There are few terms in enterprise software and specifically in engineering software that was completely overused. In my view, collaboration is one of them. Collaborative design, collaborative PDM, collaborative engineering… what else? Vuuch blog about collaboration made me think about some lessons related to the development of systems that aimed to help people to work together. In addition, I found some interesting patterns in the way term "social" used these days.
When I hear people talking about collaboration, I am always asking them to replace the word "collaboration" to "working together". In my view, it helps them to understand the main reasons and needs. So, you decided to work together? You need to communicate (making phone call, emails, exchange instant messages), share data (documents, 3D models, Bill of materials) and keep track of all these activities (see history of your communications). I can definitely how multiple tools can be used to help me to collaborate… Oops – working together with my colleagues, people in other departments, business partners, etc.
Manufacturing and Collaboration
People in manufacturing organization need to work together… Oops – to collaborate. However, product data and everything related is not as simple as files. CAD, PDM and lately PLM vendors tried to get data under control and manage it in the way that can help people to work together. Engineering and Manufacturing systems never been simple and complication becomes one of the most critical topic in implementation of PDM, PLM and enterprise systems in general.
LotusNotes and SharePoint
I found some interesting parallels in the development of these tools. The focus of both tools is to share data between people and help them to communicate. With some extreme, I can see Lotus as a very good proof of concept used to develop latest versions of SharePoint. What is clear to me is that both products realized the basic need to share data. People need to share data in order to collaborate more efficiently. User interface (or how it now called UX – user experience) became much better in SharePoint 2007. Microsoft’s wizards learned something from Lotus’ past and earlier SharePoint baby steps. PLM companies are trying to repeat the success of SharePoint by adopting SharePoint practices. I can see some potential in this work. But world is moving faster. Web 2.0 is coming…
Drinking The Social Software Kool-Aid?
The next trend is coming – social software. It comes to us out of last 10 years of internet development. Also known as Web 2.0, social software is a cool combination of technologies, web sites and tools that helps people to communicate (they don’t need to work) together.
Blogs, wikis, social networks generated a significant interest of people in enterprise software – can we make PDM, PLM, PxM software as cool as Web 2.0 web sites?
What is my conclusion? Manufacturing enterprise companies are facing an urgent need to work more efficiently. How to work together (to collaborate) becomes one of the most important questions. This is a though one. Companies are run by emails, shared folders and lots of software pieces stitched together. It cost lots of money to companies to keep going. To crack-down a new way to work together by re-using internet technologies and web 2.0 website practices can be kinda cool. Is it possible? Web 2.0 is about pictures, videos, messages. How to make these techniques to work for 3D CAD, Products, Bill of Materials, Suppliers and still keep the same level of coolness? A very interesting question…