Social Product Development

Friday, August 5, 2011

Social Product Development: Quirky and PTC

Happy Friday - and what a lovely Friday it is. I have the feeling the folks at Quirky think so as well...with the announcement that they've just raised an additional $16 million in funding and a new TV show on the Sundance channel debuting this month, it's safe to say that all of August probably looks pretty rosy to the Quirky folks. If you'll allow me to wax nostalgic for a moment, it was last August that I published this post on Quirky, and explored their definition of social product development versus PTC's definition of social product development.

At the time (with a little help from IDC's Mike Fauscette), I challenged the notion of outsourcing your innovation to the crowd - at least without some sort of crowd inclusion qualifier. So, are we at odds with Quirky? Not necessarily. First, Quirky is a PTC customer, and um...the customer is always right. But besides that, I read this article on the Creo blog, posted in March, that leads me to believe that Quirky's founder Ben Kaufman and I actually see eye to eye:

Ben Kaufman, the 24-year-old CEO and founder of Quirky, believes that crowdsourcing alone does not work because the idea that the world community is smarter than a band of experts isn’t sustainable. “It’s experts and the community working together that works stunningly,” says Kaufman. Indeed the relationship works both ways. “People are calling our expert designers out on their work makes our expert designers better. And our designers make the world smarter.”

Interesting, huh? Who knows...maybe he reads the blog. In any case, maybe it's not about our social product development versus your social product development after all. The heart of social product development comes from using social tools to enhance the value of the participants in your product development network. And maybe that's the only definition that we need.

So congratulations to Quirky - for more than keeping the lights on with this latest batch of funding, and also for putting some lightbulbs over the heads of the rest of us.

If you'd like to hear John Jacobsen, Head of Engineering at Quirky, talk about how Quirky works, and how they use PTC's Creo product, check out the full article and video here.

Friday, July 22, 2011

PTC wins Microsoft Project Server Partner of the Year

No rest for the weary, eh? We've just returned from Microsoft's Worldwide Partner Conference in Los Angeles, where we talked process, product, and plans for the future with our friends at Microsoft.

...oh yeah, and we had an award to pick up.

PTC was named the 2011 Microsoft Project and Portfolio Management Partner of the Year Award - truly an honor and something of which we're pretty darn proud. The award marks the hard work of an extended team of talented and dedicated folks working on, or with, Windchill PPMLink. It also marks the second year in a row that PTC has been awarded a Microsoft Partner of the Year Award - no small accomplishment.

And of course, I had a video of my colleague sauntering across stage, accepting our award with grace...oddly reminiscent of this video (including my whistling, of course). But...ah...I was relieved of it when I was relieved of my phone during a lunch meeting at Wolfgang Puck. Wolfgang Puck was extremely gracious, I should mention, and replaced the phone for me - but the moment in history was lost forever.

But you get the idea, I'm sure. In lieu of that, I have the photo above of PTC's Mark Field, Product Management Director for Windchill PPMLink, and Microsoft's Arpan Shah, who leads the Microsoft Project Product Management team. (Thank you to Jan Kalis of Microsoft for the photo - you can read Jan's blog here).

In any case, I'd like to thank the team at PTC, the team at Microsoft, and the team at Pcubed, our fantastic PPM partner. And as always, Microsoft - you throw a great party.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Al Dean does Vegas (and PlanetPTC Live): Windchill SocialLink

So let’s see. If you do everything I tell you to do (of course you do) – you should, like me, be recovering from last week’s PlanetPTC Live event in Las Vegas. Well, I mean, hopefully you’ve made it back from Vegas – if you haven’t, you really know how to do it up, in which case I should probably be listening to you instead.

Someone who did make it to the event in Vegas this year, and who is certainly someone worth listening to, is Al Dean, co-founder and editor of DEVELOP3D. We’ve given Al a few days to let the jet lag and…um…excitement…wear off – then pestered him with a virtual interview about his thoughts on the event.

Erin: Al, you’ve posted your own recap of the event on the Develop3D blog – which I’ve excerpted here: “This year’s user conference was [the best conference] …I’ve [ever] attended.” I mean, I’ve edited a little bit for clarity, but I’m pretty sure I’ve captured the tone and meaning correctly. That sounds about right, doesn’t it?

Al: Or words to that fact. Though I'm the Editor around here punk.

Erin: That’s Ms. Punk, if you don’t mind. You cover your thoughts on the Creo release in your own blog, so I won’t belabor that here. But you’ve also mentioned that you had a chance to check out a little bit of Windchill SocialLink, PTC’s SharePoint-based solution supporting Social Product Development. The world wants to know, what did you think?

