PLM and enterprise silos in networked age

August 24, 2015


Our everyday business life is changing. Remember sales people with rolodexes that helped you to find right contacts? I’m sure some of my friends in sales are still using them. But, be honest, how many times for the last week you checked LinkedIn to get information about company or person? According to published statistics, LinkedIn has 107 million users in United States and 97 million unique visitors every month. LinkedIn is a great source of information to find right people.

Here is an interesting news – LinkedIn Built Its New App to Replace Your Office Directory. I found it interesting. Until now office directories were part of IT stack in every company. It usually stuck between email service and abbreviation like LDAP. It was mixed and messed up with you contact lists on your multiple devices and never worked properly (at least for me).

The following passage from the article explains the problem.

“Most companies have some crappy directory service that either they’ve created themselves or they’re [paying for],” said Ankit Gupta, project lead for Lookup. “People don’t really update their internal profiles. People don’t even add a photo. So they’re actually turning to LinkedIn [already].”

You could already do this sort of searching within the main LinkedIn app, but it required a little more strategy with filters and search terms. Gupta says that people check out their colleagues’ profiles more than you’d think — when searching for people on LinkedIn, users click on a colleague’s profile about 30 percent of the time. This app is intended to simplify that search and keep it company-specific, he added.

There are a lot of tools already out there that serve a similar purpose, including Slack, which is benefiting from Silicon Valley’s propensity for sky-high valuations. Facebook is testing a business offering, too. Gupta says he doesn’t see this product as a competitor to those because Lookup is more of a directory than a communication service. (My guess is that LinkedIn may one day change its mind.)

It made me think about how companies developing social networking, communication and collaboration software are getting to the point where their functions will become operation critical for every company. Think about directory of suppliers and contract manufacturers. You may think about it as a bunch of business card in a rolodex of your “supply chain” manager. You can also think about it as a list of vendors in your ERP system. But, at the same time, you can think about it as a list of companies with contact information on LinkedIn. This is where things can get interesting, because it will have a potential to redefine boundaries of enterprise software functions.

LinkedIn might not be a software to manage contract manufacturers tomorrow. But it provides a valuable set of information that can be used and “linked” to other applications. Remember my “PLM: from sync to link” article last year? Here is the thing. In a networked era, we can stop thinking about how to get all information in our own proprietary system. We can start using existing systems and rely on other sources of information – a real paradigm shift in the way we operate.

What is my conclusion? Traditional enterprise software created silos of information. For years, vendors tried to protect the information in each and every silo- it gave them a protection from competitors tried to eat a bigger slice of enterprise software pie. The real change is coming with systems that are operating globally as a network. LinkedIn is a good example. People and companies are connected using LinkedIn. This information is valuable and can be linked and reused by other systems. Are we ready for such a significant change? I’m not sure, but it feels like the direction business will take tomorrow. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

picture credit [Re/code] article.

3 ways to break PLM social intertia

August 18, 2015


You might think "social trend" is over for enterprise product lifecycle management. PLM companies are not buzzing too much about social PLM these days. In my earlier post back in 2012, I shared my thoughts Why Social PLM 1.0 failed? One of my conclusions was that "social PLM" had low value for single user and provided too much focus on enterprise-wide value proposition such as improved collaboration, streamline processes, etc. Nothing wrong with that, but it failed.

At the same time, I think, the fight for social enterprise is not over yet. My attention caught E(E) blog Antisocial Enterprise V: the final Facebook by Ed Lopategui. The article brings few very interesting points related to failure or success of social systems inspired by analysis of Google+ trajectory and his own experience of moving from G+ to Facebook. He summarized it with 3 points conclusion: First movers inertia, network competition and users fatigue, technology is irrelevant. Ed is asking for a system for both – work and play. The following passage can give you an idea and reason in a nutshell.

