Who will make PLM sexier?

by Oleg on July 24, 2014 · 0 comments

sexier-plm

Cool factor is trending in software these days. The time when software was ugly is probably in the past. Everyone wants to have a “cool app” – on the picture above you can clearly see the trend. Does it apply to enterprise software and PLM? It is a good question. Back in 2012, I asked it in my post – PLM: Ugly vs. Cool. While nobody specifically focused on how to develop cool PLM software, I can see an increased interest for improved user experience from PLM vendors.

cool-sexy-app-trend

UX magazine article Is there Room for Sexy in Enterprise Design? caught my attention few days ago. I found the discussion about emotional factor interesting and important. I especially liked the following passage:

The question enterprise technology companies need to ask themselves is “what does sexy mean to your enterprise customer?” Put another way, how do your customers want to feel when using your products?Every product, whether we realize it or not, produces an emotional reaction. As Donald Norman articulated in his seminal book Emotional Design, customers find aesthetically pleasing products more effective. Customers even “love” these products. Norman identified the commercial value in evoking some passion towards products, such as Gucci bags and Rolex watches. MailChimp’s Director of User Experince, Aarron Walter, took this one step further with his book, Designing for Emotion. He posits that the goal of emotional design is to connect with users and evoke positive emotions, which will make your users want to continue interacting with your product.

Article speaks about EchoUser research of emotions with enterprise customers. The following emotions are make sense to enterprise crowd – powerful, trust, flexible, calm, pride, accomplished. Cool and sexy are not in the list. So, is there a place for “cool and sexy” in PLM?  For long time PLM was associated with “complex” and “expensive”. At the same time, most of PLM commercial videos are cool and sexy. Sport cars, luxury airplanes, fashion shows, mobile devices. You rarely can see PLM video without such type of product examples.

I think, many PLM professionals these days are still trying to keep the association of PLM with complexity. My hunch, they are trying to justify expenses. Customers might think complex solution requires more budget, longer consultancy and service project. However, the other side of complexity is to feel absence of reliability and trust. This is not a simple decision for PLM consultants and software vendors.

What is my conclusion? People don’t like cumbersome software these days. There is no place for complex user experience even in enterprise software. What emotions should drive CAD and PLM software? How engineers should feel about software? I’d like to connect the results of engineering and manufacturing process with PLM tools. You cannot make good products with wrong tools. So, something should happen with PLM software. Complex PLM software is a wrong tool to build future cool products. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

photo credit MidoriShoes

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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

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data-silos-architecture

Data is an essential part of every PLM implementation. It all starts from data – design, engineering, manufacturing, supply chain, support, etc. Enterprise systems are fragmented and representing individual silos of enterprise organization. To manage product data located in multiple enterprise data silos is a challenge for every PLM implementation.

To “demolish enterprise data silos” is a popular topic in PLM strategies and deployments. The idea of having one single point of truth is always in mind of PLM developers. Some of my latest notes about that here – PLM One Big Silo.

MCADCafe article – Developing Better Products is a “Piece of Cake” by Scott Reedy also speaks about how PLM implementation can help to aggregate all product development information scattered in multiple places into single PLM system. The  picture from the article presents the problem:

product-data-silos

The following passage is the most important, in my view:

Without a PLM system, companies often end up with disconnected silos of information. These silos inhibit the ability to control the entire product record and employees waste unnecessary time searching for the correct revision of the product design. As companies outsource design or manufacturing, it becomes even harder to ensure the right configuration of the product is leveraged by external partners.

Whether your company makes medical devices, industrial equipment, laptops, cell phones or other consumer products – PLM provides a secure, centralized database to manage the entire product record into a “Single Record of the Truth”… With a centralized product record, it is easy to propose and submit changes to the product design, track quality issues and collaborate with your internal teams and supply-chain partners.

