Social PLM Options

Social PLM Options

Social is hot. Social networks, social applications, social enterprise, social CRM… social PLM (?). I put a question mark, since I wasn’t sure if to use a word social is an appropriated in this context. What means “social” for PLM? How it is different from what we’ve been doing in PLM during the last decade?

Collaborative PLM
We used to apply the word “collaborative” in PDM/PLM context many times. Despite the magic of this word, for me, it was always about “working together”. And, I think, this is true. PDM and lately PLM put huge focus on how to share data in the organization, how to access this data collaboratively. It started from collaborative review and move into more complicated areas of design, engineering, etc. Collaborative technologies in PLM passed three stages: 1/Share Data; 2/Exchange Messages; 3/Work in real time.

Social Trend
The trend for social software started from Web 2.0. Actually, Web 2.0 was a lot about how we can generate content on the web. It started as blogs, wikis and web sites provided different user experience (i.e. flikr etc.). People started to collaboratively create content on the web. In the beginning, it was purely about technologies like AJAX and user experience. It was a turning point point for Enterprise 2.0- how to bring so successful Web 2..0 user experience and new models of communication and collaboration to enterprise. Within time, it came to the point where content became secondary and actually social communication (or people) came to the first place. The “aha moment”, in my view, was when everybody understood the value of collective information about social communication and data that people generate. It wasn’t about accessing data anymore. It was about how people interact and how to get value from this interaction.

Social Trend and Enterprise Software

Enterprise Software discovered hidden potential of social trend and implication on what currently happens in the enterprise. The first who came into this game was CRM, and it is obvious why it happens. CRM is all about communication with customers. However, who are your customers? These are the same people on twitter, Facebook, linkedin and many other social networks. So, if CRM can leverage this social communication, stay connected with customers, get feedback and early alert – this is a huge value for enterprise. Take a look on the video of industry analysts Michael Fauscette and Natalie Petouhoff discussing the intersection of Social CRM and the enterprise. Recorded at the Social CRM Summit last week. I found it very interesting.

In parallel, I can see other enterprise domains are also moving towards better understanding of what social trend can bring to them. I think, we are in the early beginning of this trend. Some elements of social software in the way of user experience, people communication started to appear in the portfolios of enterprise vendors. Community software is one example of that experience. I see it very positive. Social networks provided a very significant push to the development of social software. However, it was transformed into multiple “social platforms” in the enterprise. It was a funny transformation in my view. Now, every big enterprise vendor, started to propose their own “social network”. We are still not at the mature level. However, all trials are very interesting.

So, what about Social PLM?

Finally, I wanted to get back and answer on the following question: where is the intersection of social trend and PLM? In my view, implications can come in the three possible areas: collaborative technologies, user experience and value of social networks.

Collaborative Technologies: Social software developed bunch of very interesting technologies for collaborative work. These technologies related to the ability to manage big amount of data, involve many participants simultaneously. I’m sure PLM will need to learn lesson or two from this space. It contains a huge amount of innovative ideas and technological achievements. We are in the early beginning of this discovery.

User Experience: Social software came with the next level of user interface, usability, behaviors, etc. These fresh ideas and very broad use adoption level, need to be translated into PLM. Today’s PLM user experience is far from the consumer software level. We can see it started to happen already. There are multiple examples of re-use of Facebook’s user experience, Twitter micro-blogging communication, etc.

Value of Social Networks: This is the most interesting space, in my view. We will need to think how to bring accumulated value of social network into PLM. This is especially interesting for manufacturing companies facing consumer space. And, almost all manufacturers these days are looking how to get connected to the end users. Such social innovation can be a very interesting experience for Product Lifecycle Management.

Just my thoughts…
Best, Oleg



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  • Oleg,

    Great topic. We have been hearing for a while now about Web 2.0 and incorporating social media trends into PLM. Other than forums and a few widgets here and there I have yet to see any major leveraging of social media tools in PLM. As you point out there is a lot of commonality between PLM and Social Media and PLM could benefit from some of the tools used in that environment but unlike Social Media PLM is typically a closed environment with a limited number of participants. PLM vendors have put a lot of energy into their security models and companies are loathe to include even external vendors and partners in their PLM applications. As new release come out it will be very interesting to see how PLM vendors adopt the new technolgies and leverage the trends.

  • Stephen, Thank you for your comment! In my view PLM still needs to find the right pathway in the social software/media/networks, etc .. However, the first experience is very exciting… Best, Oleg

  • Stephen you are right that Social in general means public. But this is only becuase this is how it has been used so far. Social is real a way of thinking and interacting relative to content and people. I think you will find Vuuch to be very social, well beyond what has been done with traditional PLM. Check out this page (Demo SolidWorks part). In Vuuch each part gets what you can think of as a Facebook for the Part. You can access everything going on through the WEB, Outlook and your CAD system.

  • Chris, I think, in most cases today “social” means connected to people. I’d differentiate between software that applies multiple user involvement (like effect of folksonomies etc.) and people collaboration. In my view, vuuch is on the second side… Is it correct? Best, Oleg

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  • edaly8198

    Hi Oleg – thanks for the blog comment ( I definitely agree with a lot of your points – especially about the beginning of “social PLM” being very exciting! You mention that social has caused a transition from connecting with data to connecting with people. I think it’s actually that social gives equal weight to people and data – allowing us equal access to past, current, and future content…”any-time” collaboration instead of just “real-time” collaboration. A great example – and one that highlights a potential benefit for social PLM – is content forums. Without social, if I have a content question, I would have to search in a very linear fashion…try to identify an expert, call, leave a message, redirect to a new person, etc. Now, I can go to a forum specific to the topic I’m looking for, populated by users who are self-identified experts. I can search for my answer – giving me access to past data whether the person is available or not (they could be on a beach in Fiji, celebrating their retirement). If I can’t find what I need, I post my question to get responses in real time. Or I can look for someone who’s answered similar questions in the past and reach out to them directly. Even after I’m satisfied with my answer, the thread I’ve started can live on as new solutions (even those not possible when I originally asked) and contributions are made by others now in a similar position to me.

    So, I think it’s not so much three options – collaboration, user experience, and intelligence – but three necessities! Great discussion, and very interesting topic!

  • Erin, Thanks for your comment. I agree, social can add a new dimension in the context of communication and definitely can be leveraged. Best, Oleg

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