How to change existing PLM User Experience

October 26, 2015

Historically, PLM products are well know for being complicated and hard to use. It has deep roots in the way enterprise software was built for many years. The assumption that business users will have to use software dictated by IT and needed for their business function. The picture below is a good demonstration for “typical” complex enterprise software application UX:


One of the special reasons why PLM products were ridiculously complex is the fact most of them just reflected data management technology built into a product. The famous “flexible data model” paradigm was around PLM for the last 15-20 years. And you can trace the roots of data model in all PLM applications in almost every PLM application today – from very old ones to even modern applications developed for the last 5-10 years. The situation is improving in all verticals of enterprise software. But it is slow and dependent on many constraints – usually PLM vendors stuck between existing products, customers and technical constraints when trying to decide about UX improvements.


Despite the overall complexity, it can bring results. I reflected on some of them in my earlier blog – PDM & PLM UI Makeup: New trends in user experience.

But, some fundamental paradigm shift required. People like to praise Apple for their focus to design products with a great focus on user experience. My attention caught Business Insider article – Steve Jobs’ reaction to this insult shows why he was such a great CEO. Watch the video – it is very short.

I specially liked the part where Steve Jobs speaks about designing from “user experience” to “technologies” and not backwards. Here is the passage:

…one of the things I’ve always found is that you’ve got to start with the customer experience and work backwards for the technology”. You can’t start with the technology and try to figure out where you’re going to try to sell it. And I made this mistake probably more than anybody else in this room. And I got the scar tissue to prove it. And I know that it’s the case,” Jobs said. “And as we have tried to come up with a strategy and a vision for Apple, it started with ‘What incredible benefits can we give to the customer? Where can we take the customer?’ Not starting with ‘Let’s sit down with the engineers and figure out what awesome technology we have and then how are we going to market that?’

As I can see most of PLM products are inherited user experience from two technologies – data models and workflows. Although these technologies are absolutely needed to build PLM applications, it gave a very complex experience to users. For the last few years, I can see a significant effort done by PLM developers to improve user experience. Many applications are getting facelift. As an example, we can see more 3D, search driven experience and data visualizations. These are good things to make user experience better.

What is my conclusion? PLM developers should take a deep breadth and ask hard questions about user experience. Most of PLM applications are essentially “giant database browsers” with complex logic. Workflow is a dominant user experience model for process applications. It is a time to think backwards, start from new experience and come with the ideas to existing or new technologies can support it. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Photo credit Udi Waizer SAP presentation


PLM workflows are dead. “Interactive” user experience is coming

October 7, 2015


Most of product lifecycle management implementations are about two things – getting control over product data and setting up processes around it. The last one is about workflows and PLM workflows are hard to implement. Although the idea of "workflow" is pretty natural, it ends up with many clicks, messy reality of notifications and complex user experience. After all, PLM business process applications is a glorified envelope around workflow engine, which can give short productivity gain, but mostly leads to complex implementation challenges and slow ROI.

There are some bad news for PLM vendors – new generation of customers ("millennials") has a completely different demand for how to use technology and what use experience should be. It all about "interactive" experience.

My attention was caught by Wired article How millennials require us to design the technology of tomorrow. Read the article, put aside your Blackberry and corporate laptop. Things are changing as we speak. Here is my favorite passage from the article:

What does the millennial generation mean for technology makers? In a nutshell, it means that interactive technologies, from smartphones to websites to mobile apps to SaaS apps, need to provide the most usable, self-guided, hiccup-free, efficient user experiences in history. Contrary to the belief that millennials can make anything work, their expectations for slick user experiences are the highest ever. Although millennials can often figure out how to use an app or site that is a clunker, they probably won’t take the time to do so. They are experts at finding alternatives and they simply won’t put up with bad user experiences that get in the way of accomplishing their tasks NOW.

"Interactive" technologies made me think about PLM implementations and workflows. Most of them are "process driven". It seems to me different from how most of user experience in a modern collaborative applications. People are actually working together despite different location, devices and environment.

What is my conclusion? I can see a difference between user experience and user interface. The first cohort of PLM innovators was mostly about how to make UI looks pretty. It was a nice change from old-fashion-ugly-enterprise-software-screens. But, we need more. New collaborative user experience is about how to change the way people communicate and doing work. Although processes are absolutely important, the switch to "interactive" experience is what millennials will demand. PLM architects and user experience designers can take a note. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at

PDM & PLM UI Makeup: new trend in user experience

November 12, 2014


User experience is in focus these days. Slowly, but surely enterprise software companies are coming to the point of understanding how important is that. It is not about changing of colors and making buttons nicer. It is about how to get a major revamp in behavior of software or how often we call these days – user experience. I’ve been following this trend since my very early posts. I want to mention few of them you may consider to review again – PUI: Not PLM UI. Future User Experience and 5 NOs to make PLM usable. I want also to refer you to the article in UX MagazineOverhauling a UI Without Upsetting Current Users. My favorite passage is related to differences between aesthetic and functional improvements.

