How To Facebook PLM?

Continue the theme of disruption, I’d like to bring a new topic to discuss – Facebook. Actually, I discovered that Facebook was missed from the radar of Jim Browns alert about disruption. At the same time, I had chance to read a review about the new Facebook project called Titan – a full scope web mail.  So, I decided to bring Facebook’s topic up in the context of possible PLM disruption.

I’d like to identify three areas of PLM where Facebook concepts, technologies or applications that are crossing existing PLM capabilities – Content, Messaging and Social Collaboration. Let me talk about them separately.

For each PDM/PLM system, this is a big question. During the product development lifecycle, we operate with a huge amount of content. Requirements, Design, Bill of Materials – this is the only small slice of all possible PLM scope. Current apps has grown into the huge level of complexity by presenting this content to the users. Sometime, you need weeks and training to understand to understand what actually you can see. On the Facebook side, I see a very interesting approach to present web pages with rich content. In Facebook, it comes from different users. The same may happen in PLM. Web pages with rich content can become the next user interface (or how modern lingo call it – user experience or UX). In my view, Facebook’s UX is good enough to be imitated by PLM vendors.

Guess what? The numebr one app in the enterprise (and in PLM too) is an email. We cannot live without email these days. Everything, in the end, passed by email. Even if we are creating messaging systems for the enterprise, the fundamental requirement is to support information delivery via email. The bad side of the email solution is that it is not good to deliver rich PLM content. Btw, when I was looking on Facebook Titan Project, I’ve seen the same problem as a target for Titan. Most of the email solutions today, prevents us from delivery any content except of plan text. There is no 3D, Media and any other visualization techs. I’d expect from Facbook wizards to create email with Facebook’s face :)… This is sort of mix-up between rich Facebook content pages and slim email messages.

Social Collaboration
Finally, we are coming to the social topic. Facebook gathered huge experience in social communication. This behavior already was imitated and promoted in many other solutions (from Microsoft SharePoint to Salesforce’s Chatter). However, I do believe Social collaboration becomes an important mechanism that changes a communication pattern in the organization and between partner’s organizations. Some of these ideas already proliferated in new development (i.e. Vuuch, BlueKiwi) or integration and bundles (i.e. PTC Product Point).

So, what is my conclusion today? Facebook may have a significant influential power on products in the domain of PDM/PLM. Is it something in Facebook that can be used in PLM domain as is? No, I don’t see it that way. However, I’d expect lots of imitations. And this is a very good and interesting innovation strategy!

Just my thoughts…
Best, Oleg



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  • Oleg,
    You are definately onto something, which I believe extends a couple of our last conversations:

    1) Disruption – on your blog, there is great ongoing discussion of what/who will disrupt PLM.

    2) Facebook – I don’t see the social interaction as disruption. I see it as extension. While Facebook likely has no place in PLM (I can imagine myself having to eat those words, but I’ll take the risk) the concepts behind Facebook absolutely apply. Please see my post from last year’s COFES “We are not Going to Design and Airplane on Facebook” I have written more about this, the best place to start is with this post on “Collaboration 2.0” and follow the associated links to past content. I think that the social computing concepts of Facebook (also Twitter, MySpace, LinkedIn, etc.) will have a profound impact on enterprise software. And the richness of the media (graphics, video, and potentially 3D) makes it ideal for visually-oriented processes like product design.

    Yes, Oleg, Facebook concepts are a big part of the future picture for PLM. But it will probably come from a PTC, Dassault, or Siemens – or an Integware, Aras, or Arena Solutions – or even more likely from the specialty vendors you mentioned, like Vuuch.

    Sorry I missed the point in my disruption post, thanks for bringing it up. Maybe in addition to a common definition of PLM, we need a common definition of “disruption” to work with?


  • Good points. I agree with Jim on the point of “Facebook like” concepts. (emphasis on “Like”)

    For example, imagine “friending” a CAD model so that you’re informed as it’s changed or incorporated into other designs.

    Or, as it posts pictures from it’s vacation in Aruba.

  • Jim, I’m sorry, but it seems to me, you are going to eat your Facebook related words. Two reasons why – 1/Facebook will be imitated by all PLM and non-PLM vendors (look on BlueKiwi, Chatter, 12sprints etc.); 2/Facebook will become one of the major parts of social information search. For PLM, it means information about customers. In addition, I think Facebook did something interesting in the technology. I call it rich internet content communication. This concept may change the world of plain messaging communication we do have today with Gmail and other web solutions. So, this is an interesting technological opportunity. Time will show :)… Thanks for your comments! Best, Oleg

  • Tom, Thanks for your comments! Communities (or friends) model is going to change enterprise collaboration. BlueKiwi, 12sprint, Chatter, SharePoint are possible examples of Facebook’s model imitation. Best, Oleg

  • Oleg I agree completely. This is the exact model we are using to define Vuuch. The basic idea is Vuuch creates a page for any deliverable and on this page you track what is going on with the item it represents. For example here is a page for a SolidWorks part and here is a page for PowerPoint presentation The point about messaging is very important. People hate change and this is why we have embraced messaging in two ways. First each item being tracked (we call these activities) are allow to be a thread and you can participate in a thread through Vuuch or email. Think about these threads as blog posts. Second, Vuuch is embedded in the tools people use and therefore of course Outlook Let’s say you are a project manager and you get an email from purchasing that is now an issue you want to track for some part. Simple drag it into Vuuch and it is now tracked.

