Dec 13, 2008

Social Product Development Network

I am a bit overwhelmed by the number of excelent PLM related blog posts. Today I am going to try to answer the question asked by Oleg : How to implement Social Networking for PLM ?

PLM has always been the concept of managing the information produce by a variety of Computer Aided Authoring tools. In a PLM system everything is organized around the BOM, so all this information is linked to Part and the Parts are organized in a tree.
PLM vendor love to claim that they are also capturing the communication thanks to their workflow system.
But the reality is that these workflows capture at best 2 or 3 very well formalized process : RFQ, ECN, ...

But everybody in the companies knows that the most important discussion about the product developement are done else where : by emails, over phone, meetings... This is even more true with the concept of global engineering team located in several countries. Some companies have a very aggressive objective in term offshore engineering and design, I know a couple of companies that are targeting 50 % of these activities in low cost countries.

I think that time has come to invent yet another acronym Social Product Development Network -- SPDN. This new marketing beast will offer :
  • an internal blog to every employee with the possibility to publish article on internet.
  • a wiki to capture the user generated documentation around the Product
  • An issue tracker to follow the issue related to the product development
  • A twitter clone to exchange short messages
  • gallery to share pictures of the product prototypes, tests , ...
  • BOM management
  • PDM
  • Workflow to control the 2 or 3 key processes
You are going to tell me that this is impossible because PLM vendor does not have the resources/skills to implement all this software stack. You are right but the good news is that you don't have to do it. All this and much more is already available out there in many flavors. For example I have been recently contributing and using such platform recently. It is called Pinax a video presenting the solution is available there. The only pieces that you will have to worry about are the core of the PLM (BOM, PDM, Workflow) and for each of them you will have only to focuse on implementing the vision on an leveraging a modern infrastructure.
No you don't have to develop yet another ORM it is there. No you don't have to invent yet another template language, or an url dispatcher, a cache stragetgy. You use all your ressources to focus on the implementation of the PLM vision rather than the technical details. This technology power web site that receive million hits a day. So I assume it will scale the PLM needs.

But all this requires a complete shift from selling software licences to sell a vision.

Conclusion :
If you really have a vision for PLM sell it with the service to implement it rather than the licences.
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