A redesigned UI that looks pretty but fails to deliver new value will not only disappoint new users but will also alienate existing, previously satisfied users, and the news of this failure will spread rapidly. Never make the mistake of thinking that a product’s aesthetic is the same as the product’s actual experience.

My attention was caught by SolidWorks blog speaking about redesigned web client for widely popular SolidWorks Enterprise PDM.

Web2 for SOLIDWORKS Enterprise PDM is a brand new web client for both desktop and mobile platforms. This new web client enables fast file searching and browsing, easy navigation, and access to all common functions like Where Used, Contains, Check-in and Check-out, and Change State. It is also easy to upload and download files for remote workers to interact with the vault and your design projects.

SolidWorks blog made think about actually a whole trend of UI redesigns for PDM / PLM products for the last year. I’ve made few Google searches and want to come with examples.

Autodesk Vault Thin (web) client’s new look was delivered as part of Autodesk Vault Professional 2014. Navigate here to get more info. The following description and video can give you an idea of that.

The new Autodesk Vault Thin Client 2014 has been completely redesigned to provide a superior experience when accessing a Vault through a web browser. The redesign includes Enhanced user interfaces, Customizable view functionalities, New BOM interface, and Enhanced report printing.

Earlier this year, Aras Corp came with new Aras Innovator 10 version delivering long awaited new web client. Navigate to the following link to get more information and read Aras press release. Here is a short snippet to summary UI changes.

The latest open release provides a new level of PLM platform scalability for enterprises with global supply chains, and introduces an HTML5 browser interface which redefines usability making PLM more accessible for business users. Aras Innovator 10 introduces an HTML5 browser interface with a clean, modern design. The release is technology focused with Firefox browser support, the item on our Roadmap that has received the most votes ever, and includes inputs from ECCO, GE, MAN and others.


Another example came from recently announced update of Autodesk PLM360. Design & Motion blog post by Scott Moyse does a great job outlining UI changes:

When PLM 360 was launch in late February 2012, the web technology used within the user interface was circa 2008 & 2009. In web terms that’s quite old, although nothing like the 20-30 year old technology used by some of their competitors. As a result the Autodesk team believed they could do a lot better to redefine the User Experience. With these upcoming changes, the development team have leveraged the most modern HTML 5 & AngularJS web frameworks, to provide a rich speedy interface. The website now behaves much more like a desktop application with respect to response times from user interaction.


What is my conclusion? I guess nobody wants to work with application like you can see on the first picture above. PDM and PLM vendors are clearly recognized the trend towards improvements of user experience and user interface. It confirmed by multiple projects in that space and acknowledged by many customers. New generation of users is coming and the demand to deliver modern consumer level user experience in enterprise software tool is the reality of today. The danger here is to come with polished user interface without re-thinking actual product experience for end user. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

picture credit.

Who will make enterprise PLM UX more user friendly?

December 23, 2013


For long time, enterprise software didn’t pay much attention to user-friendliness. I can go and bring many examples from the past 10-20 years, but assume it is probably not necessarily. Consumerization of IT, mobile devices, internet made a shift in the way people started to think about future of user interaction, user experience and application design. Interaction with user before design phase, multiple user tests, re-design sessions – this is a normal way to design for a good interaction. You need to test your application with exact behavior of your users. I found the best example of what does it mean reading TechCrunch article on my way back to Boston few days ago – Cognitive Overhead. Interesting reading. The author is a founder of well-known app – Bump. The most amazing example for me was the fact they tested Bump on drunk people in San Fran and Palo Alto pubs. Here is the passage:

The very young and the very old are even more sensitive to cognitive overhead, as their brains aren’t accustomed to the sort of logical leaps our products sometimes require. Grandparents and children make great cognitive overhead detectors. When you can’t find old or young people, drunk people are a good approximation. In fact, while building Bump 3.0, we took teams of designers and engineers to bars in San Francisco and Palo Alto and watched people use Bump, tweaking the product to accommodate.

Enterprise software vendors these days are also thinking about the future of user friendly design and how it will impact enterprise apps. Information week article Infor bets on user friendly design to disrupt enterprise applications market speaks exactly about that:

Typically, people who decide on buying the enterprise application seldom use it. That’s why most people hate using enterprise applications. We want to get people using and accessing applications quickly, and that calls for a great user design. Social has huge relevance in this context. For example, a product called Infor Ming.le, allows employees to communicate, collaborate, and share information such as documents, plans, photos, and videos from a centralized location, with all activity captured and easily searchable.

