PLM and Collaboration Platforms: Partnership or Buzzworks?

Collaboration is very important for product development including different phases – design, engineering, manufacturing etc. “Collaborative factor” is playing a very important role in development of CAD, PDM, PLM etc. I have to admit that engineering activities are very much different from areas like accounting and some others. For many years, development of capabilities to collaborate, was a very interesting and innovative factor related to development of CAD and PLM system.

However, time is moving forward together with technologies and collaboration is coming to our everyday life together with internet, mobile devices, office automation and other innovative technologies. So, everything becomes very “collaborative”. Question I want to ask today in simple way – should CAD/PLM related product think about wider adoption of collaborative capabilities coming from non-specific engineering and manufacturing world.

I was looking on the latest report in this area made by Forrester “Forrester Wave(TM): Collaboration Platform Q3 2009“.

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According to the Forrester, the following functional areas considered as primary criteria to include vendors into their research:
-Collaborative workspace capabilities. This includes the ability to store and manage multiple
artifacts with the space, not just the ability to share content over a network.
-Basic content management capabilities. These capabilities allow users to access a single copy of
an artifact through the network.
-The ability to customize the space for specific business purposes. Personalized dashboards,
workspace templates, and workflow capability are examples of customizability.
-Enterprise capabilities for security and authentication. Access-control lists (ACLs), single-
sign on through Active Directory or LDAP support, and enterprise rights management
capabilities (ERM) are some of the key components for enterprise security and authentication
offered by these vendors.
-A development environment for building custom collaboration applications. The evaluated
vendors provide development options for firms with very specific internal needs or for power
users who want to self-provision custom applications.

From the standpoint of Product Lifecycle Management and Collaborative Product Development, I can see a lot of things are missing in this list to allow designers and engineers to collaborate. However, mentioned above capabilities fit very well tool. Special interest, in my view, also need to be done on the latest focus of collaborative platforms on the intersection between a content creation, traditional collaboration and social elements.

So, what is my intermediate conclusion? Collaborative platform’s evolution brings them more and more in the space of traditional product design and development collaboration.  Is it relevant and make sense to marry them, or we are just talking about “yet another collaborative buzzworks”? Is there overlap in platforms and functionality provided by PLM vendors? Do you think a notion of collaboration is so different in product design and development that make appropriate to develop specific platforms?

Just my thoughts.
Best, Oleg


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  • Manuel Joseph

    How can there be overlap in PLM systems, when there is no common framework between any PLM systems. Without any standard, we will see new business giving way to new PLM tools, all one better than the other, thus making customers confuse on which way they need to go. without these common framework, any other newcomer will be an another tool.

    Advantages of a common framework will put future PLM tools to have small business create collaboration tools that work with any PLM tool, thus extending the capabilities beyond just design/engineering/PDM.

    Manuel Joseph
    Teamcenter Admin
    Robert Bosch LLC

  • Manuel, Thank you for commenting! I think, you pointed it very well- most of PLM tools are running independently from collaborative platform and frameworks. This is creates disconnect in collaboration between PLM tools and rest of the world, in my view. Best, Oleg

  • Christophe Schuber

    I agree that a partnetship with bring value, anyway most of collaborative fonctions described above are present in the PLM Solution I know. Personaly I wonder how
    to sell simple and affordable plm solution to smb market knowing that it’s possible to start by using informal collaboration around documents and then to grow with formal collaboration around product dev ?
    For sure migration tolls would be needed !
    Best Regards and thank for stimulating our brains

  • Christophe Schuber

    Sorry, for speling mistakes (would bring value)

  • Christophe, Thanks for comments! and you are very welcome to stimulate brain :)… I’m loving doing the same btw. In my view growing overlap (and you emphasized it by saying- all these functions already exists in PLM systems) is not what PLM systems need. If you remember, 10-15 years ago, we have been focused on how to create “tree-like UI”, since OS was not able to support it out of the box. Not it does. But replicate it to the next capabilities developed by general purpose collaborative platforms, please. I hope, you will see a need to move forward and not replicate what infrastructure is doing. Just my thoughts… Oleg