Social Product Development

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Yes, Oleg, You Should Keep Secrets From Your PLM System

Recently, Oleg Shilovitsky asked this question on his blog, “Should I keep secrets from my PLM system?” My answer is “Yes!” Not every product-related piece of information should be controlled by a product lifecycle management application. I know what you’re thinking. Is this Robin Saitz talking? She’s worked at PTC forever, right? This is blasphemy, isn’t it?

Not really. When you think about it, there are many tools available to optimize product development. There are authoring tools, such as CAD/CAM/CAE, which are focused on making the individual engineer or designer more productive. There are enterprise applications, such as PLM, that are focused on governance and control of product information. PLM is dedicated to shepherding a promising product idea through design development, sourcing, change and configuration management, manufacturing planning, production, service, and retirement. But there’s another set of activities that hasn’t been suitably addressed by either PLM or Desktop apps.

Before an idea makes its way from an individual engineer or marketer to a PLM system for management and control, there are many people who could, should, and do get involved in considering that idea as well as other ideas, vetting them against ideas considered and discarded in the past, morphing ideas into better ideas, leveraging broader communities inside and outside their organization. This is true whether the idea is for a new product or possible way of solving a design challenge in a current product. Maybe you’re just stumped on a question; don’t know where to turn but think someone in your company should be able to help. PLM tools are designed to be structured and automate well-defined, formal product development processes. They are not designed to enable the type of fluid interaction I'm describing ….which is good, by the way, because companies count on PLM for governance to ensure that selected products get to market with all the t’s crossed and the i’s dotted.

On the other hand, new social product development capabilities (those leveraging social computing technology) can significantly improve this type of idea exchange. It’s a more flexible and natural way of interacting, and doesn’t carry the constraints inherent in a governance system. Not every idea exchanged, considered, commented on, discarded or every question asked and answered needs to be in the PLM system. But having the freedom to spawn and discuss ideas and spontaneously ask questions or help out your colleague can make the process of getting the best ideas into the PLM system easier. Then the PLM system is tasked with managing the processes needed to bring that great idea to market.

Do you agree that tools are needed to facilitate these exchanges and that PLM may not be the answer?

1 comment:

  1. OK so I had to read it twice even though you had the " Is this Robin Saitz talking" in the begining. I agree with all your points and have written about this in a post I called People Centric PLM ( In the post I call out three stages of development - Design, Release and Manufacture and discuss how Release and Manufacture follow very clear procedures (well most of the time - we all know way around the standard approach) and how Design is very much not process oriented due to as you say people must discuss things in order to move forward. Robin it would be great to see you write about the Release stage where PLM has provided value.