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Products

social-design-collaboration

Recent management changes in Google+ attracted lots of conversations about social products experience as well as speculations about Google+ social future. It is also made a reflection on how “social theme” will be developed in enterprise companies. In the past few years we’ve seen few examples of social products for enterprise – eg. ExoPlatform, Jive, SAP Streamwork, Socialcast, Yammer,  etc.

CAD / PLM vendors made their experiments and products to bring social theme in  designers, engineering and manufacturing communities. The fundamental idea was to leverage all social experience from Web 2.0, social networks and online communication and change the way people communicate in business. We’ve seen few successful product. Few companies got acquired. However, speaking about CAD/PLM specifically, most of products got declined. The adoption level of PLM social initiatives was very low.  I wrote about it last year in my post – Why Social PLM 1.0 Failed? In my view, the idea of structured enterprise discussion made a promise to lead re-thinking of social collaboration. However, as we learned from Facebook decline, social communication is getting noisy. Signal to noise ratio is declining and, as a result of that, the attempts of companies to make collaboration easier adopting social networks techniques requires some re-evaluation.

I’ve been reading TheNextWeb blog – Product Lessons We Can Learn from Google+ by Paul Adams. Even the article is very focused on specific Google+ related topics, I found some of them resonating well with what CAD/PLM companies are trying to do in the space of design and product collaboration. I summarized some of my thoughts about that as following 4 major lessons: 1/social collaboration & product silos; 2/ease of use; 3/life is messy; 4/network effect.

1. Social collaboration won’t solve product silos problem.

Design groups, engineering departments and manufacturing companies are running into the same problem of applications and data silos. It is natural to people in different departments and even in the same group to store data differently and use different applications. Application and data interoperability is well known problem. Social tools won’t solve this problem magically. The main goal of social application is to make communication easy. Social design collaboration should provide something beyond traditional data-message-comment user experience from Facebook. To build product focusing on how to improve communication scenario is a key to for social apps to success.

2. Ease of use vs. effort required.

The effort needed to make social design collaboration work is a critical element to success. Significant effort leads to slow adoption and decline in usage. Facebook and other social tools drove the adoption by capturing data (photo, videos) via mobile devices and exposing them directly to people. People stalked photos and videos of close friends, co-workers, ex-girlfriends and other people they barely know. It is fine. And it drove adoption. Designers and engineers is another story. To capture design data is not a simple task. People want to re-use free stuff, but in general protective about IP and work they do. To capture organization structure with all dependencies, groups and authorization is even more complicated. Without these two elements, social design collaboration won’t ramp up.

3. Accept the fact “life is messy”

People don’t like to be organized. If social design collaboration requires formal work organization and getting data under the control, it will hit the wall or rejections. The reality is that data and communication are messy. To accept that and help people to communicate on top of data mess can be a possible approach to start without changing the way people work. By trying to force people and data to order system can get rejected in the same way many other “data management” initiatives got rejected for the last 10-15 years. .

4. Build for network effect

Adoption. Adoption. Adoption. Social tools success is heavily built on network effect. Low adoption is a red flag. The use of social design collaboration should be skyrocketing. If it happens, you are on the right path. If not, check your fundamental assumptions and look for a problem to fix.

What is my conclusion? Technology made a significant impact on the way we communicate. Mobile email, internet, web and cloud file sharing – these are examples of successful technological applications. However, technological changes cannot be applied automatically to all fields. Design and product collaboration is a tricky. It requires deep understanding of data and innovative communication techniques. In my view, simple Facebook copycat won’t work. Innovation will happen  - lots of opportunities are still open. Developers need to crack the magic of social design collaboration. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

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cloud-code-plm

One size doesn’t fit all. It very true especially when it comes down to PLM implementations. Once released as a toolkit, PDM / PLM systems did a long way from a system that requires special software compilation to be done for every customers to the current system with flexible data models and tools allowing to configure and customize almost everything. Flexibility (in data model and code)  is one of the most demanded characteristics of modern PLM systems.

