Product Lifecycle Management software is obsessed with the idea of workflow. You can see it offered by all PLM vendors. To have a taste of traditional PLM workflows, navigate to my five years old blog post – PLM processes: flowcharts vs rule-based – it gives some ideas how PLM products are defining processes. PLM workflow business was also targeted by newer product in PLM domain. Autodesk PLM360 put a significant focus on process management. You can read more in Mike Watkins blog here. Kenesto – a software outfit founded by Mike Payne was also relaunched last year with a specific focus on workflow process management – Kenesto PLM platform relaunched.
The idea of workflows didn’t die. It is actually a good idea. But, here is the thing – PLM workflows is very hard to implement. Therefore for many manufacturing companies, PLM workflow is still a dream that you can experience in PowerPoint presentations only. An the same time, the idea of workflow brings a way to think about processes in a holistic way. At least if you think about all elements of PLM workflow (or process) are important – activities, events, approval, actions, statuses, etc. However, it doesn’t work or doesn’t work in an easy way.
My attention was caught by a blog post by Nir Eyal, which has no obvious connection to PLM. It speaks about intersection of psychology, technology and business – People Don’t Want Something Truly New, They Want the Familiar Done Differently. I like California Roll example. Here is my favorite passage from the blog:
Then came the California Roll. While the origin of the famous maki is still contested, its impact is undeniable. The California Roll was made in the USA by combining familiar ingredients in a new way. Rice, avocado, cucumber, sesame seeds, and crab meat — the only ingredient unfamiliar to the average American palate was the barely visible sliver of nori seaweed holding it all together.
The California Roll provided a gateway to discover Japanese cuisine and demand exploded. Over the next few decades sushi restaurants, which were once confined to large coastal cities and almost exclusively served Japanese clientele, suddenly went mainstream. Today, sushi is served in small rural towns, airports, strip malls, and stocked in the deli section of local supermarkets. Americans now consume $2.25 billion of sushi annually.
It made me think about “PLM workflows” done differently. So, what if can take all right elements of PLM workflow and combined them in the way it won’t hurt companies to think about it. SolidSmack article earlier today speaks about IFTTT – a platform to automate web application tasks. Navigate to the following link – IFTTT introduce the maker to maker channel for makers and hardware developers. I liked the following passage.
Of course, while the ability to automatically automate web application tasks is certainly a very powerful thought, one can only imagine what this might mean as we enter an age of more connected hardware devices in addition to our existing phones, tablets and laptops. Within the last year, the platform has started to integrate its service into a collection of connected home products including Wink devices, Nest Thermostat, SmartThings, WeMo switches and other off-the-shelf products.
The following video can give you an idea how IFTTT works.
IFTTT is not only the way to automate you web tasks. Navigate here to see alternatives to IFTTT – Zapier, itDuzzit, Workauto, Jitterbit and others.
What is my conclusion? It is time to re-think the way Workflow is done for PLM. A more traditional PLM architecture is overemphasizing the planning step – organizing data and control of information. Think about somethign different – a set of re-usable web services orchestrated by tools that every person can use. So, all components of a typical PLM workflow is there, but it is user friendly and not requires 3-6 months of planning activities. Is it a dream? Maybe… But to me it sounds like something PLM architects and technologists might think about. Just my thoughts…