PLM Goes Social – don’t forget your daily job!

social-toolsProduct Lifecycle Management is going full speed to social tools and technologies. With two companies, PTC and DS articulated their social plans as Social Product Development and Social Innovation, no doubt this will  be major move to absorb technologies, to build tools and develop best practices to involve social communication into Product Lifecycle Management. So, a lot of excitement comes on the side social tools, and how they will improve way PLM doing their job. But, at the same time, this is scary me a bit. Since many of PLM problems were not very related to ability of PLM to become social. So, I’d try to analyze what are potential drawbacks from social hype and PLM.

Social Hummer for PLM complexity. PLM considered as a complex software. ROI, adoption, training, best practices, out-of-the-box etc. All these issues are new and widely discussed by many vendors, consultants and customers. A dangerous curve in these discussions is to say – we will make PLM social and solve all complexity issues, we had before. No, it won’t happen.

Social Tools Flexibility. Yes, you can do everything you want in the way you organize your social communication. However, organizations will continue to be structured. Processes will continue to play a very significant role in the way people work in organization. Don’t think social tools will re-solve problems  with processes in your organization. Social tools will streamline communication, but will not streamline processes. This is still needed to be on your action list.

Tool disintegration. As we discussed many times, there are lots of tools in the PLM landscape. Question of integration is not simple one. Do you think social tools will solve a problem of tool integration? I don’t see it this way. You will be better connected to “people”, but these people will continue to use disintegrated systems with all old problems you have.

Data availability. Social tools bring better communication. So, you think information access issues will  be resolved, just because you can stay connected with EPR folks? I don’t think so. Still communication between people will not be able to replace need to expose information and make it available in organization.

So far, this is my initial look on some of the places where social tools can be used to resolve core PLM problems. I’d like to mention one more… In the end of the day, social products are “yet another tool to use”. When I hear about “additional tool”, my question first – we already have many, why should we use another one? So, after all excitements, facebooks and twitter, designers, engineers and other users will need to think how to adopt all these tools as part of a daily job. This will  not be easy. My core thinking is about how “social” can be integrated into daily life of users without becomes “yet another tool to use” statement.

Best, Oleg.

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  • Oleg I would question your statement. “Yes, you can do everything you want in the way you organize your social communication. However, organizations will continue to be structured. Processes will continue to play a very significant role in the way people work in organization. Don’t think social tools will re-solve problems with processes in your organization. Social tools will streamline communication, but will not streamline processes.”
    If you spend time on a product development team I think you will find it is a lot less process centric then theory states. Within any organization there is the defined process and then what happens. Just look at a typical PLM implementation meeting where you get 10 customer people to define the release procedure… you get at least 15 answers! The reality is a good engineer knows their way around the procedures. A good engineer simply knows how to get things done.
    Walk out onto any shop floor and the theory again falls apart. You will find marked up prints and deviations everywhere. Look at what happens when a shipment of parts comes in and they are not to spec (let’s say a few dimensions are out of tolerance)… what do you do if you need to build product? You do exactly that, you build product! Deviation it’s self is a common process…

  • Chris, thank you for comment! You are right, deviations are part of our life. You cannot make all structured/processes and you also cannot make all twitting around. The right solution somewhere in between, so I hope to see them in the future… Oleg.

  • Hello Oleg,

    I have just discovered your blog via LinkedIn and it’s a great source of information and analysis on PLM topic. Thank you so much for sharing this with us. I am also working in PLM world doing support to project implementation teams so this blog is really valuable for me.

    I have to slightly disagree with your first point. PLM is a huge world and sharing knowledge for such a vast an complex solution is key. I think it’s Gartner that estimated that Knowledge workers spend 30% of their time looking for information. In my view, this is a low figure for PLM professionals.

    We have implemented a Sharepoint solution which helped but it’s still a long way of being Social enough – far too microsofty.

    I do believe that social apps integration in PLM will help in smoothing PLM complexity (for both users and implementation teams).

    Besides, I believe you also need to take into account the next generation of workers the so called “digital natives”. They just won’t understand why it takes them about 400ms to google an information outside the firewall and about 2 days within the firewall. This also is a cultural thing.

  • Hello Ceciiil, Thank you for you comments. I agree, sharing knowledge is a key. It will be very interesting to discuss more in deep your SharePoint implementation, how you split functions and make product IP available. Did you implement a specific solution from vendor or did your own implementation?
    New gen is very important too…. people getting more digital and google, so PLM will need to change to provide different experience for such type of users.
    Best, Oleg

  • Ceciiil it would be great if we could hear more about the sharepoint issues you have had. I have heard this same thing from many customers but it would be great to have some detail. Feel free to email me at chris@vuuch.com. My estimate of the problems you have with sharepiont have to do with what we call context, or lack of context…