Why “collaborative change” can challenge PLM platforms?

Why “collaborative change” can challenge PLM platforms?


The only permanent thing in life is change. The same is very true for engineering projects. We are changing things all the time. New products are introduced as a modifications of existing ones. Customers are demanding improvements. Mistakes can happen. There are many situations when change is required.

Teamcenter blog introduced an interesting classification of changes in the article – The Future of Change Management. One of the issues mentioned in this classification caught my special attention and it is related to concurrent or collaboration. Here is the passage explaining specific “collaborative change”:

Since products can have many interdependencies, it is not always good to stay isolated.  Engineers must be able to coordinate their changes.  Change systems will support several types of collaboration.  If changes are tightly coupled, they will have the ability to work on the same branch, always seeing the latest working versions of content in that branch.

In other cases, more ad-hoc collaboration is needed.  An engineer is working on a change when the system identifies that some reference content (maybe a connected component) has an open change.  The engineer will be able to pull the contents of that change into the current working context to ensure there are no conflicts.

There is also need to share working content among several changes.  Engineers will be able ‘promote’ their working content into a sharable space, where other users may access all shared content.  This can be used for virtual reviews, where the latest working content of the product or a system must be integrated.

Collaboration is such an interesting word. We apply it to some many situations and it comes in so many flavors. The technologies for collaboration developed intensively for the last few years and it was driven by multiple factors. One of them is the demand for more connected application behavior – our life is getting more connected. We are applying modern web and social network behavior in our business scenarios. At the same time engineering and manufacturing business is demanding better collaboration between silos – engineering, manufacturing and supply chain to improve product cost and quality.

It made me think about some potential challenges for PLM platform in supporting highly demanded collaborative scenarios. A traditional data management approach assumed data locking that prevented data from being changed by more than one users. It is an efficient technique, but it potentially can result in not very pleasant user experience or limitation on how people can address changes collaboratively. Many applications in such situations are ending up with brutal “synchronization” buttons or similar behaviors.

Another complexity aspect is related to notifications. We like to be notified about changes. Notification is a challenge for many PLM developers trying to make it user friendly. However, in a highly collaborative environment, notifications can become a nightmare of users. Who wants to get thousands of notifications every day?

What is my conclusion? Business environment is demanding higher level of collaboration and coordination. It can improve business workflows, product quality and lower product cost. At the same time, it can create new challenges to PLM platforms that historically designed to work in a transactional way and can be not ready to support new collaborative application nature. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net



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