What is the Engineer’s Social Formula for PLM?

What is the Engineer’s Social Formula for PLM?

Over the past few months, I have seen an increased volume of discussions related to the connection between CAD/PDM/PLM space and Social Networking. These discussions took place in different blogs and communities. I blogged about this several times in the following posts:

Serious Joke – Why CAD needs to Tweet?

Process Thinking with the Development of Social Collaborative Business Processes for PLM

How PLM can reuse SharePoint Social Network Capabilities?

The Social Bill of Material Tools Dream

In addition, I found some very interesting posts on this topic by vuuch.com – A Twitter World, Fad or Here to Stay? and on some other blogs.

Below you can see how the Social Networking trend has been growing steadily over the past few years:


Now, what about Engineers and Designers? After reading all blogs and discussions, I can definitely say that , there are two major opinions: (1) Social Networking is a new reality and Engineers need to live immersive into this new space; and (2) Social Networking is not related much to the Engineering professional space. It needs to be mediated by marketing and other people “watching outside” that need to help properly spice the “social soup”

Which opinion is correct? I have very mixed feelings about these two opinions as I see them both as being very far from the truth. On one side, I completely agree – Engineers, like any other people involved in the creative process, need to have an environment where they will NOT be burdened by various non-systematic impacts. It’s very hard to navigate between opinions, expressions and meanings of today’s social collaboration. On the other side, I don’t believe that isolation can work well these days. Our world is flat and we need to manage a broad coverage of people’s needs, opinions, and feedback To involve engineers in this social system will provide them with a very natural way to interact with their users. Sometimes, this experience have a unique impact on what an engineer can do.

My recipe for a secret engineering social soup follows:

1. Allow engineers to be involved in social networks. Provide them with the capabilities to interact with their worlds – both on the inside and on the outside. Get feedback and introduce engineers’ opinions.

2. Support engineers with additional tools and capabilities that will allow them to separate the engineering environment, as needed. Systems can switch off, wait, don’t disturb – there are so many ways that have been invented by social and communication systems.

3. Make (1) and (2) work effectively by providing engineers with enough analytical,  business intelligence and representation tools that will give them a balanced and representative view about what is going on outside, in the social networks.

4. Make social networks work in their professional organizations too. So, the engineering environment will reveal communities within their own organizations and reuse social network capabilities inside and outside of the organization in the same way.

Combination of these three capabilities will allow the engineering community to get new dimensions in leveraging Social Networking capabilities for development of new and innovative products.

What is your view on this?


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  • A development team how ever extended you want to look at it, is a social network. Each person on the team has relationships with others on the team. Many of these relationships are defined or gorverned by the product being designed.

  • Chris, you are right. Dev team is sort of social network. But what is your point? Not sure got it… oleg.

  • I think the two prominent social networks that currently exist–Facebook and MySpace–are ill-suited for engineering or design collaboration for the simple reason that they’re not meant to facilitate those.

    But they should serve as good examples of how engineers and designers might work together, connect, stay in touch, and brainstorm. Since they’re very familiar to the younger generation, whoever is developing collaboration tools or joint-engineering platforms should incorporate the relevant features found in Facebook and MySpace.

  • Kenneth, thanks for your comments. Indeed agree Facebook, MySpace as well as some other spaces/social networks are not focusing on engineering. But need for this will definitely grow in my view.- Oleg.