It made me think about the problem of enterprise UX thinking and… learning. You need to learn from other people, learn trends, interact with other people working on user experience. So, what is the future of education in design and user experience? When I was looking for the answer, another article caught my attention related to the future of UX – The Top UX prediction for 2014. Interesting enough I found some answers on the future of UX design training and education. Here is my favorite passage:

Meanwhile, product design is now commonly recognized as a strategic advantage, its business impact made obvious to even the most skeptical of analysts by the success of Apple. Ironically, as companies have become more design savvy, some designers have felt marginalized when early stage, strategic product design decisions fall to business executives and product management. We are going to see more and more colleges recognizing the importance of customer service and experience in academia. A business degree, even a masters or PhD, with a specialty in customer experience design will become a new offering.

What is my conclusion? Application design is getting wide recognition among companies in all domains – consumer, enterprise, education, training. I can predict lack of educated people that can do it professionally as well as high interest in training sources focuses on product design. It will be specifically hard in such complicated domains as enterprise applications and PLM. So, who is going to be the next "Jony Ive of enterprise"? This is a good question to ask. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

About PLM Islands and Russian Search

June 11, 2013

Recently, I’ve been talking a lot of search paradigm and findability in PLM. In many aspects, web search changed our life. Search remains one of the fundamental user experience in consumer space and web. We search for tasks, locations, emails, friends, events and many other things. Search is different when we speak about business. Enterprise search as a software that helps to search information inside applications data sources inside a company is around many years. However it is a different type of solution even today. In PLM domain, we can different patterns of search development by vendors. I described some of them here – Multiple Facets of PLM search.

One of the most interesting patterns related to search are actually starts after you find a desired sources of information. One of the trends here is to simplify user experience and make search rich and actionable. You probably familiar with Google Rich Snippet functionality. It presents a combined set of information about the result and some actions (sometimes buttons and sometimes other user interface elements) that can lead you to a target web site or specific activities. However, Google is not alone in their strategy to make information access easier and actionable.

Here is another example of actionable search user experience. It called Islands and it presented by Russian search company – Yandex. Navigate your browser to the following article – Think Google’s rich snippets are useful? Russia’s Yandex goes one better. The following passage explains how Yandex islands functionality works:

Let’s say the user searches for “Moscow Berlin air tickets.” A normal search result will link to an airline’s website. A rich snippet will also present direct links to the airline’s booking or special offers pages, perhaps along with the airline’s telephone booking number and its opening times. An island, or interactive snippet, could present a form through which the user can check into their flight online or begin the booking process based on real-time data – right from within Yandex’s search results.

Yandex Islands and Google Rich snippets made me think about some user experience transformations in PLM user experience. Think about transforming results into actionable information. Couple of examples. Working with document reviews scenario. You search for documents and have the ability to access multiple viewable including sharing and review actions. Another one is more related to structured processes like engineering change order (ECO). This scenario can start from ECO search. When you found a specific ECO, can get an access to important ECO details (description, dependencies) as well as make action (review, approve, etc.). I’m sure can come with more examples how to turn regular PLM scenarios easier with the use of rich search user interface.

What is my conclusion? User experience excellence. This is what matters these days. It is about how to innovate by focusing on small details of interaction between users and software. It is about how to optimize information and action flow. To eliminate additional clicks, switches between screens and bring some consumer practice to enterprise systems like PLM is the goal. It can be an interesting step towards future PLM excellence. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Social PLM: From File Explorer to Activity Streams

March 20, 2013

Social hype is getting down. I can say it about PLM industry too. We can see less “social startups” and less marketing hype about how next big social revolution will come and solve all existing problems in PLM technologies and systems. If you want to catch up with my previous thoughts about social PLM, I recommend you to read – How to prevent social PLM from marketing fluff? and Why Social PLM 1.0 Failed? My conclusion about the failure of Social PLM focused on the fact “social PLMs” missed the value of customer function and instead of that, focused on value proposition only. As a result of that, they missed usage and customer adoption – two factors that absolutely important to make a shift in PLM systems.

