What will come after “single version of truth”? Global data networks.

What will come after “single version of truth”? Global data networks.


I posted about my view on the process of digital transformation and how digitalization can come to manufacturing and more specifically to Product Lifecycle Management. My main points were about digital control and gradual transformation of information landscape from monolithic information model into granular islands of connected information. The first is very typical model used in all PLM systems today. It relies on a company specific database with objects and attributes describing product information and processes. Although, this model is very useful in many situations, the premises of monolithic data model and its application is very disturbing when you try to apply it into modern digital landscape of connected information.

My blog raised a good number of comments online and offline. I was very happy to see that my points about information granularity and connection are actually make sense to many readers. Here are few comments:

Brian Soaper: PLM systems have been supporting this for over a decade. Digital transformation requires a much more granular approach to data management, breaking the trend of just evolving a paper based process.

Mark Harrop: Hi Oleg, can’t agree more with you that the PLM vendors needs to view PLM as a methodology/Ideology and yes it may become or is the main backbone for a company’s data transformation, but it’s only one part or piece of the many “platforms” that need to share data across the universe of systems as part of the overall digital journey…

Thinking about these and some other comments, took me back to my article – PLM: From Sync to Link. This 2 years old blog is one of my fundamental stories about how to transform existing information systems by breaking them into more granular services and data elements  and at the same time, expanding data management systems beyond what is possible to do using single company database systems.

Unfortunately, the way most of companies and software vendors are solving this problem today is just data sync. Yes, data is syncing between multiple systems. Brutally. Without thinking multiple times. In the race to control information, software vendors and implementing companies are batch-syncing data between multiple databases and applications. Parts, bill of materials, documents, specifications, etc. Data is moving from engineering applications to manufacturing databases back and forth. Specifications and design information is syncing between OEM controlled databases and suppliers’ systems. This data synchronization is leading to lot of inefficiency and complexity.

In the context of data linking I wanted to sharing an exciting news about turning Annotation into Web standard. Read more about it here. I’ve been following this technological activity for quite some time and this is really good news. Take a look on the following video coming from company Hypothesis aiming to bring a new layer to web by using new annotation architecture – Open Annotation.

This is very exciting news, because such layer can help to connect multiple systems in a single contextual system of information. Imagine annotation layer operating above system producing content today for product development – design, specification, customer requirements and many other documents. Current PLM architectures are forcing to store information in a single database and use single PLM platform to communicate between multiple players – companies, engineers, contractors, suppliers. This is a traditional “single point of truth” paradigm. By abandoning this paradigm, PLM industry can move to a new connected information architectures.

I’ve made an experiment by annotating some information coming from openBoM cloud service (disclaimer – I’m co-founder and CEO) and found an interesting way to get information connected. On the picture below, you can see how Hypothesis annotation applied to Bill of Materials. This is by no means ready solution, but it can give you an idea about potential to use annotation service combined with data originated in multi-tenant data management cloud service. It can be a solution to intertwine information between companies, service contractors and customers. An important distinguish factor is information linkage and global data identification and availability.

global BOM annotation

What is my conclusion? Existing “single version of truth” paradigm is coming to its logical end- inability to scale into global intertwined network of information capable to provide services for manufacturing companies, contractors, suppliers, engineering services and, as we move into era of IoT, to customers and products. For last few decades web was a source of inspiration and innovation in global data management. The same will happen now and in the next few years we will see how new information architectures transforming the way manufacturing companies are doing their business. 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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