Al: I'd not seen it before so I was keen to get a look live rather than squinting at a Webex, you know? While there's a trend towards building "social tools" into professional tools, a lot of that is focusing outside of the existing corporate systems stack, there's relatively few doing it within existing systems - like SharePoint. That's what caught my attention. If the sub system or platform is already in place, then the chances are the tools will gain more traction and actually get used.

Erin: Building on that, how important is a tie-in to the actual CAD or PLM/PDM system, from the engineer’s perspective? I mean, certainly companies out there are using standalone social platforms like Yammer or even the social computing functionality of SharePoint on its own to collaborate broadly – we can assume that some of that collaboration relates to product development and design activities. Is that next level down, direct integration with the product development tools, a need to have, or a nice to have?

Al: Yup. That's one of the key things that many are missing. If a social platform is going to take off in a professional environment, it needs to fit into those existing systems where possible rather than standalone. They're usually pre-certified for corporate use. They can reach outside the design and engineering department - piggybacking on corporate rules - you know, security, project access and such. Integrating them into both the authoring tools and management systems makes a lot of sense. If a designer or engineer can share some details (even if it's just an automated screenshot) or share a link to a managed asset, then you're reducing the hassle and again, people will use it, can contribute thoughts based on something solid. The tools in Creo look like a good start and it's better than most have got to so far, even at this embryonic stage.

Erin: It certainly seems like most vendors in the space are trying, or at least talking, social. Do you think social in concert with engineering is more of a fad, an interesting but not core piece of feature/functionality? Or is it the inevitable future of CAD (insert dramatic music here), given the expectations of engineers coming into the workforce now, and their comfort level with consumer-oriented social tools? And you don’t have to say the latter just because that’s what I want you to say. Really.

Al: There's a shift coming. Not about technology, collaboration or social platforms but communication. Just that. The next generation has dramatically different expectations in terms of how they communicate with both their peers and seniors. It's nothing to do engineering or design but all across the board. The next generation of professionals will look to these tools if they're effective and can be used without interrupting their workflow.

Watch a bunch of kids with Blackberries (which is increasingly common in the UK as they're cheap). They'll maintain a physical conversation while communicating digitally with those not geographically present. That's not going to roll backwards and it's going to push forward. I'd be surprised if we could have this chat in three years time without sounding like doddery old geezers sitting on a park bench.

So if employers want to get the most out of their employees then they're going to need to provide an environment that supports this shift. Otherwise they'll be missing a trick and not getting the best out of the digital kids. The other thing is that they'll also dump an ineffective tool and work around it. That combination is going to provide a challenge for software vendors. They're going to have to step up their game in terms of ease of use and workflow integration - otherwise adoption will stall and stall hard and fast.

Erin: I love it. And I think you’ve just committed to another interview, in three years time, on a park bench somewhere. We’ll see who’s a doddery old geezer then. Deal?

Al: Sounds like a pact with the devil but I'm game.

Erin: So to wrap things up, tell us something juicy – how does Al Dean do Vegas? Any highlights from last week?

Al: Vegas and I have a long history. I've broken my ankle there and barely maintained my sanity. Best places to hang are off the strip. I don't gamble and I'm not a big fan of a lot of noise. Favourite spot is the Double Down Saloon. Grab a bunch of people you know, hells, some you don't. Change ten bucks for quarters, play pool and feed a rather spectacular jukebox. A good place to let your hair down. Or in my case, not so much.

Erin: Sanity is over-rated. And the Double Down Saloon is under-rated. Thanks for taking me there. *cough* Twice. And thanks again for taking the time to chat with me – I promise I’ll destroy those incriminating photos as soon as this is published. Looking forward to seeing you at the event next year, or somewhere in between.

You can read Al’s ongoing and always insightful take on product lifecycle technology on his website, If you’re really nice to him, he might even send you a glossy copy of the magazine.

If you weren’t among the lucky bunch now trying to either forget or remember what happened in Vegas, you can join the PlanetPTC Live group in the PlanetPTC Community to learn more about what you missed:

Friday, May 20, 2011

PlanetPTC Live - What's on Your Agenda?

Ah, spring. When a young man's fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love. Or, around these parts, when a million straight days of April showers turn into tornadoes and golf ball sized hail... So that's why I'm currently fantasizing about warmer weather, drier air, and oh right - educational content, networking opportunities, and the latest and greatest on PTC products presented by users, partners, and experts.

Of course, I'm referring to PlanetPTC Live, one of my favorite annual events, in case you missed my recap from last year. This year a few things are different - including a splashy new name - but my expectations are just as high. And did I mention it was in Vegas, people? Ah Las Vegas, where my obnoxious, off-key singing can realize it's full karaoke potential. But - ehem - back to the event.

