Social PLM, Collaboration and Google Structured Discussion

Social PLM, Collaboration and Google Structured Discussion

Collaboration is one of the most overused words in Product Lifecycle Management. Even outside of PLM world, this term creates confusing. You never know what stands behind the next big thing in software for collaboration. In the past, software vendors in CAD, PDM, PLM, Supply chain, etc. made multiple efforts to develop “collaborative solutions”. However, “collaboration” is absolutely not only about CAD, PDM and PLM. Even opposite, if you will take a look on how many software vendors rushed to deliver solutions for collaboration, you will be amazed. Take a look on this Collaborative Software page in Wikipedia. You can see multiple examples of software.

Simplification is another interesting trend I’m watching these days. The ability to delivery “simpler user experience” becomes absolutely important to success in software. Few days ago, Google introduced “Structured Discussion” feature. You can read more about this feature in Google’s blog or the following TechCrunch publication. Watch this video and make your conclusion.

Google Structured discussion made me think about how similar functionality can be embedded into PLM software. More specifically it can be a nice feature to appear in engineering software. CAD and Viewers probably would be my first priority choice. I can easily find more examples. I found evidence vendors in PLM and around are actually also thinking about near the similar features.

Dassault 3DLive
Back in 2007 Dassault, released a new product called 3DLive. Navigate to Dassault website to learn more about this. When in 3DLive, users can communicate with other users via something called “buddy list”. Take a look on this picture below (thanks DE for this picture)   Similar to IM, you can catch a conversation with people related to a particular assembly or part. I think, 3DLive provided some original ideas in communication, but was too complicated to implement and, in the beginning, had some limited to CATIA based environment only.


I found few  publications about Vuuch Design Discussions from early 2009. The term “design discussion” is actually interesting. Vuuch provides to engineers the ability to make comments and communicate in a more efficient way by combining of discussion treads and design snapshot. The next picture is evidence of this feature. You can read more about this experience from Josh on his SolidSmack blog – Slapping Discussion Across the face of Design. I actually liked the way Vuuch presented it in the past. I tried to follow the “design discussion” term on Vuuch blog and actually found the new name for “collaboration” is “interaction“.

Siemens HD PLM

This is a bit about the future. Last year, Siemens PLM introduced the concept of HD PLM (High Definition PLM). I’m not familiar in details with what HD PLM can delivery, but learning from the website and videos, I found evidence of “discussion elements” in the HD PLM solution as well. You can see it in the following picture.

What is my conclusion? To help people to work together is extremely important. Software that makes it simple and intuitive can catch up very fast. Design and engineering environment in manufacturing companies is still a place where you need to read lots of user manuals before you start to understand to operate with the software. Even if I found evidence of the user interaction features in specialized software created for manufacturing, I found Google Structured Discussion features much cleaner and simpler to use. Simplification is a key. Just remember – MP3 player was available for years, but was replaced by iPod. This is probably the best example of simplification.

Just my thoughts…
Best, Oleg


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  • Oleg, thank you for sharing the update on Google Docs comments.
    I think that capturing this rather unstructured information in digital format is crucial in order to work in a globally distributed team. An managing this unstructured information in PLM – e.g. by connecting it to the product structure or to projects – is also important for improving the product documentation and providing more context and rationale to the final deliverables of the product development process.
    Best regards,

  • Hakan Karden

    Collaboration is everything and nothing. With Share-A-space we in Eurostep is addressing the issues in collaboration that relates to asynchronous collaboration, collaboration over time and possibly across domains with different pace of development (HW vs SW etc). Different views of the same product.

    One extreme of collaboration is long term archiving where you collaborate with someone in the future – might be yourself.

    Still, in meetings related to asynchronous collaboration the synchronous collaboration and sharing of a CAD model pops up. This is how most people view collaboration and it is also easier the demonstrate. In impress on people.

    Collaboration is much more than this. This is a good case for STEP, PLCS etc.

    CEO Eurostep Group

  • beyondplm

    Jens, you are welcome! There is a very large amount of information involved into a product development process. The right context can help people to collaborate more efficiently. Best, Oleg

  • beyondplm

    Hakan, thanks for sharing your opinion! I agree. Collaboration is very confusing. There are so many flavors of collaboration. I think, both STEP and PLCS can provide a contextual (data) platform for collaboration capturing all aspects of a product development process. Just my opinion… Best, Oleg