Social tools and communication in design team

Social tools and communication in design team


Culture is eating strategy for breakfast and technology for lunch. While to create new technology and develop tools is an absolute priority for engineering and manufacturing software vendors, lots of this stuff is not proliferate in the minds of engineers. And the reason for that is intertia.

Do you remember old April 1st SpaceClaim Twitter AddIn Prank? Twitter add-on for SpaceClaim tweeted almost random messages and distracted engineers.

It was long time before IoT and modern social tools. The idea of machine sending messages or information was kind of weird. But the problem of communicating between people was there.

We still cannot tweet our minds automatically – there is no such type of interface yet. But things are changing these days. CAD application is getting even more collaborative, so people can communicate in real time. I debated the need for real time collaboration few weeks ago. Below you can see two examples from Onshape and Autodesk Fusion360 about real time collaboration.

This is where I’m coming back to my ideas of social tools and how can you use it for your team. In a modern world, even small manufacturing companies are globally distributed. Hardware startups are pushing the limits of impossible stretching their locations between San Francisco, Boston and China. It is very hard to track your team activity and we brain-computer interface is still not something that we can practically use.

My attention was caught by a new tools that was just introduced by a new startup – PeopleSpark. You can get some bits of information about what it does here. The purpose of the tool is to collect a feedback from people in a team. But I like the idea – the whole point of how to put a pulse on the mood in your team makes sense to me. I found the idea is interesting as a tool that can help you to communicate in a distributed team. What I specially like is the idea to combining it with some visible metrics.


What is my conclusion? I think engineering software is still waiting for an ultimate “social trigger” and a tool that can help engineers to communicate. Manufacturing is not a simple business and requires lots of communication. We are getting much more in technology today that helps us to store data, search, manipulate 3D design and 3D print prototypes. But I always remember that “technology is easy, but people are really hard”. So, to solve that part of the puzzle would be an interesting challenges. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


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  • David

    I’m not sure if I posted this before but have you seen the research by Eric Bowman from
    Brigham Young University? They have created a real time concurrent design application that allows designers to design in the same space at the same time, i.e. not asynchronously. Moreover designers can do this on a variety of CAD software packages at the same time. They were inspired by the massive collaborative work that goes on in massively multiplayer online games and found that certain conceptual design tasks happen far quicker when the team are connected in real time to the same model. Of course there is an increased need for constant communication by voice to coordinate the activities, however the gaming generation are very used to this, just have a look on Twitch TV at the many streams that will be on today in the new Tom Clancy game that required lots of cooperation for examples. As it hints at in the research it is ironic that designers used to collaborate around big drawing boards to solve the most complex problems and then got separated out to work at their CAD stations. Today we have big touch screens or projections to get that sense of collaboration back but that doesn’t work when the team are 1000miles away form each other. Even though Eric’s research is effectively undoing what software providers have done to the industry I think it is a potential game changer. Below is a link to his patent.


  • beyondplm


    Thank you for sharing this link to patent. I found patents are very hard to search and track. One of the reasons – vendors are using different techniques to call things differently, so it became not traceable for competitors.

    Games are absolutely right technology to be used for future collaborative solutions. I can see few possible directions are developing now (not mutually exclusive) – 1/ use game platforms for virtualization of product dev environment; 2/ extreme collaboration; 3/ future improvements in visualization.

    I guess, the work is undergone by most of major CAD vendors today.

    Thanks for your comment!