One of the event's highlights, as always, are the product roadmap and update sessions, which this year include a presentation from David Blair on the latest in Windchill SocialLink (and our favorite topic, Social Product Development). David is also presenting a session on Leveraging your SharePoint Infrastructure for Product Development...if you drop in, you'll likely find me camped out in the back row for that one as well. Want to hear the rest of my session agenda? Feel free to ask!/edaly8198).

I'm also very excited for the keynotes, featuring some of the best and brightest from PTC, our partners, and our customers. Not the least of which is Wednesday's keynote from my friends at Microsoft (our Global Platinum event sponsor), given by the always gracious and well-spoken Çağlayan Arkan, Worldwide General Manager, Manufacturing and Resources Sector, Enterprise & Partner Group. If you pick up a copy of Prime magazine at the show, and aren't totally dazzled by a very, very cool cover story (hint, hint), you will see Çağlayan's smiling face on the first page. He'll also be joined on stage by Stephen Pickett, Senior Vice President and Chief Information Officer of Penske Corporation...which means there may be some race car talk, my eager friends.

Last but not least, I'm looking forward to meeting some of my "virtual" colleagues, acquaintances, and friends - in person. And of course, catching up with the folks I do see in person (although some of them not nearly enough) in a new venue, with plenty of potential for embarrassment (did I mention the karaoke?).

But I won't give too much away. You'll just have to join me at the event to find out more.

Are you going? What's at the top of your "things to see" list?

Friday, May 6, 2011

Why I'd rather eat a burger: SocialLink in practice (at PTC!)

You may have heard the phrase, "eating our own dog food." Especially if you're part of the software world, where it is dearly loved. It refers, of course, to using your own products internally. I've never been particularly fond of the phrase - for one, it doesn't lend itself to any sort of politically correct segue from an opening comment about the Kentucky Derby. More so than that, the phrase seems to imply that there's something, well...unappetizing about your own products. Unless you're a dog, I suppose. But assuming you aren't a dog (okay, well not THAT kind of dog, anyway), eating dog food is probably pretty painful. I'm not planning to test that out myself, but I can tell you that even my own pup isn't shy about expressing her preference for a burger.

Using your own products shouldn't be painful. For a lot of reasons. First and foremost is that you want your employees to have an experience that reflects the positive experience you hope your customers are having. If your employees are frustrated by your software, I'd hate to look at your help desk logs. From a purely selfish marketing perspective, it's tough to evangelize a product that you don't believe in yourself. And it's tough to work for a company whose products you can't get behind.

So what am I getting on about? Well, here at PTC, we use our own products. And they're definitely not dog food. One of the reasons that I'm so excited about Windchill SocialLink is that I'm using it myself, all the time. Especially with the distributed teams I work with - not only across geographies, but across organizations - it's hugely helpful to have central communities where I can share information or ask questions about the products I'm developing campaigns around. I mean, I do more than just write this blog, you know.

But it makes sense that marketing would be well suited to use Windchill SocialLink, right? That we'd have no problem adopting social tools. At least, according to my cross-functional friends, it fits in nicely with our daily agenda of drawing with crayons and updating Facebook (note to my boss in Germany - that was sarcasm, that's not what I do all day, I promise). But it's true, our marketing organization does use social technology as part of our portfolio, so it stands to reason we would be comfortable with other types of social technology. And that's why this story isn't about me.

Instead, it's about a group that we typically don't associate with Twitter posts and Facebook updates (although that in itself is a topic for discussion). I'm talking about more than 700 engineers here - and by "here" I mean 12 sites and five time zones - who are using SocialLink to collaborate on the most ambitious development project in company history.

The story of our development of Creo, and use of SocialLink, was published in the Spring issue of Prime magazine. You can read the full article here:

Full story

Pretty cool, huh? So in essence, one of our products is making it easier for us to develop another one of our other products. Which gives us a lot of products to be excited about around here.

So with that, I'm off to gather Mint Julep ingredients...and maybe grab some burgers for the grill. I'll leave the dog food for folks in the dog house. You know who you are.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Bees and Social Product Development...really!

(I know, that's not a honeybee)

I had the great fortune this past weekend to attend a lecture given by Cornell’s Dr. Thomas D. Seeley on decision-making in honeybees. While I am very interested in the bees (yes I am), I couldn’t help but to let me mind wander to comparisons of human behavior.

So what does honeybee decision-making have to do with product development? I promise, it’s not the stretch that it seems. Dr. Seeley explained, with some fascinating experimental examples, how honeybees “discuss” new potential homes when they’ve left the hive. Scout bees report back to the hive with evaluations of potential options, the bees spend a good chunk of time reaching a consensus on which location to pick, and then they all take flight to their new home. Of course, I’m simplifying a bit, but if you don’t want to the cliff notes version, you’ll have to read the book.

