Social Product Development

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Look Who's Talking Social - The PLM Industry Weighs In

Happy holidays!

I'm lucky enough to be on vacation this week - I know, I know, sort of counter intuitive since I'm blogging, but trust me, I'm going to be off running around in the snow with the dog ANY second now. I'm also using my downtime to (cough cough cough) catch up on some things I might have neglected over the last 6 months or so of craziness here at PTC...time flies when you're having fun, right?

At the top of that list is a looming pile of reading related to social networking and product development...including this article, "Everybody's Talking" from the fall issue of Prime magazine (starts on page 28):

The article features some words of wisdom from our own blogger and Social Product Development rockstar, Tom Shoemaker, specifically related to our Windchill SocialLink product. If you want to learn more after hearing from Tom, I highly recommend also checking out the Intro to Windchill SocialLink video from David Blair, found on the PTC product page:

In addition to PTC's perspective, the article includes comments from some of the other big names in the PLM industry...and wait, what's that? We agree? So okay, our techniques might vary, but I do think we all believe that social computing can have a huge impact on collaboration, productivity, and the ability to connect your extended enterprise to product development processes. And that agreement means that this whole web 2.0 plus PLM idea isn't a's a reality for the industry. And THAT, my friends, is pretty cool.

Oh yeah, and that lovely race car ad in the middle of the spread? THAT's my day job. Stop, stop, you're making me (and the PTC Creative Services team) blush.

Take a gander at the article and the video - I'd love to hear what you think. What do YOU think the new year will bring to the PLM industry?

I'll keep an eye out for your comments when I'm back...for now, I'm strapping my snowshoes on.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

How Does “The Social” Extend Into The Enterprise

Ralph Grabowski recently published an article, titled “CAD vendors should spend their time ignoring the Social”. Head on over and give it a read (it’s short – only about 150 words), if you haven’t already.

Ralph claims that with (most recently) PTC’s launch of Creo, it had “the Social”. Ralph explains: “… By ‘the Social’ I mean the Social Web, the whole Twitter, Facebook, texting thing.)” Ralph makes the claim that social is mobile (presumably only), and then adds: “CAD doesn't work on phones, so CAD vendors don't need the Social.”

I respectfully disagree with Ralph, and on a few fronts.

Firstly, one of the reasons the PLM and CAD vendors (and any company, really) are using ‘The Social’ today is that it’s a part of the marketing mix. No longer are companies only using (and are customers only consuming) brochures. Now, it’s a mix of paper, digital, web, The Social, audio, word-of-mouth, forums, social networks … the list goes on. And I realize much of that list looks like promotion (one of the holy Four Ps). I truly mean marketing, in the sense of using multiple channels for market sensing, sizing, understand pain points, and creating an attractive value proposition. Efforts to use multiple channels to listen, act, engage, and promote are what companies need to do to stay (or become!) relevant in the 2010 marketplace.

Secondly, incorporating The Social into applications is increasing in importance. As a related note, read about how connecting things into a giant (philosophical) Web is evermore becoming a reality. Read about The Internet of Things here. No longer are products, documents, ideas, or problems solved in silos, or – one step better – in two adjacent cubicles. The work is spread across the aisles, buildings, states, countries, and oceans. Back in the day, one could holler down the hallway and ask who knows about working on a brake assembly. You’d get your answer, or get none. Your network was limited to those within shouting distance. Today, that distance is much farther, thanks to the advent of social networks. Now you can ask your extended network about who has worked on a brake assembly, and ideally get not only an answer, but multiple answers.

As a company, PTC as a PLM and CAD solution provider supports and believes in this initiative. So much so, in fact, that we’re capturing the experience of communities of practice and tacit knowledge sharing by creating a tool to facilitate this, called Windchill SocialLink. I encourage you to head over and watch the video to get a better understanding of what Windchill SocialLink offers.

Thirdly, I disagree that social equates to mobile. Each enhance one another, but they are surely not equal…. Or interchangeable. Social, to me, is something philosophical like ‘more than one person’ and ‘public’, or maybe ‘(selectively) open to comment’. With this definition, it extends far beyond mobile, far beyond simply Twitter and Facebook, far beyond simply advertising, and more toward crowd-sourced or multi-minded product creation.

What do you think? Does social equal mobile? Is there no place for The Social inside the PLM or CAD microcosms?

image source:

Friday, November 5, 2010

Engineers and Social Networks? Oil and Water, or Oil and Vinegar? (part 2 of 2)

(Click here to see part 1 of this post)

I recently had the pleasure of serving as a panelist for a webinar sponsored by Knovel titled Engineers 'Professional Use of Social Networks Today and Where It Is Heading. Knovel has graciously made the replay of the webinar available free (registration required).

You can see what Knovel is all about by clicking on the link above to see part 1 of this post. Below, I continue some of the great questions that were asked, and I offer up some of my own responses.

Q: In your Twitter feed recently, you asked whether global companies localize their social media efforts into other languages. Have you received any good feedback on this question?

A: I received one or two responses, and I was also looking via LinkedIn and other sources. I didn’t ultimately the one answer I was seeking on Twitter, but the fact that I got an answer within about an hour of posting is testament to the power of that network.

Q: Can you dive deeper in to some examples of how to use social media for engineers?

