Cloud PLM, Social Collaboration, 3D Experience, Consumerization… If you are breathing the air of design, engineering and manufacturing technologies and software, you can identify these combinations of words as trends and attempts of vendors to leapfrog in the future software and solutions. I can understand it – companies are looking for a new hero. I’m always excited to see how marketing brains are developing new vision and strategies. Thinking about last decade of innovation, many of them came from the place identified today with so-called “consumer”. If you are not following consumer technology trends nowadays, you are in the danger to lose lots of important and really powerful things.
Navigate to the following link to read Mashable article 5 Digital Trends Shaping the Consumer Experience by Macala Wright Lee. I find it interesting. Take 10 minutes and have a read. One trend that caught my attention was about Calm Technology. Despite the fact writeup was about consumer experience, I found it matching the situation I see with PLM and other engineering data management and collaboration software.
Calm technology refers to applications that cut down on the digital noise of high-volume data to show the user only enough information so that he or she is able to focus on a task. Mark Weiser is considered to be the father of “ubiquitous computing,” a synonym for calm technology. The whole idea is to reduce distractions to our workflow without losing functionality. Weiser postulated that we should not be seeking to enter the virtual world by shopping in 3D environments, but that digital technology should enter our lives in such a way as to make it calmer and easier, not more distracted and disrupted, thus blurring the line between digital and real life experiences.
Do you like the idea? Actually, I think it is nailing the problem most of PDM/PLM products are facing now. Complexity, information overflow, complicated processes. So, how to reduce distraction of workflows? Here are my top 3 ideas how to make it done.
1 – Reduce the number of information streams. The problem I can see is that every piece of software today is trying to become a “center of universe”. In an average company, every person may have multiple sources of information – email, process management and workflow systems and more… As a result, people are getting distracted by information streams. To reduce it to ONE should be a goal.
2 – Introduce task oriented behavior. My everyday life is a sequence of tasks. This is how most of systems are working these days. To have my tasks delivered to me will change the way people interact with systems. Task (and not UI, workbench, dashboard, etc.) needs to be a focus of new software development innovation.
3 – Introduce contextual connectivity. Context is a new king of enterprise software. It allows to organize and group information according to the specific data elements. The contextual connectivity helps to filter “needed data” connected to the task and to all other pieces of the information.
What is my conclusion? In Designing Calm Technology, Weiser and John Seely Brown describe calm technology as “that which informs but doesn’t demand our focus or attention.” I want collaborative software to stop to behave as a noisy monster and move to state of “an invisible quite servant”. I don’t think, there is a simple recipe how to do so. PLM vendors can look for examples in consumer devices, web and mobile application behaviors and other consumer-oriented technologies and companies. I see it quite possible. Just my thoughts. What is your view?