Social PLM Inbox and Changing Paradigms

by Oleg on November 18, 2010 · 1,101 comments

The Facebook announcement about introducing of FB messaging system triggered a flood of posts. I’ve been looking over them for the last couple of days. I liked the following one – Locked in paradigms. This is my favorite quote about what Facbook is doing:

I very much get it that this is [Facebook messaging] a lot bigger than email and that’s kind of the point. Facebook apparently isn’t interested in building an email system and because they don’t already have an email system that acts like Gmail or Yahoo Mail they can break free from that paradigm.

Facebook Messaging Paradigm

Take a look on the following video. I found it impressive. The idea of simplification in communication and message tracking is powerful. Facebook is taking on an email paradigm and trying to change it. You don’t need to keep an email address of people you want to talk to. You just look for them on FB and talk. Simple? Yes. However, only if these people are on FB.

Product and Social Context

The battle of Facebook with Google isn’t exactly a topic for my blog. However, the idea of paradigm breaking made me think about some attempts to leverage the power of social business in PLM business. Few days ago, I posted an article about the potential of social systems like 3DSwYm to turn PLM into a mainstream. The key point, in my view, was about how to improve content sharing in the organization to streamline collaboration between people. Chad Jackson of Lifecycle Insights commented in a very interesting way:

With FB as well as many other social computing platforms, the context is always YOU. That assumption enables a whole host of simplifications in terms of the software system. Alternatively, the context in product development isn’t you, it’s the product, a project, a part or so on. That complicates things dramatically because you have to post/submit content to the right context and you also have to subscribe/follow the right context.

I found this a bit confusing. If I’m thinking about communication, it focused on the social aspects of communication. When I’m on FB, I’m communicating with all people and/or friends, depends on my privacy settings. Lately, FB came with the idea of ‘Groups’ which allows to think about community building in a similar way 3DSwYm, Chatter and other are doing. The context of communication is a content I put on Facebook. Alternatively, if I’m communicating with my blog readers, the context is my blog post. By finding an interesting content, I can interact with people on FB, Twitter and other social network.

If I turn it to product development, the picture is absolutely similar. I need to communicate with people. The purpose of my communication is business matters. Product design, changes, discussion, etc. Who is the people I need to communicate? The purpose of a social system is to identify them. If I will think about a system like 3DLive, Windchill Social Link of HD 3D, I can see how people can find who made changes for Assembly, Part, Drawing, etc. System like Vuuch, introduce an interesting way to find who are the people connected to Product, Part, BOM by enabling an explicit creation of these social links. The efficiency of a system to identify who is the right person(s) to talk to will define the overall value of the social system.

Will Social System Take Over the Email?

This is one of the most important questions to ask. Email is simple and dirty. People hate it and use it all the time. Facebook is trying to change this paradigm. They are eliminating the need to handle “email body” – to/cc/bcc/subject, and just communicate with people you’re connected to. Social system like Vuuch, 3DSwYm or Windchill Social Link can probably do the same. I found the following quote in another email by Chad Jackson – Vuuch: A unique approach to social computing is product development.

Centralized correspondence is a significant improvement over email. Despite availability of PLM collaboration capabilities, social media sites and instant messenger, I’ve found that email is the medium used most frequently for this sort of correspondence in product development today. I’ll get into the pitfalls of email for product development correspondence in a future post, but suffice it to say that emails can be forgotten, deleted or lost in your inbox. Use of a centralized server to manage the correspondence means it’s kept as a traceable trail that can be accessed by wider audiences at a later date.

Well, email also operates with a centralized server. Do you think a social system in product development will be able to lock everybody in the same server? My hunch is that this will be a very hard thing to do. Email is reliable because it operates in a virtual space of SMTP servers. Google talked about Wave Servers a year ago. PLM collaboration tried to lock people in a single point of a truth system. I can search in my Gmail. Is it equivalent to a single collaborative server? I don’t think so. However, it is still an email. It is relatively easy to find things in my gmail box. The question of simplicity is important. If “a social” or “whatsoever other system name” will be simpler compared to the email and can find people to collaborate in an easier way than your email inbox, it wins.

What is my conclusion? I can see the goal of a social system is very high and ambitious – to replace our old friend email. Facebook pretends to do so in the internet now. Companies like Vuuch will try to achieve it in a product development space. Google failed to deliver it with Google Wave. To learn this lesson is important. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

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