    Two additional important concepts are granularity and context. If you look at how people work they focus on finite bits of information. See Al Dean’s post on granularity The concept behind granularity is very simple, there are tons of tiny bits of information a team is tracking at any one time and you cannot force people to fit these into a fixed data model. Just look at any one component and it is amazing how many bits need to be tracked to release it. The concept behind context is also simple. If I am looking at any one bit of data I should be able to know what related to it (within context). Imagine a UI where you could type in a part number and then have a slider that as you moved it across time you would see the people involved. In Facebook our friends are static, in design the friends of a part are not static, they are dynamic and our relationships with people are defined through the product.

    If you have not seen DocVerse (Just purchased by Google for $25M) then take a look. If you DocVerse a document then you get a page that represents the document. Not a page that represents what is going on but the actual document rendered in HTML. I imagine they will use this as a way to convert people to Google docs. But hey why not a page that represent a SketchUp part? Well you can, just use the Vuuch Enablement API’s. What about Chatter? Very cool, but it works only if you develop your application on the Force platform, so it is really not WEB service. With Vuuch you enable any application to develop a Facebook like page for any element of information. For example we have Vuuch enabled Sales Force (only a prototype now) which allows you to develop a page for an opportunity or an account… The ability to Vuuch any bit of information is a driving force behind the development of the platform. Want to Vuuch Windchill, PDM Enterprise, SAP, your FEA tool, a SharePoint application or that home grown application, simple, start with our code base and APIs. Yes the Vuuch plug-in code base is available. Want to Vuuch PDM Enterprise, then take our .net plug-in code as the starting point for your PDM Enterprise solution.

    No Vuuch app store yet.

  • Oleg,
    I will be happy to be corrected if / when it comes to pass, but let’s be clear what we are both saying.

    1) Facebook Concepts
    I Say: Facebook concepts are a big part of the future picture for PLM. But it will probably come from a PTC, Dassault, or Siemens…
    You say: Facebook will be imitated by all PLM and non-PLM vendors…

    OK, I know this will be disappointing, but I think we agree on this one. 🙂

    2) Facebook Itself
    I Say: Facebook likely has no place in PLM …
    You say: Facebook will become one of the major parts of social information search…

    If you are suggesting that Facebook will become a platform of technology (like has done) that can be applied on top of a company’s enterprise information to search product development information and communities, then it would be possible. I find that highly unlikely. But I could be wrong. Google moved from a public search engine to a company that provides enterprise tools (including internal search, etc.) So in “mythbusting” terms I would call that “feasible” – but I will take my chances. I believe they will stay in the public realm. But I will keep my salt shaker handy in case I need to feast on my prediction at some point.

    I don’t see any other direct involvement from Facebook in PLM. Perhaps you mean doing some sort of “front end” customer research using Facebook? I think people are doing that today. I am working with a company called Kalypso on a study they are conducting. The survey can be found here for anybody interested in participating.

    Are we on the same page, or am I misunderstanding your comment?


  • Chris, First of all – excellent explanation of Vuuch ideas in a very simple way! It made me think backward some time about roots of content management, engineering data management and even PDM. Content management was focused on how to create “a content” web page. Alternative was how to convert whatever possible to manageable content. This is similar, but more complex in EDM/PDM. Back 15-20 years ago, the fundamental idea was how to manage “metadata” for a document (Drawing, Part, Assembly, etc.). In every ECN/EDM/PDM system we had sort of “page” or “profile” or “card” or any-other-similar-name to represent contextual or meta-data if you will.
    Now, if I get back to the modern age. Facebook idea of rich content is the Internet interpretation of “profile” or “car” but with a big amount of internet content creation flavor (the flavor came from Web 2.0 ideas of content creation). Do you remember our long way ago conversation about Wiki and Change Management? ( The Wiki is basically rich internet-technology based content page. Sounds like the right way to go, Chris. However, the biggest question if this way will not be stuck in the complexity of pages for every delivery like PDM/PLM stuck in the complexity of the data system needs to manage. I’m looking forward to your answers. Great conversation! Thanks, Oleg

  • Jim, Thanks! I think we are more/less agree on comments. 1-everybody is going to imitate Facebook. The most successful will get prize too :); 2-Facebook social kingdom is going to growth and PLM will need to find how to leverage for their functional expansion. Your Kalipso study looks interesting. It will be great to know/see results… Best, Oleg

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