How to Improve Engineering Change Processes using Enterprise 2.0 Technologies?

I think that using Enterprise 2.0 technologies for Product Lifecycle can bring significant improvement in implementation and services. Today’s traditional approach is to use workflow-based tools to implement ECO processes. Is this good? Yes, it’s probably good, but at the same time, establishing such implementation can be relatively complex. You need to rely on database management tools and process management infrastructure. This is expensive. What alternative do we have today? I noticed that there is an emerging group of software which is starting to be referred to as Enterprise 2.0. Although there isn’t a consolidated agreement as to the scope of Enterprise 2.0 software, but there does seem to be a reference to a group of software tools and technologies that use Web tools for collaboration.

So, a typical, traditional ECO implementation includes the following components: Data, Process and Collaboration. Data allows you to keep information about ECO and link to the relevant CAD files located in a vault. Process allows you to set up a workflow to pass ECO information and requests among people in an organization. Collaboration tools are dedicated tools that allow you to present connected information about change and design to users. Collaboration tools normally include data and visual tools. Most of such implementations today are based on proprietarily rich (windows) clients and web tools. Workflow implementations in most cases rely on proprietary process tools, and sometime rely on IT process middleware. Overall, such implementation requires significant planning of everything – starting from ECO data through down to processes and people communication.

How we can make this implementation simpler and cut implementation costs? First of all – managing of all data natively in RDBM can be replaced by an implementation based on Wiki. This would allow us to keep information about ECO and reuse regular Web wiki editing tools to put information there. Depending on the Wiki engines you choose, you will have already user interface (web like) and data capture capabilities. You can tag this information and make it easy to search using desktop and/or enterprise search engines. Approvals and ECO process can be part of associated Wiki page data and ad-hoc collaboration. To establish more formal process you can use built-in workflow engines (i.e. Windows Workflow Foundation etc.). And last but not least is collaboration. Your environment can be Web-based and use all Web-based collaboration tools, and co-editing web pages. Additional power is that all ECO information can be easily shared as regular URLs. Additional interest can be gained by using subscription models similar to RSS. These can easily be applied on native web data and gives you the ability to use organizational information to discover which people to whom you should connect..

I believe, we are only in the beginning of Enterprise 2.0 tools introduction in organization, but for me it looks very promising…


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  • Mark Holman

    Something to consider in the future state of ECO implementation — I believe many (if not most) ECO’s will involve multiple organizations in the process before they are fully implemented. This would potentially include component suppliers, distributors, contract manufacturers, design houses, etc. Therefore a few things that would have to be considered are data federation (i.e. only sharing certain elements with certain parties) and ease of access across firewalls, geography, and organization boundaries. Few wiki based tools make this easy, which is why i think it needs to be either a web based PLM approach with well thought (but flexible) elements, or possibly some form of BPM tool. I don’t think existing wiki tools can cover the real world use cases. Perhaps for collaboration within an org — but I think this might miss one of the greater values of automating the ECO process.

  • olegshilovitsky

    Mark, I agree, multiple organization ECO span is important. Therefore going with web standards and REST architecture can simplify this solution. BPM /workflow only can have limits in this case. This is probably combination and balance we need to find. Wiki have good potential as platform for collaboration, but cannot be used as is today in my view. – Oleg

  • Daria

    As far as I know, many experts call an application Enterprise 2.0, if it supports 2 core Enterprise 2.0 principles: collective intelligence and emergent structures. Both of these can indeed play a great role in improving any internal processes, including Engineering Change Processes. Yet, do you think that enterprise should use generic tools like wikis or blogs? Or search for more sophisticated solutions that support Enterprise 2.0 principles? Don’t you think that blogs, wikis tend to be Web 2.0 solutions (consumer technology) and for bringing real improvements to processes you need a tool that will have more management features?

  • olegshilovitsky

    Daria, I’ve seen wiki solution in production, but never seen in such specific case as ECO.

  • François


    The example of ECO is extreme, as, like you wrote, ECO has an important facet related to process. But I have seen a try to implement a wiki to simply document the products, like it could be done into a word or excel file, but with all advantages of a wiki (history capture). The point for me to see this kind of application really adopted by users, is more a social issue, which is to educate people on the principle and benefits of collaboration.

  • olegshilovitsky

    François, thanks for pointing on history aspect of wiki. This type of collaboration can be real power if you build solution, for example, for CCB collaborative meetings. -Oleg/