I’d suggest to have some fun in the beginning. What is PUI? Do you think this is a new PLM UI? No, marketing didn’t get it yet… I hope, they will not do so. I’ve got this PUI TLA reading Enterprise Irregulars Blog — Three Types of GUIs: Past Present and Future. Thanks ArnoldIT blog for referencing me to this article. The author explains three different type of GUI — Task UI, Desktop UI and Process UI. I found it very interesting. It made me think about the evolution of user experience in engineering applications and PLM.
TUI, DUI, PUI in Engineering applications
If you think about CAD applications, they look very task oriented. You have a 2D drawing (lately transformed into 3D model) and everything you do around this drawing or model, can be considered as tasks. You can create a new model or modify an existing one. Another big group of applications, CAE is also focusing on different tasks (i.e. calculations, etc.) around 2D/3D models.
The initial development of data management application created an idea of “Desktop”. In the beginning, data management was focused on “meta-data” management. Meta-data was considered as everything surrounding CAD files. The need to present data in various forms created lots of modifications of data forms. You can find it in most PDM/PLM applications during last 10-15 years.
Process was one of the top ideas that PLM focused on for the past 5-6 years. Organization can understand a “process language”. Software vendors in PLM space learned it from their big ERP brothers. I had chance to see lots of PUI modifications focusing on different processes.
PLM and PUI problem — Scalability
In my view, process orientation was a big excitement for PLM and other engineering software companies. It created a scalable model to grow the amount of applications, they can provide to companies. Since everything is a process, imaging how many process-oriented application you can create using this approach. Licensing wasn’t the last reason in this decision. Looks like PUIs were the way to go. PLM companies are tried to implement PUI approach. Take a look on the quote from Enterprise Irregulars Blog:
Now imagine business or enterprise apps that are process based, not single task items knit together by DIY process: An app that can pick up an idea, issue or request and run it through an unpredictable process that might look like a ball of yarn all the way to an implemented idea, a solved issue or a happy customer.
Where is the problem? In my view, the biggest problem is a scalability of this process. Every organization is different. Process oriented applications became very complex. This is what happens to PUI in PLM. Customers cannot implement an existing process oriented application. However, to tailor it will skyrocket cost of services.
Future User Experience
It is clear to everybody that the level of the complication kills. So, what will be the UI in the future? Many of companies are looking for the next big thing in UI. I can identify two main trends in PLM UI simplification — 1/ Embedding into the mainstream UI (i.e. Email, Excel, SharePoint, etc.), 2/Imitating successful applications in consumer space (i.e. Facebook). What will be the next big thing in UI? Do you think it will come from augmented reality? Games? Voice? I can see SIRI acquisition by Apple as the sign of possible direction in the future. I had chance to write about how I see the future user experience in my blog too.
What is my conclusion? User Interface is a hard problem in PLM apps. I think, we are in the mist of UI discussions. I can see many people are innovating in this space and trying to find a solution to this problem. We are in the beginning of mass migration of application from consumer space to the enterprise software. It will be very interesting to get back to this discussion in a couple of years.