Top 3 Elements of a Successful Social PLM Strategy

Top 3 Elements of a Successful Social PLM Strategy

Social is trending these days. We can see this, analyzing the broad change in the Internet trend usages these days. What happens is a shift towards social tools and Facebook is definitely a game changer in this space.

So, the new hero was born. Facebook. Is it the new way to solve all existing problems? Well, not all problems, but probably at least part of them. The massive introduction of various strategies affiliated with “social” and “Facbook” is trending. I can see many new systems and strategies that just introduced from multiple well established players in hardware, enterprise software companies and small startups. Some examples (not exhaustive list, of course) –  IBM Lotus Social, Cisco Quad, SAP Stream Work, PTC Windchill Social Link, Vuuch and others.

It made me think about comparison between core Facebook use cases and a specific enterprise use case (may be including some PLM-like flavor). The core success of Facebook was built on top of the one mainstream usage – sharing of texts, links, pictures and videos between friends, which included a very interesting approach in information stream syndication. I had a chance to write about that in one of my previous posts – Social PLM: More Syndication and Less Communities.

However, after thinking about this use case in the context of enterprise engineering or manufacturing organization, I came to the conclusion that Facebook cloning may not bring desired results similar to Facebook’s social networking. As Vuuch’s Chris Williams wrote in one of his comments on my blog – following all connections in the organization is not such important step. I found three elements that, in my view, can make your social PLM-effort successful:

1. Data

Design, Engineering and Manufacturing data is a “different animal” from simple pictures, videos and link shared on Facebook. You need to give to your “social PLM” an ability to use right contextual data for social collaboration. This is not a simple task to do. Most of the use cases related to “collaboration” are actually started from the well understanding of data you are going to collaborate with. That’s why many of the pure collaborative systems failed during their implementation in enterprise organizations.

2. Connectivity

Simply put – you cannot be “half-connected”. In order to have a successful social system, you need to establish a broad connectivity inside of the organization. The ultimate way to do it is a still an email. Therefore, your goal is to to become integrated with an email in a very deep way. People can hardly accept a second way to communicate, socialize and collaborate. This is too complex in today’s world.

3. Devices

The last one. Desktop, or even laptop computers, are not playing the role of a single possible device. You don’t have to be on your desk to “make a decision” or to collaborate with your colleagues. So, supporting broad set of devices is another pre-requisite, in my view. That’s why, Cisco’s experiments with their social platform running out of their phone devices looks very interesting to me.

What is my conclusion? Facebook and other social software generated a massive trend in enterprise applications. This trend will impact everything that PLM is trying to accomplish for years. I can see many Facebook-clones today. Creating a successful Facebook-clone will require to understand the content and specific characteristics of enterprise and PLM applications. Just my thoughts..

Best, Oleg


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  • Oleg,
    Nice post, and some very interesting stats on Internet usage moving from search to social media!

    I have to admit, I don’t see as many Facebook clones on the horizon as you do. I look back to the days when workflow was an application. Lots of startup companies, lots of inclusion in enterprise integration solutions, and lots of standalone activities going on. But what you point out with your data-connectivity-devices conclusion is that integration is key. Communities without context are much less valuable, or perhaps have no value at all. So to me, social computing is a set of features not a solution. There is no need to develop a FB clone. Instead, the concepts and capabilities of Facebook will start to appear in other solutions, such as PLM. If Siemens can use the coverflow concept from iTunes in HD PLM, they can certainly add FB-like features into PLM. If fact, they already are. And so has PTC. So I don’t see Facebook “clones” as much as existing solutions (with the data already in place) evolving to adopt the capabilities that Facebook and others are pioneering. See “Why Does Facebook Fail for Product Development? (and how to fix it) for my perspective.

    Great to see the new site!

  • Stephen Porter

    I think you hit the nail on the head. Particularly with your comments about email. It is not the trendy tool but it is the lifeblood of communication. I talk about the need for PLM tools to have more robust integration in my recent blog Alphabet Soup: What PLM and ERP can Learn for CRM- I think a merger of capabilities from Social media Applications and PLM tools is a good blueprint for successful collaboration. I really like PTC’s ProductPoint application as an example of this in practice. I still think the key though is to have a way to publish appropriate content to social media tools from PLM and to have some sort of linked workspace that can be distributed outside of PLM to leverage Social Media’s broader footprint.

