A quick peek into some research on … social computing in PLM that I am currently working on. I had the opportunity to lead a discussion at COFES (Congress for the Future of Engineering Software) this morning on the use of social networking in design and engineering. I am just starting my research project for a paper, so the timing was very good to start the discussion. I will share my key takeaways from the conversation with you now, and of course post a link to the paper when it is ready.
Instead of going into detail on what I am looking into, I will point to a number of my recent blog posts on the topic. They should give you a good idea about my views on the topic:
How Does Social Computing in PLM Help Collaboration?
Why Social Networking in PLM is More than Just Collaboration
What I Learned: Why Social Networking in PLM is a (Really) Bad Idea
(hint) You might want to read the last one and not just take the title for face value.
My Takeaways from Today
The primary surprise take away from my session was the level of interest in the topic. Manufacturers, vendors, consultants, and other analysts all attended and contributed to the discussion. I believe we are early in the maturity curve in our use of these technologies, and that the high level of interest shows that people are getting a glimpse that something very important is happening here. They are starting to see what I have believed for some time – that the use of these technologies is coming and that it is inevitable. Our youngest participant said what I think we all know, “this is just how we communicate these days.” Using these tools is as common to those his age as using the telephone was to me (land line, living through the “new technology” of push buttons vs. rotary dialing in my case).
The interest came from believers and from those that don’t see it, or perhaps don’t want it. It was great to hear both sides. It is clear that there are concerns about security, and that there are (legitimate) concerns that these technologies will just add more information and communication to an already cluttered landscape. Those that had been using the technology longest, though, believed that the use of the technology would settle in to a workable level over time, and that the solutions would find their place along with other forms of communication technology.
What does this mean? When there is a packed room full of a combination of supporters, detractors, and those that just want to be educated – that is the smoke that says there is a fire burning. There is something new happening that is exciting and promising. It will mean change. Some will embrace it and others will fight it. Some might want to adopt it while the corporate antibodies try to fight it. There is still a lot to learn as we find out where this will provide value and how, but the interest level is very high.
Implications for Manufacturers
I will keep this brief, because there are other sessions I want to attend to learn from others in the great network of individuals that are physically here at COFES:
- Social computing in PLM is a real and compelling
- The intersection of social computing and engineering is happening – although slowly
- There is a lot of potential value
- There are a lot of potential barriers
- Social computing is not just for the younger generation (although they are more likely to just expect it)
- As an industry, we are very early in the maturity of our vision to use these technologies, we have a lot of experimentation left before there is an accepted “best practice” approach
My favorite takeaway comes in the form of a quote from one of the participants. He correctly pointed out that “the network that you build is an asset.” I couldn’t agree more.
So that was a quick peek into some of my current research on social computing in PLM, I hope you found it interesting. Does the research reflect reality? Do you see it differently? Let us know what it looks like from your perspective.