It is interesting to see how social systems are expanding their influence in other enterprise systems like CRM and ERP. One of them is Chatter for I’ve been reading TechCrunch article about Chatter update for mobile yesterday. Navigate to the following link to read it – The New CRM Platform Is Chatter And It’s Made For Mobile. What was interesting is how Chatter is proliferating to become a universal way to get information out of CRM system and communicate with other people. It made me think about social system and shifting paradigm from File Explorer way to Social way. Here is an interesting passage I captured:

Chatter, the company’s activity stream service that it launched in 2010, now has the capability for a customer to access records, edit them and take action on an account, all from a mobile device. It essentially brings CRM to the customer’s mobile phone, iPad or tablet. The updated app is now available in the Apple App Store and Google Play. The app is a significant improvement over the mobile app, and has one feature that is particularly noteworthy. Chatter Publisher overlays the Chatter activity stream. Its look is reminiscent of the tiles feature on Windows Mobile Phone and the overall Windows UI.

File Exporer Paradigm

For a long time, File Explorer was a main user experience paradigm we had on the computer. File explorer was with us from early days of Windows. File explorer (folder) paradigm expanded with the tools like Outlook and becomes even wider discovery paradigm for information – folders / hierarchical discovery.

File explorer paradigm expanded even into first versions of mobile devices. On the following picture you can see an early version of mobile device UI also presenting sort of file explorer.

PDM/PLM systems are inherited File Explorer paradigm in many ways. Most of successful PDM projects inherited File Explorer user experience because it was familiar and usable. Even today, many PLM UIs looks like File Explorer.

Social Paradigm

Social paradigm roots are taking us to early days of social networks. It started as a communication tools only (messaging, chatting) and expanded as a tools to share content among group of people (Twitter, Facebook, Google+). The function of content share became even more important when mobile came to place. The ability to embed content such as video, photos in communication expanded the reach and value of these tools. The information delivery model shifted from “folder, file and share” to “activity stream with embedded content” coming from social peers.

Enterprise vendors took the activity stream paradigm beyond the point of photo/video sharing. Social applications like Chatter and others are helping you to share information content coming from files and other enterprise application in the way similar to Facebook and Google+ are sharing photos and videos. The last Chatter update just proved it again.

What is my conclusion? Shifting paradigms. In my view, we see it just in front of our eyes. What was obvious and straightforward experience for PDM/PLM systems for the last decade will become a nonsense for the generation of 2010s customers. People want their working environment to have the same experience as games, internet and mobile devices today. I can see “activity streams” paradigm as an an interesting experience that will displace current enterprise systems UI in many places. I don’t expect enterprise systems to be like Facebook. However, I think social applications will play a significant role in the future of user experience. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Will PLM experience move to a single-page UI?

December 3, 2012

The complexity of user interface in PLM applications is a well-known fact that acknowledged by almost all PLM vendors today. The demand of customers is to have modern and useful UI. It is popular to speak now about UI in a more expanded term – User Experience. Nowadays, modern consumer websites are used as an example of good user experience. Amazon, Facebook, Googe, Twitter, etc. – how to copy their experience to improve enterprise apps? When it comes to UI, one of the most critical questions is a complexity of UI navigation between different UI forms and pages. A possible pragmatic way to improve UI (and user experience) is to reduce the number of clicks and UI forms you need to use and open in order to accomplish the task.

I’ve been reading TechCrunch article – Enterprise Apps Are Moving To Single-Page Design. Navigate to the following link, have a read and make your opinion. Authors are talking with Zendesk – an software outfit building helpdesk application. The collaboration of people in helpdesk application is extremely important. So, UX is a critical element of how to make software successful and useful. Here is an interesting passage:

As a cloud help-desk software provider, we recognized that our customers’ needs were also changing. A few years ago, web support meant email. Today there’s chat and click-to-talk voice support, and most customers demand instant answers and help. These real-time channels benefit from a more modern application approach than our original HTML application afforded. From the support side, customer support agents might be chatting with one customer while simultaneously updating another customer’s files. Meanwhile, large support teams need to collaborate in real time. The platform can’t slow the pace of work.

To me, the interesting moment was the fact Zendesk mentioned the move from "email collaboration" to "online collaboration". This is where modern web-based user experience is coming to play. It required replacement of UI practice and new UI design. The idea of single-page UI seems to be interesting and becomes dominant in many apps. The fact page-reload is not required makes it simple for navigation and understanding. Here is another passage:

From a technical perspective, a single-page web application is delivered as one page to the browser and typically does not require the page to be reloaded as the user navigates to different parts of the application. This results in faster navigation, more efficient network transfers, and better overall performance for the end user.

Creating of new single-page apps requires some technical work and may lead to refactoring and re-architecture of application front-end layers.

What is my conclusion? The development of intuitive UI becomes one of the major trends in enterprise UI. The era of enterprise-UI-complexity is finally over. The modern UI and user experience techniques are coming in play. It will lead to major rewrite of UI level in many enterprise applications, introducing of new open APIs and reuse of open source infrastructure used in consumer and social web. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


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