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Information management

PLM, Engineers and Collective Memory

by Oleg on January 24, 2013 · 2 comments

Many years ago, one of my mentors told me that “the worst pencil is better than the best memory”. I liked it. Since than, I have no trust in remembering things. I started to take notes. I switched to be completely paperless 4-5 years ago. The biggest problem on my way to become completely paperless was the ability to capture information at the time you need it coming from multiple sources. Finally, iPhone and combination of apps allowed me to create an environment where I can keep track of my activities and get access to this at any time.

Engineering people are bad organized (please, don’t take it personally). Processes and work planning are not going well with engineers designing and creating new products. Companies tried to create innovation process management software, but in my view it was very unsuccessful. At the same time, I can see a need of engineers to capture information alongside their everyday activities.

One of the products I’m using to capture the information on a daily basis is Evernote. It supports many ways to capture notes using web and mobile versions including capturing of videos, pictures, website links and many others. Combined with search function, it helps to keep things organized. Evernote is not alone in this market. Two additional notable companies in this space – Clipboard and Snip.it. The last one was snatched by Yahoo few days ago. Watch the following two videos if you are not using similar products in your life.

From Personal to Collective Memory

I found a total absence of tools that can help engineers to capture their everyday working activities. Of course, engineers are not prohibited from usage of Evernote, Google and many other tools. At the same time, one of the key elements in capturing the activity is contextual relationships to information. In case of Evernote, it is photo, voice memos, videos, etc. To make engineering and design context capturing can be an interesting opportunity, in my view. They key element is efficiency. Engineers won’t tolerate even additional 30 secs of their working time. However, to memorize design idea, concept or decision can be extremely powerful.

The next interesting step can come with the ability to provide information around a particular item, drawing, product, customer, etc. collected by different people in organization. Such type of clipboards can become a sort of collective memories. The potential value can be significant – lost ideas, forgotten decisions, potential customer problems and many others.

What is my conclusion? Our memory is not efficient. To be able to capture information around engineering and design activity is still very untapped place. Usability is a key. Vendors can learn from tools like Evernote and others how to create a tool you can use in your everyday life in any environment. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Image courtesy of [keattikorn] / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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Four directions for successful PLM collaboration

by olegshilovitsky on May 11, 2009 · 0 comments

Collaboration is a magic word that we use a lot in Product Lifecycle Management. I’d say we also use the word “collaboration” even if we’re just talking about Product Development, Engineering, Simulation, Manufacturing etc.

Collaboration is a recursive process where two or more people or organizations work together on common goals — for example, an intellectual endeavor[1] [2] that is creative in nature[3]—by sharing knowledge, learning and building consensus. Collaboration does not require leadership and can sometimes bring better results through decentralization and egalitarianism

Collaborative software is software designed to help people involved in a common task achieve their goals. Collaborative software is the basis for computer supported cooperative work. “It is not a question of how well each process works; the question is how well they all work together.” – Lloyd Dobyns and Clare Crawford-Mason, Think about quality. Such software systems as email, calendaring, text chat, wiki, and bookmarking belong to this category. It has been suggested that Metcalfe’s law — the more people who use something, the more valuable it becomes — applies to such software

So, with such a broad definition, I’d like to discuss more deeply what collaboration means for Product Development and Product Lifecycle Management; as well as share a few ideas with you about how PLM collaboration needs to be developed in the near future.

1. Collaboration Networks. This is what we know today as “Social Networks”. Social Networks is a rapidly growing segment of the consumer sector. Such products as Twitter, Facebook and others use people’s natural tendency to build relationships. Such relationship building processes allows people to realize their need to communicate, share ideas and information. How do you translate this into a business and enterprise organization? Today everything is siloed and people have low to no ability to communicate with relevant people in an organization. I believe that we need to find an easy way to build these relationships and build such “collaboration networks” in an easy and flexible manner. People need to share their work, experience, information. They have to have the ability to find relevant people and organize communication.

2. Multiple Rich User Experience and Mobile Devices. I think that the User Experience will play a major role in PLM collaboration software. In my view, topic such as Web, non-Web, on demand etc. will disappear and people will only be focused on what user experience is and how to get access to services. I expect that people will experience many ways of achieving their collaborative goals- going with the Web, installing additional applications to get their preferred user experience, touch interfaces, game-like controllers, going mobile etc. So, my propose direction here is to find explicit user experience for specific groups of people dependent on their role, tasks and personal preference. In addition, I think that Mobile device strategy will play a special role in the future of PLM collaboration. New mobile devices let people change their working habits and be more flexible in the way they organize their common tasks.

3. Operational Usage. I think that this one is very important to connect our traditional PLM approach focused on design and engineering with the overall corporate and supply chain operation. I think that when you discuss what’s more important– Innovation or Operation, for the consensus these days is that “we need both”. The way that I see making this possible is to have the ability to organize cross-functional collaboration networks between people belonging to different siloes in the organization. This operation transparency will allow PLM to step into the operational field and expose more product knowledge and information to support operational decisions. 

4. Information and Connectivity. Last but very not least.  In the current world, according to some of the research I’ve read lately, we double information in organization every 18 months. I think that PLM collaboration needs to face the situation that multiple information pieces are distributed by multiple channels in an organization. Being able to keep track and connect and integrate related information is top priority for many of enterprise projects. In PLM context is becoming a top priority and PLM collaboration needs to provide a way to share this information ubiquitously.

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