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Last Saturday I attended a roundtable discussion at COFES 2016. The name of the discussion – The Federated Toolbox was very promising. The following passage from COFES program can give you an idea of planned discussion.
The Federated Toolbox. Excel rules. So do SketchUp, Rhino, and many other products that just get the job done. No matter what role we play, each of us has our own set of software tools that we lean on: our own software toolbox. The challenge with software, however, is that the single job each tool does best is often just part of what needs to be done. What we’re left with is a set of tools optimized to individual tasks. How do we federate those tools so that we can start optimizing our work across the separate tasks? What do we need to agree on for handoffs between tools? Can we “Lego-ize” our favorites to work as a system without resorting to a walled garden of pre-connected apps?
Traditional PLM is highly integrated discipline. Earlier release of PLM tools (mostly called EDM or PDM) realized a potential of toolboxes. But these tools were expensive to buy and implement. These tools required training and special installation skills.
Over the last 10-15 years, PLM marketing and technologies moved forward. The idea of out-of-the-box product combined with vendors expansion created a new era of pre-configured, integrated application suites. These product suites have some elements of flexibility, API and customization. But these tools are highly focused on how to provide a vendor specific view on a product lifecycle and implementation.
The idea to Lego-ize our favorite tools is fascinating and I looked forward to attend, discuss and learn what people are thinking about flexible usage of tools. I captured few topics from the discussion and wanted to share my thoughts with you.
Data, Mashup, Standards
Data is the most important element when it comes to federated toolbox. Tools are secondary, but how to insure data is transferable? This is the main topic in people’s mind. So, to disconnect data from application, have the ability to mashup data and insure data lifecycle is longer than application lifecycle.
The demand for standards is still very high. And this is mostly disappointing. Because it ends up with the request to invest in coordination, agreements and tradeoffs. After many years of watching standard activities, I don’t think there is much to do with that. It will be replaced with smart data technologies.
Single Tool vs Single Tech Stack
There is no demand for a single tool anymore. However, there is a new demand for single Tech Stack. It means, company should think about a set of tools and technologies available to employees in the way of tech stacks and app stores. This is an interesting concept and it will thrive in my view.
Process and communication
Event tools are not pre-wired, the importance of communication and processes is still high. But the way people and organization are understanding process is very different. After all, the communication between people and ability to transfer status of their activities is what important.
Tools to integrate are ranging from pure demand for API and going to integration suites. The tools like IFTTT and Zapier are popular and can give the idea of how to organize a single pipeline of data across multiple applications.
What does it mean for Product Lifecycle and PLM Tools?
I’ve been trying to connect the discussion to product lifecycle and tools. I cannot find immediate connection. Most of PLM tools are pre-configured product suites and flexible data models and APIs. It is hard to use these suites as a tool in federated toolbox. The main function of these tools as of today is to hold data and control access for multiple people.
What is my conclusion? The demand for flexible tool organization into a toolbox is high. But at the same time, it is not very clear how this organization can be used in the company in a coordinate way. The data organization and disconnect data from pre-wired application is probably the first step to think about self-organization of disconnected tools into a toolbox. Just my thoughts…