PLM Prompt: GoogleWave, ShareFlow, Vuuch… who is next to kill mail?

Another prompt today. Reading the following  article “Will Social Media kill email?”. What I see is an examples of companies in different ways are trying to to position themselves as a successor of our good friend email. I think the mail paradigm is very powerful. Mail will continue in the way it does for the last 10 years. What need to be improved is usability of client application such as work with email threads and search. I think latest Gmail features are very impressive.

PDM/PLM software in many cases requires integration with mail instead of workflow messaging. With powerful mail add-ins mail can be successfully used to manage communication between people in the context of enterprise systems. The single replacement for mail is… another mail.

My view, YMMV. Best, Oleg.


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  • Nawal

    I wish there is a good solution to one problem with email systems. It is regarding, discussions that triggered by a question or proposal to few people. Suddently everyone replies. Before you know it is a long email chain. Now someone coming new, has to start reading from the bottom and most of the time has no clue.

    Typically, at this point, we conclude – kill the email chain and get a conference call with everyone on the phone. But confernce call do not do a good job of capturing trail until and unless some one will take good meeting minutes.

    I believe this problem is more prominent in product development. The usual mainfestation of this is, it is very difficult to trace why a particular design decision was taken. Most systems simple capture the formal approvals, with much of the decision making outside the official system (read coffee room.)

    Like in current economic environment, there are two banking sytems: regulated banking system and shadow banking system. I think that this is true of product development processes as well. Email is powerful tool of this shadow business process world.

  • Nawal, I liked you definition. So, email is “the king of shadow business world”. However, I do see that if we’ll replace email with process management / workflow, situation won’t be better. I will try to explain why. There is one side that we get improved when move to workflow – formal approval. You don’t need to follow all mails and see you got approvals or not. Also you can build a chain of approvals. On the other side, if you need “to collaborate” in group of of people process tool will not make it better – you don’t have formal collaboration template and in the end you will find yourself running messages between people and trying to establish efficient communication. Tools like visual collaboration improve situation a little, but mostly in the case of 1 on 1 collaboration. Mail is the only reliable tool that can allow async. collaboration in group of people. Since now we have social net tools. They are pretending to replace mail and make collaboration more socially efficient. They keep the same mail thread of messages, but provide better tools to search/visualize results and make actions.
    Does it make sense? Regards, Oleg

  • Oleg,
    I think we need to first understand how email as a feature is used by individual? Birth of free email accounts gave birth to spaming and hence email became a casual way to communicate casual things.
    Now, lets consider usage of email at organization level. Most of the employees try to conclude or spread something using email chain. I personally think that, in an organization email is something which is used for notification. Decisions should be taken after consulting and not just over a mail thread. Many a times email is used to delegate something to others and make oneself free from responsibilities. Few people use organization email account as personal email account. Which is wrong.

    I think, when it comes to PLM and email together. There should be a vision at organization level or at PLM Developemtn level that, communication about any task should be taken seriously or should be valued. Hows can this be achieved?
    1. Use company portal(single sign on) and make browser home page add in for having inbox of company mail. When PLM related mails can be seen directly on browser. Most of the PLMs use browser as client.
    2. Add task on browser.

    There can be a possibility for making addons for browsers. So everytime you do not need to go to email client or login to PLM login page. Just start browser and have an overview. Decide what to do. If email has attachments then once has to go to email client if required. But email will never die or should not die.

  • Ashish, My problem with portals, tasks etc. is lost focus. What can be easy achieved with email is single information stream. Regards, Oleg

  • Nawal

    Oleg, I agree with you. I do not see shadow business world going away. By extension, email is here to say.

    On this topic, I always think of a friend, who works in product development for networking firm. He always say that their group does not follow corporate systems and process. He is kind of proud of that in a rebellion way. To be fare to him, he believes if they follow these formal systems and processes, they will slow down. I believe that – revenue per person of his firm is ridiculously high.

    But, we all know the consequences if business systems do not enforce rules and practices. So, the key is marriage between these two world. It is classic fight between flexibility and control.

    It has started with email notification of workflow tasks, followed by ability to approve tasks from an email inbox. On the PLM functionality, Microsoft Excel is becoming more closely integrated with PLM.

    A good marriage is if all of these systems can support the level of integration such I am free to use tools I come comfortable with.