How to rethink PLM workflows?

How to rethink PLM workflows?


Workflows and processes. This is an important part of any company. Like blood goes through your body, workflows are going through a company and beyond. Couple of months before, I posted by ultimate PLM workflow dream. It came as a part of my thinking about “un-bundling services“. My idea was to publish list of features workflow (process management) that can be used as an independent service.

Many businesses were created with the vision to improve processes and to support business workflow. However, email is still one of the key elements of every workflow and business process management system implementation.  How to move from emails and messages to collaboration – in my view, this is one of the most critical elements that can help to streamline PLM workflows. Because of ubiquity, email remains one of the most widely used engines behind companies’ workflow. One of the ideas I discussed earlier was to connect emails and workflow – how to turn email into actionable workflows.

Over the weekend, I was skimming through the article – 10 Trends Transforming Enterprise IT by TechCrunch. The trend that caught my attention was #6 – Reimagining enterprise workflows. Read the following passage:

Widespread adoption of mobile devices has led to more efficient enterprise workflows. CEO Marc Benioff recently said he runs his whole business from his phone. This gets easier every day. Whether it is quickly turning around business documents via the e-signature application DocuSign or fine-tuning scheduling and route optimization for people in the field via ServiceMax, mobile applications are reinventing and automating processes across the enterprise, enabling work to get done faster and smarter.

Here is the article referencing’s Marc Benioff  statement earlier this year.

“I run my business entirely on my phone,” CEO Marc Benioff said. “I believe this is the future.” As companies store less and less data on site, more will no longer need desktops, he said.

It made me think about changing roles between email and mobile. One of the biggest early successes of mobile computing was to turn business email into mobile service. I’ve been using one with my old Blackberry and it was very reliable. Here is the thing. Mobile devices are more ubiquitous today than email. Mobile applications can be easier and more intuitive compared to the list of emails in my inbox. Mobile can be a service that can help to rethink PLM workflows bypassing email and existing complex business suites.

What is my conclusion? We need to learn how to break things that preventing us from moving forward. Email is one of them. In the past, we asked to connect every PLM workflow to the email. That was our desire to have a single point of communication. Today, our mobile phone is our single point of communication and it is more powerful than our desktop computer 10 years ago. People don’t have to be connected to their desks. Therefore, to disrupt PLM workflows by making them completely mobile can be an interesting option. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg



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  • Mahesh Beri

    Very good analysis.
    In fact many enterprises have managers with company provided smart phone. However only business app is email!
    I can imagine several process including operational things like travel arrangements to get simplified. So question is what are the barriers.
    Can mobile apps provide next generation interfaces to legacy backend systems? What are areas where early opportunities to adopt .. you mentioned service industry as early candidate in some other blog. . Which size companies will move fast .. when BYOD become mainstream. .
    I keep pondering on these .. looking for evolution and opportunities it will provide. .

  • beyondplm

    Mahesh, thanks for your comment and support! Yes, I believe so too – new mobile apps will become a new way to work with existing databases and enterprise systems.

  • A little counterpoint, as I’m often obliged to do.

    I’ve found in workflow especially there are different degrees of approval – often those that are doing thorough checks often cannot accomplish that effectively through the small screen that a phone asset provides. Now for the more “rubber stamp” type approvals that may be a different story, but in those cases certain arguments can be made as to why those approvals exist at all.

    I always raise an eyebrow when someone says they run their entire business from their phone. I think that tends to get exaggerated to the point of hyperbole. In those cases you often find the chief point of interaction is email – which of course is easily handled on a mobile device. But when it comes to document authoring (and not checking or cursory approval) or manipulation of more complex assets I just have trouble believing usability is there.
    Don’t think we’ve heard the whole story on this front just yet.

  • beyondplm

    I guess, user experience still one of the major factors of preventing people from running business from mobile device (phone, tablet). The second one is probably data analytics. Those people that doing thorough checks can do it if (when) good enough mobile apps will come into play. Btw, minor aspect, but still important – size of screen is getting bigger (especially on new Samsung, Nexus and iPhone 6plus).