What is beyond Collaboration and Process Management in PLM?

Collaboration and Process Management is obviously a very important part of Product Lifecycle Management. But does it really target successful Product Lifecycle Management implementation?  Yes, I think that allowing people to collaborate and have this process organized and synchronized with all other processes in your organization is the ultimate goal of any PLM implementation. Assuming you have already done this… does it make you feel good about your implementation? More importantly, does it make you feel good about your company?  If you answered NO, (as I suspect), I’d like to discuss and raise questions to discover what is beyond Collaboration and Process Management.

 I think that decision making needs to be taken care of by Product Lifecycle Management very urgently. I’m not talking about the ability of the system to make decisions, rather the ability of the PLM system to take control over product data that will help people in decision making. In order to make this happen, PLM tools need to provide a decision-oriented environment, that will allow the user (engineer, analyst, manager) to make the appropriate decision about change, design, priority etc.

 In order to make this happen, PLM needs to step up from a process-oriented environment to a multi-domain, content oriented environment. PLM needs to manage multiple domains of data, allowing the users of  (PLM) systems to access Requirements, Engineering, Parts, Customers, Manufacturing, etc. By allowing this, PLM will give users the chance to control the most important decisions in the organization. I see this as the ultimate value of PLM, beyond collaboration between people and the management of processes. 

If you are planning on implementing PLM today, what should you put on your short list to achieve these goals? In my view, you need to invest in two areas – operational business intelligence and the integration of your PLM system with other enterprise systems. The first area will give you tools to present information to make the right decision. The second will integrate product data into connected multi-domain data sets (such as multiple Bill of Materials etc.). Achievements of these two goals will allow PLM systems to move beyond day-to-day collaboration and process activities.


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  • Alec Gil


    Love the topic. I think one of the biggest limiting factors of the “traditional” PLM implementations, if there are such things, is their focus on CAD design, perhaps document management, at best, product structure and workflow management. What is lacking are the decision making tools that can connect to all of the relevant information and present it to the users in different organizational roles for the decision support evaluation. You are absolutely correct, most of the PLM systems (or is it implementations) are sorely lacking tools that can help an Engineering Manager to determine the progress of a particular project, understand quality issues, coordinate with the company’s Operations or with other involved stakeholders, or, for that matter, retrieve any KPI’s from the system. The improvements in these areas should be on the top of the PLM suppliers priorities.

  • Billm

    Oleg – to your point regarding integration with other enterprise applications – that’s required to access the info but what about fluid integration with collaboration tools like instant messaging, video conferencing, text messaging, email, etc., etc.,
    People are not going to use other “systems” to drive decisions making process that is going to happen within the increasingly dynamic world of how people talk to each other.

  • Hi Bill,
    Ad-hoc integration is appropriated too. But, need to differentiate enterprise apps and social applications in my view. IM, Video, Messaging are social application. For Enterprise apps, ability to share data is very important, but even in the case of social tools ability to share some information will be very beneficial. I will give you simple example – I can benefit from ability to share contact information in my social network in order to find relevant people for communication. And this is only simple scenario… Regards

  • I read the original comment and the responses with interest. My view on this matter is this – Are we proposing that PLM system should overhaul or encompass all other systems inthe organization and thus becoming the sole and all-important tool in the organization’s IT system?Today there are enough number of tools in the market for BI and for supporting organizational information flow. We need to be sensitive to the fact that PLM also has a specific objective to perform. As rightly pointed out, Collaboration and Process Management being the key, as required in an engineering world and reaching to the Extended Enterprise for quicker progress and reduction in costs andtime-to-market etc. All companies these days are wary of putting all eggs in one basket, and also doing implementations in steps rather than in big leaps. Making over ambitious targets for PLM would only make it more cumbersome, costly and difficult to implement and sustain in the organization, thereby proving to be counter-productive in the long term.

  • Hello Sanjeev and welcome to plmtwine!
    Thank you for your comments. You are absolutely right! In today’s world customer’s priority #1 is to reduce cost of products they develop and manufacturing. Since 80% of cost already defined during design stage, be able to influence this 80% is extremely important. Therefore connection of PLM to rest of the process of development, ability to influence decision management process on early stage of product development, connect product design with end-users are very important. Yes, I think systems that used to support such PLM global vision (btw I’m not sure this is need to be single software package) need to be connected with other enterprise tools. From technology standpoint, I think, in SOA world ability to implement such vision in steps and with appropriated tools is very achievable.
    Regards, Oleg

  • It is interesting that this thread has focused on decisions. In practice, in most cases what is made available to others in the collaboration is the result of a decision while the existence of the decision, who made it and when, and its justification are not recorded except perhaps as sign-offs in an approval process. In our work on the ISO standard (ISO 10303-239) aimed at Product Life Cycle Support (PLCS), where it is not just design decisions but also support design and day to day support decisions that matter, we found that this element, i.e. justification of decisions, is missing from many of the related standards and systems applicable to PLM. Therefore a capability to say “why” was included in the standard to enable such information to be captured and exchanged. Of course, including it in a standard alone is not enough to change the culture which says that providing the result alone is enough.

    There is an increasing influence of Systems Engineering in product design, where decisions are backed up by analyses and weighted factors are used. Perhaps we should be looking to capture the history of the Validation and Verification process and the tracing back to requirements as well as the end result.


  • Oleg I do not know how you can mix PLM and Decision Collaboration. Design teams make decisions through unstructured exploration and communication. This process of maming a decision does not require anything to be under management. As Nigel points out there is a gap between the decision and the release of the results of this decision. You run a huge risk when you try to take something like decisiosn collaboration and convert it to process.

    I fear you end up with even more user adoption problems.

  • Chris,

    You got me wrong. I’m not thinking about to create “decision process”. I don’t believe we are so intelligent. But I see need for decision management in almost every piece of PLM activities. For example “do we need to create new part or we can use alternative (similar)?”, “did we make similar design and what was wrong that time?”, “should we outsource design of this pump?” etc. etc. etc. My point is that decision support (I’m trying not to call it process), need to be integrated into activities (not process) of designers, engineers and others. All theses pieces together are probably our are part of product lifecycle management process.

    Now about what you called “Decision Collaboration”. In my view the biggest problem of decision process per se is ability to have all product and process related information. In best case people takes decision based on incomplete information and in worst case based on wrong or outdated information.

    So, link between decision collaboration and product lifecycle collaboration is next step of PLM evolution I mentioned in my post. Of course this is insight from PLM standpoint. But in world of SOA, Web and Cloud Services it should not really matter.


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