The strategy of “single record of truth” is a centerpiece of each PLM implementation. However, here is the thing… if you look on the picture above you can certainly see some key enterprise  systems – ERP, CRM, MES, Project and program management, etc. PLM system can contain scattered data about product design, CAD files,  Part data, ECO records, Bill of Materials. However, some of the data will still remain in other systems. Some of the data gets duplicated. This is what happens in real world.

It made me think about 3 important data architecture aspects of every PLM implementation: data management, data reporting and data consistency.

Data management layer is focusing on what system is controlling data and providing master source of information.  Data cannot be mastered in multiple places. Implementation needs to organize logical split of information as well as ability to control “data truth”. This is the most fundamental part of data architecture.

Data reporting is focusing how PLM can get data extracted from multiple sources and presented in seamless way to end user. Imagine, you need to provide an “open ECO” report. The information can reside in PLM, ERP and maybe some other sources. To get right data in a right moment of time, can be another problem to resolve.

Last, but not least - data consistency. When data located in multiple places system will rely on so-called “eventual consistency” of information. The system of events and related transactions is keeping data in sync. This is not a trivial process, but many systems are operating in such way. What is important is to have a coordinated data flow between systems supporting eventual consistency and data management and reporting tools.

What is my conclusion? To demolish silos and manage single point of truth is a very good and important strategic message. However, when it comes to nuts and bolts of implementation, an appropriate data architecture must be in place to insure you will have right data at right time. Many PLM implementations are underestimating the complexity of data architecture. It leaves them with marketing slogans, burned budgets and wrong data. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

picture credit MCADCafe article

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Cloud PDM can make file check-in and check-out obsolete

July 21, 2014

Management of CAD files (PDM) is heavily associated with desktop workflows. Lots of CAD files live on engineering desktops and shared company network drives. Originally, one of the main PDM functionality was to vault CAD data and manage CAD files revisions. One of the most widely used scenario to support this functionality is so-called Check-in […]

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Why PLM shouldn’t miss next email move?

July 18, 2014

Email is a king of communication in every company. Many companies are literally run by email. People are using it for different purposes -notification, collaboration and very often even record management. You can hear many discussions about how companies can replace or integrate email with enterprise and social collaboration tools. I captured some of them […]

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Will IBM and Apple open doors for mobile PLM future?

July 17, 2014

Enterprise software and Apple wasn’t much a success story until now. Don’t take me wrong – you can enterprise execs and even IT folks are using iPhones and other Apple devices. In my view, they do it mostly for mobile email and other cools apps. However, until now, the traction of iOS in enterprise was […]

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Why Siemens PLM can develop PaaS option

July 16, 2014

PaaS is a category of cloud computing service providing platform and solution stack. This service model is including not only computing infrastructure (IaaS), but also application design, development, testing, team collaboration, integration features, database integration, scalability, security and others. In addition to that, it might provide service management capabilities such as monitoring, workflow management, etc. […]

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Why cloud engineering collaboration tools are slow to ramp up

July 15, 2014

Few weeks ago I attended Boston Tech Jam and learn new buzzword – YAPSA. Which stands for Yet Another Photo Sharing Application. The amount of cloud files and data sharing applications is skyrocketing these days. It inspired many developers to re-think how to share and collaborate with engineering data.  Cloud technologies made people to bring back […]

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PLM and Manufacturing Startups: Potential Mismatch?

July 14, 2014

Selling PLM for SME was always a very controversial topic among PLM vendors. No consensus here. I wrote about it few months ago in my Why PLM stuck to provide solution for SME post and got  interesting follow up conversations with few industry pundits. Every PLM vendor has some special product offering ready for SME market […]

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The complexity of Part Management in PDM

July 11, 2014

How to manage Parts? It sounds like a trivial and simple question. Every manufacturing companies and engineering organization is facing this problem. However, it is not as simple as you might think so. The information about Parts (aka Items) is often scattered between CAD drawings, multiple Excel files, PDM and ERP systems. One of the […]

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