How can PLM use Social Search to develop the next innovative products?

Personalization is one of the today’s trends in product development. More and more manufacturers are discovering the ability to develop products that fit particular customer demands. What is especially interesting is to be able to design and develop products following social demands. I think involvement of individuals in product development is a very interesting trend we are watching now. People are interesting to be involved into product design, they want to impact.

This is place where, I think, today’s PLM technologies can leverage some latest development in the field of Web 2.0 and more specifically, social search. In the chain of social influence –> people demands –> people –> product requirements –> product development, <people> are the missing link in the chain. If we can stay connected with people during the full product development cycle, we can find the special power we are missing.

Social networks today provide the ultimate source of information and connection to people’s minds. How can we use it practically and connect product development to people behaviors, wishes, interests and preferences? I will try to translate this need into practical technological requirements:

1. The ability to mine data in social networks according to specific product behaviors, requirements, needs.

2. To allow people to impact by providing feedback on ongoing product development.

I will take as an example the development of the next model of mobile devices such as mobile phone, GPS system or PDA. Development of these type of products have very a short timeframe which needs to focus on the assembly of the most important requirements for the next product model. These requirements include product features, product look and feel and they need to balance with the right product price to fit a specific customer segment. So, what if the product development environment based on PLM system capabilities were able to mine social networks and the assembly summary of people’s demands? This sounds promising to me… but is only the half of it. The other half is the ability of PLM systems to expose information about a future developed product using social media tools in the social networks , and collect people’s feedback. Now we have a closed loop of product development with social involvement.

I’d like to write a few words about what products example I see today. First of all, the development of vertical search tools. These search tools are tuned for specific needs and can discover particular trends in all available social media – blogs, wikis, Internet forums etc. Next is a search developed specially to follow information in social networks – Facebook, twitter, LinkedIn etc. And finally, development of tools allowing us to expose Product Content (design, features, functional characteristics) out of current development systems (CAD, Industrial Design Tools etc.).

I’m very interested to hear your voices in this discussion – from the standpoint of product development tools as well as a consumer of various products.


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  • Hi Oleg-

    RE:”So, what if the product development environment based on PLM system capabilities were able to mine social networks and the assembly summary of people’s demands?”

    Design by committee doesn’t usually work well. I am experiencing this right now. The company I’m consulting to has so much input and so many design sign-offs, it is difficult to get anything approved for manufacture. Why? Because as the number of people providing input increases, the number of disagreements increases too. Many times, the optimal design is a “matter of opinion” and everyone thinks their opinion is the best.

    Devon Sowell

  • Devon’s got an excellent point. There are certainly a number of considerations to take into account regarding when input is appropriate and when to lock down & focus.

    Enabling PLM with social media capabilities is an important advancement that can help get alignment with requirements. The process then begins to take on an open innovation structure.

    Open innovation is one of the underpinnings of open source and the processes (and related PLM system / Web 2.0 structure) are essential to support it.

    What we do ourselves at Aras is enable open front-end innovation using wikis, blogs, social networking, online inputs, contributions, etc and then once organized do short-cycle development to get something people can provide feedback on.

    This works both for consumer products and for smaller customer-supplier B2B networks, although the later requires PLM collaboration security structures.

    Open source processes that use social networking PLM software represent the future of mainstream product development, whether Guns or Butter. Knowing how to apply these techniques and implement the PLM systems to support them is the product dev ‘best practice’ of the future IMHO.

  • Hi Devon, Thanks for your thoughts. Actually I wasn’t thinking much about how to achieve agreement. I was about how to get community opinion. Source of reverse-crowdsourcing. -Oleg

  • Devon makes agood point. How do you grade feedback from noise and how do you validate some many data points? And on a side note aren’t the marketing people out doing this anyway? Aren’t these people suppose to know what the customer wants and where the competition will be and what technology will be ready for prime time?

    I’m not saying social media is not useful, to contrary… I’m just wondering where the line is drawn. My feeling is it would be better applied within the team then connecting designed to customers.

  • Chris, My point was – information in social networks is useful to be retrieved and analyzed for product development. If marketing people need to get this information and not designer (or any other team), this is ok in my view. How they will do it? I didn’t try to provide answer on this in blog :)… I just made point that this chain is broken in many cases. In opposite direction, people can provide feedback on something going on in development (i.e. concept cars, concept phones, beta versions of software etc.) and therefore, to take this model and expose it to people will be beneficial too.

  • Hi Marc, Sorry, but somehow your comment was captured by spam filter :(… sorry about that.
    I agree with view of leveraging social tools, however one of the critical point for me was to see how to secure customer adoption. There are so many tools, but customers have problems to use it. I’ve seen many examples of such. So, to find right way to social information and tools is very critical in my view to get things done on social-software side of PLM.
    Have you had any practical cases demonstrated how people got to the point and started to use social tools (except of mail :))?

  • Syed Rahman

    You do make a point here by eliciting opinions from the social networks …
    Well, primarly I think the present day missing link is the customer feedback being incorporated in the development of the product … I think we need to focus more on incorporating the customer feedback in the early stages of the design of the product and create more innovative products which fulfill the UN – MET demands of the customers!

  • Syed, I completely agree. Communication with customer and getting customer feedback is extremely important. However this is “what” and I see social networks answering question “how?”. My point is that to take customer feedback is not always simple and use social networks (by search, data mining and other ways) can be very helpful to get feedback indirectly and even statistically. -Thanks for your comments. Oleg.

  • Hi,

    Social Networking can be exploited to measure the success and failure of Product design.

    Also, this can be used for idea management if enduser are treated as stakehold in concept stage. this does not necessarily apply for all kinds of products But certainly applies for products in FMCG segment and private label market.

  • Paritosh, In my view, your ideas are very close to crowdsourcing for product development. I think, this is coming as part of Enterprise 2.0. Trends like Social Innovation and Social Product development from DS and PTC, in my view, is very inline with these concepts. Best, Oleg