Customization is also special territory in PLM business. It brings complexity and requires special attention. PLM vendors spent lots of effort to reduce the amount customization required for PLM deployments. However, after all, every PLM implementation requires services. Part of these services is related to customer requests to develop special functionality.

Cloud brings some advantages and complexity to PLM customization-ability. Specific aspects of cloud technology and customization can be different for public and private cloud deployment. Multi-tenant architecture can apply some additional level of complexity. One of the aspects of complexity can be usage of development tools on the cloud.

TechCrunch Disrupt NY presentation by Codeanywhere caught my attention. Navigate your browser to read more Codeanywhere, The Google Docs For Developers, Rocks Startup Alley At Disrupt NY. The idea of Codeanywhere to serve as universal coding environment available on any device is compelling. Look here for more features. I specially liked the ability to manage and store code in different repositories. You can connect to your favorite 3rd party services like Dropbox, Github, Google Drive as well as move files and folders between services.

codeanywhereeditor_large

I have to say that Codeanywhere is not the only provider of coding environment in the cloud. Navigate here to see more tools available. My attention caught service called Runnable. Note, the broad support of languages and tools – C++, Java, Rails, Node.js, JQuery, PHP and more.

runnable-editor-options

Cloud code environments made me think about the opportunity integration (or even embedding) of such type of development environment into cloud PLM platforms. It can provide unmatchable capability to customize PLM systems regardless on location from both sides (customer and developer). The result – low development cost, flexibility to chose the location of service providers and lower customization expenses for customers.

What is my conclusion? Cloud puts some constraints on PLM system customization. To choose special and effective tools can be a game changer for efficient customization. Risk of broad errors and complex multi-tenant constraints raises the need to create a special customization environment. At the same time, cloud  is an excellent opportunity to lower the cost of PLM customization by optimizing the overall customization process and, as a result of that, lower expenses. PLM service providers can work from remote locations as well as have much simpler way to re-use customization. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

pic credit – codeanywhere.com and runnable

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PDM-evaluation-tips

Product Data Management (PDM) was around for the last 20-30 years. However, I can see an increased traction around PDM topic last year. You ask me what’s the reason? My simple answer – Dropbox. Think 10 years back. The typical “PDM spiel” was to enable data control and collaboration in a team of engineers. So, PDM value proposition was to enable team with controlled access to CAD files and manage file revisions alongside. The alternative was to put data on a shared network drive (z:\ drive) and hope nobody will overwrite your last change. However, z:\ drive is replaced by Dropbox (or alternative to Dropbox solutions) with ability to synchronize and collaborate around data changes. It smells disruption and raised many questions about future of PDM systems, especially for small teams.

PTC Creo blog published  guest blog article written by Chad Jackson. Article PDM is a Personal Productivity Tool  speaks about traditional PDM value proposition – enabling collaboration, offloading complexity of CAD, managing design configurations, managing data dependencies (eg. simulation data), etc. These values are typical and (almost) never questionable. However, Chad drives a conclusion towards individual productivity-  a bit unusual when you speak about collaboration and data management tools. Here is the passage from the post:

Listen, I know there is value in PDM for the organization and it actually does deliver. But for me, what is even more valuable is that it frees up individual engineers and designers to spend more of their time actually designing products, not managing spreadsheets with file names.

Fundamentally, I agree with Chad – PDM delivers value. However, PDM implementation usually can raise many questions about individual productivity lost and additional efforts to implement and maintain PDM system. Topics mentioned by Chad made me think about few tips that can help you to evaluate PDM  system to insure it will boost your individual and team performance.

Secure global collaboration

PDM is using centralized storage to keep data and control access. No tricks here. So, before starting your work, you need to insure you can move your data from central location to your working folders and back. Nobody wants to have slow system that will suck your time during check-in/check-out process. The ability to manage conflicts is also very important here. You better test your specific CAD system, version and sample your data.

