“I’LL TXT U”… You are probably familiar with this modern slang. If not – this is time to ask your kids, if you can disconnect them from their iPhones, iPods, Twitter, MySpace and Facebook. They will explain to you that this is “the most productive way to communicate”.
That being said (by your kids), I’d like to talk about productivity. I actually started this discussion actually in “micro-blogs and micro-content for PLM”, but it was continued in Vuuch blog “Yammer Will Not Work in PLM”. The discussion raised the question about PLM productivity and user productivity in general. This is a valid point, in my view, and obviously not only for PLM, but for every user. But I’m trying to see if there is something specific about PLM productivity, and especially something that can make PLM-related products more productive.
I think that this problem generally has roots in currently-existing user experience metaphors. Since the mid 1980s, the intentions of software and computer manufacturers were to support the individual users of stand-alone computers in their traditional office environment. Most activities were in context of launching applications and storing information in documents. A key factor in the original success of existing desktop systems was a set of intuitively clear underlying principles that rendered a consistent mental model of the digital workspace as whole. But this workspace wasn’t monolithic. Desktop metaphors allow you to create as many workspaces as you want. Most importantly is the fact that this model does not focus on data or information. Information and everything related in this desktop metaphor is part of the documents. In general, documents can be everything – emails, excel files, MS Access database, files, etc. The introduction of browsers for the ‘massive Web user’ experience didn’t bring much in context of productive user experience – users now have another application with which to launch and look for data. This data is even more disconnected – in our example, multiple web services such as Twitter, Yammer, IM etc. overload users with additional sets of informational channels.
Now, a few words about PLM. Since PLM is not a single application, there are various aspects of productivity. Productivity of single applications and tools is something so important, that it is solved, in most cases, on the level of the applications/products themselves (i.e. CAD, CAE, analytics etc.). But I see the problem going beyond tools on the level of process management and overall user experience of information overload. Product Data Management, Collaboration, etc. create bottlenecks in the way that people behave and affect the productivity level. In my view, the key issue PLM needs to solve in order to be more productive is to provide a way to access data contextually to users, depending on their roles in the organization and their daily work.
So, Context is King! As a user, I have an incoming stream of tasks – this is my everyday life. As a designer, engineer or manager in a manufacturing enterprise I spent a lot of time in getting everything I need to accomplish my tasks – designs, suppliers, ERP, Catalogs, other users…. (you can continue this list). As PLM is trying to do all these together, it becomes very complex and expensive (since you need to make all this happen in your organization). Users are reluctant to move from their desktop user experience with email, excel files and other documents since they feel that it simple and successful. Also, users don’t see good alternatives.
Getting back to “yammer” and micro-blogs… For me, both of them can provide additional ongoing contexts to communication. As such, a micro-blog for a particular ECO may contain all the material people need to work on as well as connecting to all people involved into this specific ECO. If I spend less time finding all the information and will not be required to dive into an unfamiliar environment, I will appreciate this service and return – so it will be successful! I think we will continue to search for a better user experience in general and for PLM in particular. New user interface technologies, extensive usage of Mashups and other contextual services will help provide users with the right data syndication to make their daily work more productive.