Post COFES, Dropbox and PLM Made Simple?

Post COFES, Dropbox and PLM Made Simple?

As you know, I spent end of my last week, including the weekend at COFES (The Congress of the Future of Engineering Software). It was my 6th COFES. It was probably the biggest COFES ever. The social media activity was significantly stronger this year than before. I had a chance to meet people Mark BurhopDora SmithJosh MingsDeelip and many others after long time of tweeting and blogging together.

The following tweet message by @dorasmith drove my attention #cofes2011 @vuuch notes Dropbox is the model for PLM in the future, more discussion on complexity of PLM for majority of users

This tweet resonated with the following news I’ve heard the same day – DropBox hits 25 millions users and 200 million files per day. This is a really impressive number, in my view. The scope of DropBox usage is very wide. The quote from the same TechCrunch article: People use dropbox for personal storage, file syncing between machines, and group collaboration on projects. They have desktop software for the usual OSs, and mobile access, that makes things run smoothly.

What is DropBox and why I like it?

If you are not familiar with DropBox, this is your time to take a look on this. The following video is short and nice explanation about how you can share everything using dropbox folder.

Dropbox is my favorite (after Google App) tool to sync files between laptop and other devices. You may ask me why after Google App? Since Google App is already synchronized. However, not everything fits Google Apps and this is specially important if you think about your CAD files and PLM Excels..

DropBox and PLM model

So, let me take you back to the Dora Smith’s tweet. Is it a model for PLM future? I think, this is kinda of simplification. Dropbox is a good example of virtual storage. Files are on cloud – you shouldn’t worry. Wait a sec… what about security? If you feel comfortable with DropBox security, you can synchronize your CAD files between people and teams using DropBox virtual folder. Microsoft has similar ideas in SharePoint and some other tools and apps. The idea of drop box is not original. What is DropBox magic sauce?. My take on this is simple: usability and simplicity. It works and requires zero time to learn.

What is my conclusion? People are looking for simple tools. This is what made DropBox successful. PLM is complex. PLM companies have similar functionality in their hands today. However, the simplicity wins. Security is another question. This is a matter of trust. Do you trust Google? DropBox? Dassault? PTC? Use the cloud you trust… Just my opinion.

Best, Oleg


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  • Oleg: I agree completely DropBox just works…simply… and for most users that is the bottom line. Trust is another matter while I may trust Google, DropBox with certain data. My employer may not (shoot the way security is going these days one wonders if most employers even want employees using computers at all). One final issue to consider is the availability of the cloud. If you believe the “industry” WiFi is available everywhere 24/7 but even at a “computer conference” like COFES it isn’t a given. So no matter how secure, easy and wonderful cloud tools can be if you can’t access they are worthless.

  • I am a longtime user of Dropbox and agree that “it just works.”. The other secret sauce is availability. Unlike SharePoint, Dropbox is on nearly every platform (Desktop and Mobile) and due to it extensive API, other applications (verticals) are integrating their services into this single hosted repository.
    It has become a my file nervous system, enabling ubiquitous access to the content I own and share with my teams. ~Lou

  • Hi Oleg,
    I agree – especially with “PLM is complex” 🙂 And complex problems are seldom solved with simple solutions. Even for dropbox to deliver it’s services to the users, they probably have some complex designs, IT architecture etc. behind – as we have in PLM. And it would be PLM to tell Dropbox which file is the latest, release version of a particular configuration while managing access rights and history…
    Best regards,

  • cdn

    Yes indeed, “PLM is complex” but once the setup is done (the project environment set up, the participants registered, the access & security rules defined, etc.) it could be as simple as file saved – dropped – synced! Of course, there would be occasional version conflicts which need to be dealt with. And possibly some other issues that I don’t think of now. But the complexity could be hidden from (most) users. The product can be complex, but the interface should be simple!


  • MarcL

    @vuuch / Dora are pointed toward right vision IMHO — ultimate simplicity for uses. Your points about trust are valid as well and will be necessary for wide spread corporate use in PLM scenario.