Complexity of CAD

Yes, CAD data is complex and very intertwined. Drawings, dependencies and many other features. Some of them carefully designed by CAD vendor for a very specific design process, features or performance optimization. Check if PDM system will support all features and won’t break design scenarios beautifully crafted by CAD. This is also the time to check how your PDM system can support different versions of CAD software.

Managing configurations

Design configuration brings an additional level of complexity to data management.  CAD systems are implementing it differently. If configurations matter for you, check how PDM system will allow you to manage configuration and expose this information in PDM environment.

Design dependencies (simulation, manufacturing, etc.)

Another important point. Obviously, you want PDM to capture “related data” such as simulation, requirements, manufacturing information. This information either management by your CAD system or created by add-ins or separate application. You need to validate PDM system’s ability to capture this information and integrate with separate CAE tools you might use. Otherwise, you will be manually connecting files in your PDM environment.

Design BOM

This is not always obvious. However, the ability to generate design BOM in the way you can share it with outside parties is an important functionality of PDM system. The same is about BOM updates. Otherwise you will be spending your time in Excel updating bill of materials to share with your suppliers.

What is my conclusion? The demand of customers these days is to provide technology and products that can boost your individual and team performance. Traditional approach to solve CAD data management problems is going to meet new technologies and paradigms.  In my view, PDM has a huge unrealized potential. However, the devil in details. Wrong PDM system can suck your time and make your everyday’s experience very complicated. You can consider these tips together with my earlier blog - How to select PDM system in 5 simple steps? before making your final decision. Don’t forget to check cloud PDM alternatives. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

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Dropbox Harmony will knockdown PLM collaboration

May 1, 2014

File sync and sharing became the most requested feature to enable collaboration. The days when everybody were co-located in the same office and working from desktop computer are gone. According to Forrester review file sync and sharing can bring real business value. One the picture below you can see what are the most typical tasks for […]

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Pinterest will teach CAD companies to search

April 29, 2014

Search is a difficult problem. Especially when it comes to enterprise and organization. According to researches, more than 2/3 of people searches are not returning satisfactory results. Enterprise is messy, complicated and contains lot of unstructured data these days. CAD and other 3D files are part of this messiness. For many years, we generally thoughts […]

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Six dimensions to customize PLM

April 24, 2014

Ask two engineers about how to make stuff and you get at least three opinions about possible ways to do so. To find consensus in engineering, product development and manufacturing is hard. From my experience engineers and software developers is the group with largest diversity of opinions and custom requirements. I’ve learned it hard way […]

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Why Excel and Multi-BOM are killing collaboration?

April 22, 2014

Excel and Bill of Materials. What can be better to start a discussion? One of my favorites blogging buddies and author of eng-eng blog Ed Lopategui hit the button of BOM & Excel discussion in his GrabCAD blog – It’s time to drop Excel BOM. I liked the following passage. It speaks about huge cost involved […]

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How to make PLM UI less terrible?

April 3, 2014

I’m coming again to this topic – User Interface. These days you can hear about it as user experience (UX). UX is more complicated thing and includes lots of factors and aspects. So, I’d like to speak first about how UI looks. Back in time when I was developing  and demonstrating PDM user interfaces, the […]

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CAD is half pregnant by cloud

March 31, 2014

The usage of cloud is growing every day. Started as an option to simplify collaboration and data exchange, it is proliferating into spaces such as backup, computation and many others. CAD and design are remaining one of the most conservative zone of the cloud and engineering software. Commonly agreed opinion – desktop is the best […]

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Do We Need Engineering Note App?

March 27, 2014

Yesterday’s post about how engineers can collaborate in the office, made me think about another aspect of collaboration – taking notes. You may argue… Taking notes isn’t specifically collaborative activity. However, I can see it very tightly coupled with our ability to communicate and collaborate. There are lots of applications for notes taking these days. Just to […]

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