How to prevent Social PLM from marketing fluff

How to prevent Social PLM from marketing fluff

I’m preparing myself for Social PLM 2012 virtual conference in 2 weeks. It is a time to re-think all what I can hear outside about “social” technologies and related topics. It was simple to say few months ago that success of social behemoths like Facebook, and some others will be magically replicated to enterprise field and solve all problems of engineering and manufacturing software has now. Well… Now it is different. I was reading Social Research Key Findings by Enterprise Irregulars. The following passage articulates the idea how social technologies improve PLM:

Social media has also made significant impacts inside the organization for communicating with and among employees.  Among its benefits are, better employee feedback, greater individual participation in problem solving and greater job satisfaction.

At the same time, the same article confirms that it is still very early to say what value social technologies can bring to organizations:

It’s still an early market.  The majority of companies surveyed have some experience with social media primarily through the big name social media companies such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, corporate blogs and video sharing sites like YouTube.  This suggests that companies are just getting started; other data shows that reliance on these media is primarily outbound.  In other words, companies are using social as a low cost way to broadcast a message but not necessarily as a means of collecting customer input that can be turned into valuable information.

I can see how analysts and bloggers are getting excited about social technologies. My blogging and tweeting buddy @PLMJim published just few days ago the following message and blog.

Another interesting quote comes from Jim Brown @jim_techclarity from his Youtube video from PLM Analyst Roundtable ©2011 (YouTube) by Autodesk PLM 360: Manufacturing companies are using social media for service and keeping in touch with customers when products are in the field.

On the other side, vendors are trying to discover the power of social technologies by introducing tools that supposed to improve behavior of software as well user adoption by using magic of “social technologies”. All these statements made me finally think about what is behind “social” marketing buzzwords. Below I summarized three elements of “social PLM” success strategy:

1. Speaking Engineer. Product development team is multi-disciplinary by definition. It means one simple thing – people need to communicate. What software helps them to do so today? Email is still kind of the road. Instant messaging improves situation a bit. However, it is still very unusual to see people doing multi-people chats and discussions. Conference calls and meetings are the only way to communicate in many multi-disciplinary organizations. This is a place where I can see a biggest promise of tools replicating social networking behavior like Chatter and others. I can see very low usage of these tools in development organizations. There are two main functions that can help to these tools to ramp up and grow in engineering organizations – open product data and easy way to publish information.

2. Open Data. The power of the web is open data. Everything is published – you can access websites, information, databases, photos, maps, videos.. The power of really open data is huge. If you follow last 15 years of internet development, you can clearly see the results. The openness of data was a fundamental behavior that enabled the web we have now. Compare it to you company – you are far-far away from the same state. Silos of information, security constraints, licenses, enterprise applications, databases. This data is a context that needed for efficient communication. Without this context, social technology will be speechless.

3. Easy Publish. This one is really important. Look on the competition between photo-sharing applications. One extra click and you are dead. The ability to publish information for communication and sharing is absolutely needed function to make social technology successful. It needed to be embedded in any tool you use to produce a piece of open data to be used as a context for communication.

What is my conclusion? The time of social PLM marketing fluff is over. To create a replica of Facebook for engineers is not enough. To solve the problem of open data and easy way to publish the context for communication – these are two absolute per-requisites to make ‘social technology’ successful. Otherwise, the idea of social PLM will become “dead man walking” very soon. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


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