The real key to the story is that honeybees don’t make individual decisions. That means there’s none of the behaviors we might see, and value, in human decision-making – no single bee is making a choice, evaluating multiple options, picking a favorite, or trying to persuade other honeybees that they’re right. Each honeybee is only a vessel of information; the group makes the best choice based purely on fact, without a single individual opinion from any bee in the hive. If you want a badly explained version of how a decision is made without any opinions, feel free to ask me to bumble through it (pun intended). But I do think that this scenario is a fascinating opportunity to learn from how the intelligence of groups, not individuals, can lead to good decisions.

Here’s what I think we can learn from honeybees:

There isn’t always a “right” solution – sometimes the “best” solution has to do
So let’s start with the premise. Just because honeybees are looking for a home, doesn’t mean a perfect home is available. Likewise, there typically isn’t a single “right” option when it comes to our product development decisions – that would make innovation a lot less fun, wouldn’t it? And generally each option has an associated degree of risk or cost, no matter how ideal it might seem. Sometimes, no matter your genus or species, you have to choose a path based on the options you have, even if there’s not perfect solution. This makes decision-making hard – if there was a perfect answer, the answers you didn’t choose wouldn’t matter, right?

The decision timeline is finite – so knowing your options up front is crucial
By definition, best is a comparison. To make a comparison, you need options. Let’s also make the reasonably safe assumption that, just like the honeybees, you have a limited amount of time to make your decision…you might not be clinging with your swarm to a tree branch, but in a lot of cases it might feel that way. Combining those last two points – the sooner you know about good options, the more time you have to research and evaluate them before you have to make your decision. As Dr. Seeley described, when honeybees are choosing a new hive location, sometimes the best possible option gets thrown out because it’s discovered too late in the process. So too for human decisions. But while honeybees only have scout bees for discovering options quickly, we have social tools, and the power of the extended community. Social Product Development tools can help us identify subject matter experts with relevant domain expertise, who can both improve our evaluation of known options and suggest new options. We also have the opportunity to make our pending decision visible to our extended community, and let that wider pool of resources proactively offer solutions based on their own experience.

Impartial decisions are made when solutions are compared to the ideal, not each other
Once you have a healthy pool of options, there’s another lesson to be learned from our buzzy friends. As I mentioned earlier, bees don’t have opinions. This can be a hard concept to wrap our heads around when we think about comparing two independently reported options – how do you decide on a best option without bias or subjectivity? Well, honeybees compare a potential nest site not to other nest potential nest sites – but to the gold standard for all nest sites (some combination of entrance size, capacity, and other things bees should worry about). Each potential site gets a rating of sorts based on its comparison to the ideal. What’s the lesson? Know *what* your gold standard is, and *who* thinks so. Your gold standard in the context of the decision and the gold standard of your executive stakeholder in the context of overall business goals may not be the same. You may weigh an option differently or evaluate a different set of risk criteria when you know the big picture as well as your own view. Again, Social Product Development has an impact – by leveraging specific Web 2.0 technology, we can connect the extended enterprise, and create transparency into business drivers, corporate and departmental strategies, and product development decisions. And by creating visibility into ongoing decisions and development progess, you motivate executive stakeholders to communicate when the gold standard has changed.

Visibility is key – with or without the waggle dance
There’s a theme here – in both identifying options and resources, and aligning with corporate goals, visibility is essential. Visibility is also a core tenant of Social Product Development. Because social and the potential of social tools isn’t solely the benefit of connecting more easily with your colleague across the globe – it’s also the promise of connecting more easily with information and resources to enable better group decisions.

Don’t know what the waggle dance is? Well, you’ll have to look that one up. Trust me – you don’t want to be among the folks who have seen me demonstrate it.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Manufacturers Get Social

As our lovely, romantic Valentine's Day holiday approaches, I have to admit I've strayed, Social Product Development blog. I recently contributed a guest post to Microsoft's Vertical Industries blog: Manufacturers Get Social.The post is about the different interpretations of Social Product Development in the industry today - and the potential value of each. Here's an excerpt:

As a result, we're very interested in continuing a discussion within the manufacturing industry about how web 2.0 technologies impact product development processes, and how social, in a variety of forms, can bring value to enterprises of all sizes. While it may seem to the younger generations (cough-ahem-cough) that social technology has been around...forever...the relative newness of social means a lot of ongoing, interesting, and sometimes heated debate on what social means to business, why companies should consider investing in it, how it will be used, and what it will look like in the future.

Pop over and take a look at the post, and let me know what you think! As always, I'd love to hear from you.