Four directions for successful PLM collaboration

Collaboration is a magic word that we use a lot in Product Lifecycle Management. I’d say we also use the word “collaboration” even if we’re just talking about Product Development, Engineering, Simulation, Manufacturing etc.

Collaboration is a recursive process where two or more people or organizations work together on common goals — for example, an intellectual endeavor[1] [2] that is creative in nature[3]—by sharing knowledge, learning and building consensus. Collaboration does not require leadership and can sometimes bring better results through decentralization and egalitarianism

Collaborative software is software designed to help people involved in a common task achieve their goals. Collaborative software is the basis for computer supported cooperative work. “It is not a question of how well each process works; the question is how well they all work together.” – Lloyd Dobyns and Clare Crawford-Mason, Think about quality. Such software systems as email, calendaring, text chat, wiki, and bookmarking belong to this category. It has been suggested that Metcalfe’s law — the more people who use something, the more valuable it becomes — applies to such software

So, with such a broad definition, I’d like to discuss more deeply what collaboration means for Product Development and Product Lifecycle Management; as well as share a few ideas with you about how PLM collaboration needs to be developed in the near future.

1. Collaboration Networks. This is what we know today as “Social Networks”. Social Networks is a rapidly growing segment of the consumer sector. Such products as Twitter, Facebook and others use people’s natural tendency to build relationships. Such relationship building processes allows people to realize their need to communicate, share ideas and information. How do you translate this into a business and enterprise organization? Today everything is siloed and people have low to no ability to communicate with relevant people in an organization. I believe that we need to find an easy way to build these relationships and build such “collaboration networks” in an easy and flexible manner. People need to share their work, experience, information. They have to have the ability to find relevant people and organize communication.

2. Multiple Rich User Experience and Mobile Devices. I think that the User Experience will play a major role in PLM collaboration software. In my view, topic such as Web, non-Web, on demand etc. will disappear and people will only be focused on what user experience is and how to get access to services. I expect that people will experience many ways of achieving their collaborative goals- going with the Web, installing additional applications to get their preferred user experience, touch interfaces, game-like controllers, going mobile etc. So, my propose direction here is to find explicit user experience for specific groups of people dependent on their role, tasks and personal preference. In addition, I think that Mobile device strategy will play a special role in the future of PLM collaboration. New mobile devices let people change their working habits and be more flexible in the way they organize their common tasks.

3. Operational Usage. I think that this one is very important to connect our traditional PLM approach focused on design and engineering with the overall corporate and supply chain operation. I think that when you discuss what’s more important– Innovation or Operation, for the consensus these days is that “we need both”. The way that I see making this possible is to have the ability to organize cross-functional collaboration networks between people belonging to different siloes in the organization. This operation transparency will allow PLM to step into the operational field and expose more product knowledge and information to support operational decisions. 

4. Information and Connectivity. Last but very not least.  In the current world, according to some of the research I’ve read lately, we double information in organization every 18 months. I think that PLM collaboration needs to face the situation that multiple information pieces are distributed by multiple channels in an organization. Being able to keep track and connect and integrate related information is top priority for many of enterprise projects. In PLM context is becoming a top priority and PLM collaboration needs to provide a way to share this information ubiquitously.

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  • Oleg,
    I agree that the push into social networks and the ability to tie collaboration more closely with underlying data (and processes) are core building blocks to the future of collaboration in PLM. Nicely said.
    Jim

  • Jim. Thanks! I see transformation of Social networks in something I called Collaborative networks is probably next big step in collaboration. Current workflow based communication just won’t work. -Oleg

  • Nice post Oleg. This is an important point to stress. What I see is that most organization focus on the information (or data) in the formal systems, such as product info management and ERP systems, but don’t pay much attention to other, usually very important, information. This information resides in the Sharepoints, corporate wiki’s, (file shares…), etc. Linking all these types of info together is crucial for good PLM collaboration.

  • Samuel, thanks, you are right! I think to connect information is important for good collaboration. Information models are the most important engine for people’s collaboration. -Oleg