The ABC of PLM Facebooking

I was reading ‘Why does Facebook fail for Product Development? (and how to fix it)” article by Jim Brown. Jim made me think more about multiple associations between core Facebook principles and way PDM/PLM systems are organized and implemented today. Jim is saying, Facebook’s concepts are compelling, so let’s apply them to PLM. I have to agree. However, what is important is to make a right application. So, I want to try to discover what are key Facebook’s principles and how they can be applied to PLM to make a shift in PLM implementation in comparison to what we are doing today.

Life Before Facebook

Before social sites like MySpace and Facebook were born, our life was mostly concentrated around an email and instant messenger. This is the mainstream communication pathway. So, if I want to communicate with dozens of my friends, I’ll need to send/read emails. When I will be interesting to share something (i.e. picture), I will send an email with attachment or link. IM is pretty similar. It reminds me how we communicate in our workplaces now.

Facebook Experience

What is the major shift Facebook made for me in terms of my communication? As soon as I could find and connect with my friends on Facebook by importing my email contact list, my life moved from Outlook Inbox to my Facebook wall. My communication becomes much easier for situations when I want to share something with my friends. Instead of going and opening multiple emails with pictures, video links and notes, I can see them nicely syndicated on my wall. There are two main components of this shift –  connections and content syndication.


It is all about who are the people I want to stay connected. Facebook allows me to connect and figured out who are other people I’m interested to stay in connection. So, life becomes easy in terms of finding people who have similar interests to me. Comparing it to manufacturing organizations, I can compare initial contacts import as an organization hierarchy acquisition. Rest of connection can be discovered, by multiple ways- common projects, customers, task forces, specialization and knowledge. To help people to connect in a easier way is the first important Facebookconcept.

Content Syndication

In my view, Facebook made a significant shift in the way content can be organized by syndication of multiple content streams coming from different people and embedding various types of rich elements (pictures, videos, commentary, messages, reaction) into a singe syndicated content stream. The I/O (Information Overload) is a huge distraction that we experience everywhere. If we can focus on a single information stream (my Facebook wall), we can improve people’s performance. This is why you like to see Facbook Wall instead of scrolling down multiple emails and IMs. That’s why people can improve their communication in the organization by starting to use content syndication forms.


Facebook embeds people’s activities into the single syndicated content stream. This is a very important function. You should not be distracted by another “Inbox” message or multiple sources of incoming requests. Everything can be concentrated in a single place. Multiple messages on the same topic can be syndicated into threads and co-located with the content they belong to.

What is my conclusion? The core idea of Facebook is a new type of content syndication coming from my social connections. The way Facebook automatically syndicate content and allows me to make my activity related to this content is a key advantage for me to come every morning to Facebook and see what’s up with all my peers. My PLM system can do all these things today. You can manage Files, Parts, BOMs, ECOs, organize processes, make approvals, etc.. However, data organization in PLM is heavy and not comfortable. PLM is not thinking about data syndication. In my view, this is the ABC of PLM Facebooking. This what can empower PLM and make it more intuitive and easy to use. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg



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  • Sudarshan Shubakar


    This to me seems to be a logical extension of the Subscription capability of some PLM systems. A user can basically look for what he is interested in within the system and subscribe to it and in turn will be notified when there are updates to that entity.
    He can look at a consolidated view of what he has subscribed to, to get a (somewhat)’wall’ like experience.
    I agree, a decent implementation of Facebook principles (Connection and Content Syndication) will bring in new vistas of collaboration that were either unknown or ignored.

  • Loic Mouchard

    Hi Oleg,

    do no forget one of the key factor of facebook attraction :

    fun !
    Could we also one day have fun while using a PLM system? Would be great!

    Otherwise do really people share with other or do they rather show themselves thow the facebook’s wall? The border is rather small.

    Nevertheless, PLM could also be a tool for praise one’s ego.


  • Sudarshan, Thanks for your comment. It will be interesting to see how PLM vendors will do so. The initial movement was started. Such initiatives like SharePoint WindChill (i.e. PTC) and work with vendors like BlueKiwi (DS) was started last year…. Best, Oleg

  • Loic, Thanks for commenting! I agree, fun is important. In general, I expect fun get into PLM (and other enterprise systems) by application of consumer technologies. Simple UI, Video, Rich content… However, the key will be simplicity… Best, Oleg

  • I like the syndication idea or how you write about the wall. The problem I see with this is everything on a FB wall is of equal value, like your email you do not know which one to look at or which one really matters… Following on with the comment from Sudarshan, Vuuch just released some new subscribe functionality. But I would say it is fun versus PLMish… Check out this post to read more about it. Or better yet go to this Vuuch page for a Use Case presentation and get invovled

    Sudarshan there is a big difference between PLM and FB subscription. In PLM you must already have access to the content to find it. Which means you are already paying the man. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could discover value BEFORE having to pay?

  • So what is fun about FB? Certainly not the UI, right? The fun comes from not having to work hard to get what you want. Fun in PLM is having the tool help you get done what you need to get done versus being a burden or something you see as a pain or nonvalue activity.

  • Chris, I am probably missing some points related to this Vuuch page. It seems to me like meta-data associated with a file. If I turn back to PDM/PLM systems, I can find solutions that allowed to create forms/profile cards/data cards/… In case of web-oriented solutions, these forms had URL. People could send them to other people and use as a context to do their work. The idea of activities is an interesting, in my view. I don’t remember something similar in this way. Activities reminded me communication saved from IM (like Skype, etc.). Now, getting back to my idea of “syndication”, I see the beauty of that (and this is why people love FB) is that you see only one. You don’t need to jump over… You just see the stream of information coming from your peers. However, what is good in FB can be different for the use case of collaboration in the organization… Just my thoughts.. Best, Oleg

  • I think, the FB fun is to have syndicated stream of information without organizing it. It self-organized by connection to friends. I’d call this behavior truly social… By navigating to your friends you can find information contextually connected to them. This is another social behavior. Does it make sense? Best, Oleg

  • FB is really not that simple. Imagine if you had to read each stream from each friend in order to get something done. This would plain SUCK. It is fun because it is informal, meaning you DO NOT NEED TO DO IT! At work you need a way to separate what you need from what you don’t. Remember we are not talking about social NETWORKING… we are talking about social GET working.

    I just posted about getting started with Vuuch and that simplicity is a key to success

  • Chris, Thanks for comments! The benefit of FB is that all streams syndicated together. So, I don’t need to read all of them separately. This is similar to email, but more visual and user friendly. Yes, lady Gaga videos more exciting that ECO change request ;)… I like your definition of Social Networking vs. Get Working… Nice catch. Best, Oleg

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