So it should be rather plain right now that Facebook is eating the world. People want to leave it, but they simply can’t. Lots of upstarts appear to dethrone them, they languish for a while, and are crushed. The only meaningful exodus is younger people who are leaving, not necessarily for a better experience elsewhere, but merely to escape a system that ties them uncomfortably close to their parents. What does that mean for enterprise networks? Competing in this environment may not be an option. It may be high time to change strategy – turn to the Trojan horse approach perhaps. Integration encapsulated within a robust security model to slowly build the inertia necessary to ween users off Facebook altogether, without having to directly give up Facebook. Until it’s too late. That would require a system designed for both work and play that understands and can transparently enforce the needed boundaries between both.

Here is the thing. I’m not sure agree with the approach of building a social system for both play and work. It sounds not realistic to me. But I captured one thing, which is important to understand – inertia. This is a huge deal. Many manufacturing enterprises are operating under high level inertia assumption. It means that they have no real reason to make a specific change decision. Business is operating as usual, until something really bad happens. To take a decision and introduce a change is risky and people are afraid of making mistakes. This is what happened with social systems. Systems such SharePoint took enterprises by storm. It means that IT managers discovered one day that all employees in a company is using SharePoint, but central IT has no idea where servers located and who installed them.

So, how to design a Tojan horse that will solve a problem of social inertia. I think, a deeper look at Facebook story as well as experience with other systems. Here is a potential options of how to make it happen.

1- Ease of data capture. The massive success came to Facebook with availability of camera on every mobile device. We can think about ease of capturing data for social PLM system. If a "social Trojan horse" will be able to capture data in the organization and help share it with other people can be a good way preventing people to leave a system.

2- Open – to prevent data locks. People are afraid of data locked in a specific system. Each time they think, that social system is another silo to lock data, they will run away. Make it easy to get in and out can be another way to eliminate initial inertia.

3- Innovate in business model to make it available for a whole organization. Social software brings value when it used by many people. The more people you bring in, the better is system behavior and more substantial is value proposition. Lucrative licensing and business models of PLM vendors are not very much appealing to most of social PLM software to be used by all people in an organization.

What is my conclusion? Social inertia is a big deal. Few tricks like real identity and pictures made a change for Facebook and allowed to spread across communities and people. Looking for something similar for enterprise can be a key to unlock the future of social enterprise PLM system. Who will find that key first, will have it all. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Image courtesy of stockimages at

Why Slack can be a communication tool engineers want?

April 9, 2015


Communication is an important element of our work. We live in an extremely connected world. To communicate with people you work on the same team and between teams can be a critical factor to make project successful. I’ve been learning Slack for the last few weeks. Slack is online communication platform that is catching lot of attention for the last time. It is a startup with more than $1B valuation. Take a look on it over the weekend. It is polished and provides very slick UI.

My experience with Slack made me think about collaboration in engineering teams. It has some connection to old discussions about “social PLM”. However, social PLM idea was doomed. I can mention few reasons why it happened – it provided bad experience for communication, it wasn’t open and didn’t provide an easy way to publish data.


Things changed for the last few years, Engineering software is getting better in terms of user experience, but openness and integration are two things that not changing much. Look over collaboration tools provided by PLM vendors and you will see limited number of integration capabilities. It is still very closed world, it is hard to push data in and out. Moreover, it is very difficult to integrate with tools engineers are using these days.

Opposite to that Slack impressed me with the number of integrations and openness. If you think about online digital environment, it basically integrates with everything. Navigate to the following link and take a look on a number of integrations. However, community-built integrations list is every more impressive. It is basically integrates to any language, framework or too.

What is my conclusion? There is a clear need for engineers to communicate. However, think how many social platforms do we need? My hunch- we don’t need many. But we need one… a good one. We need one for engineers to communicate between themselves and outside world. So, the competition for this single communication tool will be tough. In my view, integration will be one of the most critical elements. Imagine great communication and collaboration platform that hard to integrate with. It will fail exactly in the same way as previous “social PLM” initiatives failed. So, there is a chance engineers will like Slack. This is a lesson to learn for PLM vendors. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

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


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