    If you want, you can tie Dropbox into your PLM workflow for simple ad hoc collaboration today, and still maintain full security, release integrity on formal PLM docs & data (if you use Aras 🙂

    Sounds like something Prodeos/Yoann could do in an afternoon…


  • jncope

    Groove did everything that DropBox does plus a whole lot more. Once they were purchased though, they withered on the vine. Very sad. I really like DropBox though. It is just hard to believe that Groove had the same functionality six years ago and squandered the lead. Maybe there will be a HBR case study on this in the future.

  • beyondplm

    Jncope. thanks for your comment! yes, groove did the same. the issue of groove was the complexity. I used groove before and it was nothing to compare with dropbox. Just my opinion, of course. Best, Oleg

  • beyondplm

    Marc, Ha!… good point. yes, I think dropbox can be combined with existing products. I wonder if somebody can just run SolidWorks (or another CAD) directly from dropbox folder. So, nothing to integrate on Aras side. Did you think about such option? Best, Oleg

  • MarcL

    hadn’t thought of it, but it’s a very interesting use case – although CAD users might not be the target group for this type of functionality… was really thinking about ad hoc collab and the thousands of non-CAD users at a company that need to be able to easily share files (while the structured, secure data & files are still managed by the formal PLM processes).

    Different approach for different purpose – dropbox for easy sharing integrated inside the PLM environment – that way still have associativity to Parts, BOMs, etc w/ complete record, yet not restricted by the structure for the ad hoc case.

    very do’able (at least with us)… if anyone coming to our ACE conf next week puts this together over the weekend, I’ll give you a last minute slot in the Demo Showcase


  • dorasmith

    Hey Oleg, the tweet and conversation actually happened during our decision making in PLM discussion at COFES. Having the right data at the right time at a systems level. It quickly went from a discussion about data accessibility and interoperability to usability. I think it was Joe’s Augmented Reality presentation and the gamification roundtable that got folks thinking how much PLM can learn from gaming and apps. All the complexity is hidden. It’s touch, drag and drop. Chris’ point with the Dropbox analogy was that people don’t even realize they’re using it. I look forward to seeing more of what you come up with for intuitive ways uses can engage with PLM and leverage its rich data set without even knowing they did 😉

  • beyondplm

    Randall, thanks for your comments. The issue of trust is a central one. It takes time to create a trust. Companies like ADP and online banking services did it in the past. Newbies like Google and other will have it within a time. With regards to WiFi, I don’t think the comparison does make sense. COFES hotel is a typical resort not supposed to accommodate 250 techies with 3 devices each (i.e. laptop, tablet, smarphone). Just my opinion, of course :). Best, Oleg

  • beyondplm

    Lou, 100% with you. Dropbox keeps me updated between my mac, iPad and iphone. Also, I can access my files easily in any place using web interface. It just works. Best, Oleg

  • beyondplm

    Jens, thanks for the comment! However, you marked the point where everything becomes complicated. “PLM to tell Dropbox which file is the latest…”. At the time it starts to happen, Dropbox loses the simplicity and becomes PDM vault. And we have few already… The solution should be different. And I don’t yet how it looks like :)… Best, Oleg

  • beyondplm

    Christian, thanks for commenting! I agree, once everything set up, people need to work in a natural environment. Data management needs to be invisible. This is a goal as I can see. However, it is simple to create a complex solution. It is very complicated to invent a simple one. Just my opinion… Best, Oleg

  • beyondplm

    Marc, I kinda disagree :). Here is my view. Dropbox value is a ultimate simplicity. However, storage (vault) is not the issue. So, by replacing Dropbix UI to PLM one, you will keep the complexity and lose the value of Dropbox. Just my thoughts… Best, Oleg

  • beyondplm

    Marc, looking forward to seeing it this week. Btw, Dropbox is similar to sharepoint and grove. The problem is that sharepoint got complicated in companies… Just my opinion, of course. Best, Oleg

  • beyondplm

    Dora, thanks for comments! The simplicity of DropBox realized by efficient UI sits on top of storage. PDM/PLM runs vault servers for years. However, the UI is complex. If you think about systems like PDMWorks /Conisio, you can see how it leverages Windows File Explorer very similar to DropBox way… Best, Oleg