What I learned this week … is based on a post in Vuuch Voice. The post, People Centric PLM – A New PLM Age Is Born, really made me think. I don’t know where Chris Williams got the picture, but I don’t think it looks like him at all. Well, maybe a little. After recovering from the shock of the picture, I really started thinking about whether social computing in PLM requires a reinvention of PLM, or whether we are talking about augmenting the capabilities that PLM already provides?
People Centric PLM
In Chris’ post, he discusses the approaches that PTC and Dassault Systemes are taking to support the more people-centric, creative process of design. One of the comments also includes Siemens PLM in the mix. The post points out efforts by the major PLM companies (ProductPoint and Blue Kiwi) that are intended to provide social computing capabilities in PLM. But the real question is whether these solutions replace PLM, or extend it.
There has been a lot of discussion recently, including in Oleg’s blog, on the need for easier to use PLM. Chris has blogged about this as well. But are we realistically thinking that simplifying PLM and adding social computing capabilities are one in the same? I wonder if there is some concern that the PLM community will throw the baby out with the bath water?
What do I think? I am glad you asked. I think we need to look at two important, distinct needs for the future of PLM:
- PLM needs to be simpler to use
- PLM need to incorporate social computing
Will both happen at the same time? Not likely. Should they? Probably not. The underlying technology in PLM (managing files, document control and generation, revisioning, search capabilities, etc.) are incredibly valuable and important. They could be easier to use, no doubt, but they are fundamentally important. But making PLM easier to use should not require a rewrite. The underlying logic and infrastructure are a huge asset. What is needed is the ability to access it using more tailored, simple, task-based interfaces. This is what things like SOA arthitecture and composite applications are designed for.
For social computing (see more of my thoughts in Is Social Product Development Viable without PLM, We are not Going to Build an Airplane on Facebook, and related posts) there are some really unique opportunities for companies to improve product development performance. Some are very tied to the underlying information and processes in PLM (such as improving design collaboration and knowledge management with messaging, wikis, blogs, presence detection, etc.) and need to be tightly integrated – if not a part of – PLM. There are also some are new processes like crowdsourcing for ideas and innovation challenges that – at least in the near term – are likely to be developed independently from PLM. At some point, these solutions may become a part of the PLM footprint as well, but they don’t have the same need for underlying data and integration to process as adding social computing to core PLM activities. So Chris is absolutely right when he says vendors are taking different people-centric directions. And they probably should. But they could also take both if they choose.
Implications for Manufacturers
Look for simpler PLM solutions, and look for social computing capabilities to help improve product innovation, product development, and engineering. But don’t expect them at the same time. Consider offerings from your PLM vendor that add social computing into the fabric of their solution, but don’t shy away from experimenting with integrated plugins and standalone solutions in the right scenario. And yes, continue to push for simpler PLM. But let’s not ignore the high value of what we have already developed over the last decade or more.
So that’s what I think about adding people to PLM, I hope you found it interesting. Who knew this would be such an interesting topic? I didn’t, if you did let us know about it.