PLM and Enterprise 2.0: No Fight… Yet.

Yesterday, I spent my day on Enterprise 2.0 conference in Boston. It wasn’t overcrowded, although Expo pass registration that included Keynote presentation was almost free. It was also very interesting to see a landscape of vendors participating in the event. All enterprise kings were well represented- IBM, Microsoft, SAP. The only one king was out of the room — Oracle. It was surprising not to see Oracle, specially after their massive representation Oracle had in 2008. From the new players, I’d mention Cisco with their announcement about their social enterprise collaboration platform — Cisco Quad.

Lately, walking in the exhibition hall, I thought about all social collaboration platforms presented there and what is the potential impact of these platforms on Product Lifecycle Management.

Enterprise 2.0 Redefines Collaboration
Let me start from the history. What is the top collaborative tool we  have today? Email. Yes, email continue to be the most useful and widely adopted tools to collaborate. It is platform independent, it is reliable, it is free, it is asynchronous and, what is also very important, it is accepted by the majority of people. This is de-facto communication standard. Why we need to change it? I think the efficiency of the email collaboration is going down. Started from IM, and going down to forums and social networks, we can see a new way to share data and communicate. If you are newbie in so called E 2.0 space, you can take a fast ride and read a book by Andrew McAffee — “Enterprise 2.0: New Collaborative Tools…” Started in the beginning as set of different tools — wiki, blog, instant messaging, communities, etc. the Enterprise 2.0 absorbed all these tools and introduced the new way to communicate for people. We are adopting new practices outside of the organization boundaries, and they are coming inside of the organizational space. All together new tools allow to work much more efficiently in comparison to what we did before.

PLM Options In Enterprise 2.0
One of the strongest points of PDM and lately PLM was to provide set of tools to establish an efficient environment to collaborate in the engineering and manufacturing organization. It started as an ability to organize data in folders and databases, establish flow of documents, driving approvals and decisions. It was all about efficiency in communication and data sharing. What was the uniqueness of PDM/PLM that not allowed just to use plain set of collaborative tools? The engineering (CAD, PDM, PLM) context is the primary reason why the usage of mainstream collaborative tools were limited until now. To share Bill of Material or CAD model is not as simple as Word document. It requires better synchronization and more sophisticated level of data dependency management. As a result, it created higher level of complexity in everything — implementation, user interface, customization. At the same time, people are continuously inspired by the capabilities of mainstream internet and other collaboration tools. The initial steps were taken already. We had chance to see PTC’s and Dassault’s investments into community-oriented tools.

In addition to what established vendors are doing, I can see the potential for new companies like Vuuch entering this space too.

As I wrote in one of my previous blog post about the future of PLM collaboration  — 2010s are going to put Enterprise IT on fire.  PLM has two options today: (1) to develop vertical tools to support a new way to communicate and collaborate; (2) to adopt new Enterprise 2.0 platforms and tools and integrate PLM context into these platforms.

What is my conclusion? Enterprise 2.0 is overcrowded with different tools, platforms and initiatives. The initial cost of the solution development in this space is relatively low. Big vendors and small startups are trying the “enterprise 2.0 water” by introducing different solutions and checking people’s and organization’s reactions. I can see apathy on the other side. Too many dishes… People are looking for differentiations. It seems to me the fight is going between “vendor trust” and “cool and usable product”. Most of the vendors are not thinking about how to make their products vertical. Their efforts are focused on how “to own” organizations. Coming down to manufacturing organizations they can find that “one size doesn’t fit all” and special tools or collaboration practices are needed to work with engineering and manufacturing context. This is going to be a big day for vendors in PLM space. The question how they will come prepared to this day. This is also an opportunity for small companies to propose special solutions that redefine a way to collaborate for engineering and manufacturing organizations. Who is up to this opportunity?

Just my thoughts…
Best, Oleg



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