and benefits of all participants. Wikipedia article about organizational communication can be a good source of learning and additional information. Here are few assumptions I captured:

All we really need to understand communication in organizations is (a) observable and replicable behaviors that can be transformed into variables by some form of measurement, and (b) formally replicable syllogisms that can extend theory from observed data to other groups and settings. Organizations are mechanical things, in which the parts (including employees functioning in defined roles) are interchangeable. What works in one organization will work in another similar organization. Individual differences can be minimized or even eliminated with careful management techniques.

What is my conclusion? Ask two engineers about how to do a project – you will get 3 options. To work with engineers is like herding cats. Nevertheless, the focus should be on identification and capturing of behaviors that can help engineers in their everyday life. Be prepared to discover something different from traditional organizational goals like "improve quality" or "decrease cost". By capturing and replicating engineers’ behaviors you can find a recipe to organize a successful engineering community. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 248 other followers