PLM collaboration: Cost vs Value?

PLM collaboration: Cost vs Value?


Collaboration is one of the most prominent values offered by PLM vendors. Product development and manufacturing is a team effort and therefore “collaboration” is very important. The last decade of technological and web development open new horizons in what collaboration can do. Many PLM vendors got excited by the ability to bring new ways to collaborate and communicate. Social networks created even bigger excitement about what collaborative technologies can do.

Recent Siemens PLM Teamcenter blog is a great example of how to sell the values of PLM collaboration. Navigate here to read more – Make Smarter Decisions with Active Collaboration. Here is my favorite passage explaining how collaboration forms a special layer helping people to communicate:

Forms a social layer integrating and bringing context to your business. It enables users to communicate and collaborate quickly and easily inside the business application. So it leverages social media in your PLM environment to help tame technical challenges thus improve your productivity. Accelerate time to market!

However, the most intriguing example of the value is presented in the following passage:

Encourages open collaboration and co-creation, reduces time spent in unnecessary in-person meetings. Instead allows users to safely collaborate across dispersed geographical locations in their own time all the while being able to connect a face to the name for more “human” contact – with internal customers ,stake-holders ,partners etc. bringing them into the conversation. Trust people! Enables teams to focus on specific communication threads or areas of interest and track any activities using subscription. This helps you get your work done by allowing your organization to engage the right people and accelerates decision making by seeking answers from experts.

Collaboration has a value – no doubts. But, unfortunately, new ways to collaborate online bring not only benefits, but also great deal of distraction. We are interrupted by messages, chats and notification updates.

My attention was caught by the following article – Don’t Play Slack-a-Mole by Michael Muse. Although I’m personally use Slack to collaborate in my organization, the article is resonating.

‘Everyone loves Slack’ because we reap the benefits in a concentrated, big dose when we start a conversation in Slack. However, we pay the cost in diffuse little increments as we get pulled in to conversations throughout the day. Now the kicker, and the point of all this math. At 14 interruptions per day, that five minute cost adds up to over an hour (~72 mins) of productivity lost. By every person at the company.

It also presents some interesting data points about the number of DM (direct messages) in Slack communication.

Each channel has many ‘listener’ members, in addition to active participants in the conversation. Conservatively assuming 10 employees per channel gives the total reach of those messages; it turns out those channel members are indirectly asked to ‘have a quick look at this’. Conservatively assuming 10 employees per channel gives the total reach of those messages; it turns out those channel members are indirectly asked to ‘have a quick look at this’ roughly 20 million times per year. And that’s just spread over our 164 total Slack users. The 20 million reach of messages only accounts for channel/group messages. However, nearly two-thirds of Slack messages at our company aren’t in channels at all! They’re in Direct Messages (DM).

The article not only highlight the problem, but also brings some ideas how to decrease a potential problem coming with a significant number of direct messages on collaborative platforms.

I haven’t seen any publications measuring the value of PLM collaboration in terms of benefits compared to the cost of communication distraction. Please share if you have one. A typical example of PLM collaboration is giving us the idea of 2 engineers working together on the same 3D model or placing contextual comments.

What is my conclusion? Communication and collaboration is absolutely critical in the distributed global manufacturing environment we live now. However, when you considering new collaborative technologies and tools that can potentially improve your productivity, you need to check also for potential drawbacks and hidden cost. There is little value to have instant messaging tool when you need to collaborate across multiple time zones. Your colleague will be sleeping most of time you will be sending direct messages to him. Also, measure the cost of interaction and think how to make collaboration more structured with less distraction. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Want to learn more about PLM? Check out my new PLM Book website.

Disclaimer: I’m co-founder and CEO of openBoM developing cloud based bill of materials and inventory management tool for manufacturing companies, hardware startups and supply chain. My opinion can be unintentionally biased.


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