  • Hi Oleg,I’m no expert in this area but I have been using Facebook before it was publicly available (I had to get an email address from my University to get access). I’ve also seen a lot of communities based on what might be “Facebook clones” seem to never take off (mostly Ning based).I think a Facebook clone addresses the Connectivity you mentioned above (provided you get the critical mass) but less so the Data and Devices. Something *like* wiki’s are far more data oriented and something *like* twitter far more multi-device usable. With PLM, I think data caries more weight which will likely prevent too big of an incursion of Facebook like UI and methodology into PLM. I think the ultimate social business UI may not exist yet.

  • Mark,
    I see a huge corollary between a Facebook-like UI and what I would want in a collaborative interface for product development and engineering. I have a chart I developed for a recent presentation, it shows how the personal content in Facebook relates to product development content (I tried to have a bit of fun with it, see link in last comment if you are interested). I don’t see the interface replacing PLM, but I could certainly see it as a collaborative UI that links back to rich content that PLM manages. What do you think is missing?
    And sorry, I do consider you an expert so I am expecting a very enlightening answer. 😉

  • Jim, thank you for your comment! I think, we are talking about the same. I don’t differentiate between standalone app and implementation of similar to FB functionality inside of other apps. Btw, most of apps I mentioned are standalone apps inside of app suites- Cisco, SAP etc. Your association with Workflow is very appropriated. In the beginning Workflow was standalone products (actually, still, there are many – they just transformed themselves into Business Process Management suites). However, they have lower value prop when running without data. Therefore, lots of BPM industry discussion is going about how to bring metadata and data into their solutions. The same story with FB-like apps. Today all are excited about copying similar to FB functionality. In my view, only data-connectivity-devices bundle will make it successful. Just my thoughts… Oleg

  • Stephen, thank you for commenting! Agree with your points about integration with content. I call it data, but practically it is about the same. Content publishing and sharing information is the key thing. This is a fundamental feature of FB. However, PLM content is much harder to share in comparison to texts, pics and video on FB… Best, Oleg

  • Mark, thanks for your thoughts! I agree with you, in PLM (or whatever other name we’ll bring to that), plays much more important role. So, introduction of FB-like system can be only successful with tight data integrations. You are right with regards to you FB/Twitter analogy – I also see FB as more about connectivity and Twitter as more device-less approach (their 140 chars, actually coming with SMS-state of mind)… Best, Oleg

  • Jim, I think the table you created, which compared FB-like functions and PLM-like collaboration, make sense. What FB is doing for fun, PLM need to do to unable people to work together (means to collaborate). PLM (and EDM, PDM, Workflow before) are always put a significant emphasizing on collaboration. However, if I think about 10-15 years old workflow implementations (think about MatrixOne routes, for example), you won’t find a big difference with today’s FB models, except of a huge deal of content web-like syndication and new UI. Just my thoughts… Best, Oleg

  • Ha! thanks Jim! I wish I had an enlightened answer. First, Lets keep in mind I’m just some CAE guy whose hobby is social computing. You and Oleg know that but I’d hate for anyone too read too much authority into what I say!As attractive as a single social computing interface into PLM sounds, I haven’t seen anything that would fit that. Its like having a single interface into your computer which we all know has fallen apart lately. Today’s devices ranging from tiny phones with keys to iPads with touch screens to laptops to desktops to web enabled TVs.So, to me, the PLM social computing solution is multi interface with a social backbone integrated into PLM/business. I’m sure a Facebook like interface has value but other interfaces would too. Another analogy might be HD-PLM from Siemens (where I work) which gives you a completely different way of accessing PLM data as compared to a browser looking at rows of data and text.

  • Mark, what I specially like in your answer is a focus on multi-device and multi-UI… There is no “silver bullet” and one size doesn’t fit all. Nevertheless, I can value a successful UI with appropriated functions that can 1/help me be in touch with other peers; 2/collaborate on a particular piece of data; 3/stay connected in case of updates. Just my thoughts… best, Oleg

  • Vladislav Skoupski

    Mark, can you tell me by usual words what is HD-PLM? Is it similar to PLM 2.0? Thanks in advance

  • beyondplm

    In my eyes, there are lots of similarities between HD PLM and 3D Live / V6 approach. I’d like to come with a separate post about that in coming days. Best, Oleg