PLM – Move From Content to Context?

PLM is very focused on what we call content. All aspects of product design, engineering, manufacturing are around the content. We create models, drawings, structures, bills, manufacturing parts and assemblies. So, content is everywhere. However, I think, the absolute power of content is going to change soon. We are moving to the connected environment where to have a content is not enough. Our work life is combined from the set of the events or activities. Many of them are going in parallel, interrupting us, destructing our focus. To have a content doesn’t help. The question is what relevant part of content need to be available, for the moment, of time and for the specific activity.

PLM and Content
Historically, CAD and PLM applications are started from producing content. In the beginning, it was about design, afterward it shifted to other aspects of engineering and manufacturing. In addition, business models of companies in CAD and PLM space is also very dependent on content. Content generated by specific software becomes very much dependent on this software. For a very long period of time, it was a foundation of business.

Welcome To Context World
During the last ten years, we are observing a major shift in the way people are communicating. It started with telecom and internet and changed our life and business completely. In the end, function of communication became much more important. What can create this environment? In my view, context is the king of the communication. To be able to create a very effective environment becomes an urgent requirement that comes from all users. So, context becomes a platform for interaction in a modern world.

PLM In Contextual World
What context can change for PLM? In my view, it is going to shift value proposition from the system that requires to create something to the system that helps. In my view, there is a significant difference. It creates a different attitude for users. How I see PLM become contextual? One of the possible scenarios is an organization of communication and interaction between people and design and engineering content. Focused on applications for communication such as email and IM, content sharing services we can get a significant help to users in the accomplishment of their tasks.

Google Market Place and Google Contextual Gadgets
I had chance to read about Google Market Place and contextual gadgets. For me, it made perfect sense in how to transfer world to become more context oriented. When you think about an email as a primary communication tool, an ability to get contextual access to the additional information can provide a huge advantage. Think about a collection of drawings that can be displayed in the context of a specific email or email thread. You may also gain much higher user adoption by providing systems embedded into a communication environment.

Market Place is a good example of how to deliver application in the contextual manner. So, in this way, context not only create an environment for your work, but also creates a way to deliver an additional content component.

What is my conclusion? Content is a king… Long live context! There is a huge value in contextual work organization. To be able to focus on the particular set of activities and content, as well as to bring applications to do it, can be extremely beneficial. It seems to me that future PLM systems will focus on how to embed everything they are doing in the user’s communication streams. An ability to work contextually will boost performance and simplify PLM product landscape in eyes of users.

Best, Oleg



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  • Oleg,
    I couldn’t agree more. Way back when, when content was just being amassed on the web, it was important to have good content. IN fact, that’s still important, but so much of it quickly makes the volume not useful. This is analogous to turning mere data into information, and information into knowledge. I wrote about this topic as well (though not from the PLM standpoint) here:

  • Alan, Thanks for your comment and link to your blog! I agree, context can provide a good way to improve content consumption. For enterprise apps, like PLM, it can improve user adoption level and usability in general… Best, Oleg

  • Christine

    Hi Oleg, enjoying your thoughts as always.

    I think the most obvious recent evolution of content in context is the development of dashboards. Everyone wants one, and they want their content spliced and displayed in a palatable manner. The user sees only what is relative to himself at that point in time. My company is looking into using the dashboard concept to drive assembly stations, and push digital data to the shop floor in a time and application sensitive manner. The focus of this initiative is entirely to get the right information to the right people and precisely the right time. The process is entirely contextual.

    However, in order to make this work, we have high requirements on our digital data. The processes we lay out cannot work if the inputs are not entirely complete and accurate, and we need complete content for this to work. For example, if you don’t have digital representations of an assembly, you will be hard pressed to deliver content rich assembly instructions in a digital format. If you don’t know the station where the assembly instructions need to go, you simply won’t be able to deliver them there.
    In my current world, content is upstream and context is downstream. Linking the two realities is the challenge of the organization, which is the space where PLM exists as a service.

  • Christine, Thanks for such a deep inside. Dashboards (or how people call it sometime composites) is an interesting approach. It somehow correlates to Business Intelligence. The new buzz in this space is “real time analytic”. I believe that all available solutions these days are very costly or/and requires a significant customization and professional services effort. I share your view on content upstream and context downstream view. The problem with content upstream is to make it in an efficient way. In most of the solutions, I can clearly see customer demand for a context without visible content available. Just my thoughts… Best, Oleg

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