A: Pretend you’re working on a brake assembly. It’s only your second time. You have decent knowledge of how to go about this, but are no means an expert. You ask your colleagues next to you if they have knowledge, and they have some. Next, you ping your internal social network (perhaps it’s an internal SharePoint website), asking for brake assembly experience. A colleague in your Sao Paulo, Brazil office is a renowned expert – but you never knew that until now. Suddenly he’s showing you, via a screen-sharing session, some things to avoid, and tips and tricks to keep in mind. After this, you update your SharePoint experience profile to show that you have experience with brake assemblies. Eight days later, someone three states away pings you for some help. You pass on what you just learned.

Q: How does one go about obtaining recommendations for LIned In from people that are not using it?

A: I can’t think of a way to make this happen. Someone needs to be in a network in order to reap the benefits of it. The first step would be a soft coercion for them to use it, and then to get them to recommend you.

Q: While I know that LinkedIn and Facebook are popular for personal use, I don't see their use for professional reasons. There are just too many confidentiality uses. I would like to see something on internal only software.

A: Look into Yammer, MS SharePoint, PB Works, Zoho, and Google Docs for starters. And LinkedIn is most certainly for professional reasons – it’s just not a great channel for confidential communications.

Q: As a continuation of this, how do we utilize smart phones to increase our productivity in a professional setting?

A: This is a bit afield from the topic, but one thing that smart phones enables is remote viewing/commenting. Look into the service called Aardvark ( and see how you might be able to modify this for use within an organization. Imagine an Aardvark network of just employees. Imagine an Aardvark network of employees with the brake assembly question above.

Q: Will social networks evolve such that you’ll be able to log in to one account for access to multiple services?

A: This is partially true today, with Facebook Connect and OpenID. Eventually, this will be even more prevalent. Predictions like this have already been made. Today, one can log into one service and had their status updated on several networks at once (

Q: Will companies start to mandate the usage of social networks by their employees?

A: Not likely. This is more of a culture change than a technology change. Unless we’re talking about a start-up company specifically in the social space, I think this is a long way off.

Q: How do you get stodgy engineers to use social networks and have them learn to share their expertise?

A: One way to promote sharing is to consider leading by example, and perhaps (more drastically) making the sharing part of the job requirement/review process.

Q: What is the best social media strategy?

A: Define, Listen, Understand, Participate, Produce, Maintain, Measure, Analyze

Q: What are some practical, "low barrier to entry" approaches to sharing knowledge within the organization?

A: Answer the question: what one thing can I share each day (or every two days) that helped me get my job done smarter/faster/with better quality? Now share that. One easy free way is Yammer. So is an internal email distribution list that your IT department can set up, and you can have people subscribe to it. This is no-frills and low-budget, but easy and it addresses the need. Not all social networks are outside of company walls.

Q: How can we tailor our social media marketing plan to engineers?

A: Ask the engineers what problems do they have trouble solving. In many of these cases, much can be learned from simply asking the question of “what’s the problem?” to the customer/market. They’ll often tell you. Then, go design a solution that fits that, not something else.

Q: What do I need to do to go beyond Facebook and LinkedIn?

A: Spend time purposely looking beyond those. Spend some time on industry blogs. Read the posts and the comments. See where people are linking to. Go there. Repeat. Search Twitter. People drop links on Twitter left and right. This is good way to learn about websites.

Q: Can you give examples of how you’ve seen some engineering companies use social networking tools?

A: Here are not only some examples, but some award-winning examples (note: not all are engineering-related, but some are): (note that on the left, one can also look at different years)

Q: How can we overcome the stigma that social networking is a productivity drain instead of something that can enhance productivity?

A: Celebrate the successes of productivity when they are achieved. Showcase those stories. Don’t forget that email is a social network, too. If someone solves something faster/better/smarter/etc. with any social network (email, a conference call, a face-to-face group meeting), call that out as a success. Don’t get hung up on the shiny new tool.

Now that all of the Q+A is posted, I'd love to read your reactions or see if you have similar questions (or different answers!) to what I've shared here.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Engineers and Social Networks? Oil and Water, or Oil and Vinegar? (part 1 of 2)

I recently had the pleasure of serving as a panelist for a webinar sponsored by Knovel titled Engineers 'Professional Use of Social Networks Today and Where It Is Heading. Knovel has graciously made the replay of the webinar available free (registration required).

In a nutshell, Knovel is a web-based application integrating technical information with analytical and search tools to drive innovation and deliver answers engineers can trust. It can help engineers do their jobs faster and better by having the right information available to them at the right times. Knovel was keen to understand how engineers work in collaborative environments to get their work done as well. One of the panelists, Kate Worlock, walks through some recent survey data of engineers and their use of social networks. Overall, the webinar was great, and I learned a lot not only from my co-panelists, but also the questions asked.

We didn’t have time to answer all of the submitted questions, but I did take a few moments and address some of the more common ones and some of the ones where I think the answers can provide some real value to engineers. Perhaps you have one of the same (or similar) questions.

Q: What programs are being used for the social networking, and how are they being used by engineers? What kind of proprietary information sites can be used for knowledge transfers?

A: Traditional, web 1.0 discussion boards tend to be popular among engineers. A site like will help locate these that are relevant to your industry. Also, Googling ‘social network site {your industry}’ (minus the quotes, and substituting your industry where appropriate) will yield some interesting results. If you are looking to keep knowledge sharing private, encrypted, and confidential, do not use sites like Facebook. Review all sites’ terms of service to understand how that information can be used.

Q: How can you assure your privacy when you sign up for a social network?

A: Assume for the moment that you have no privacy. Keep the conversations light and topical. Do not share trade secrets. If the conversation needs to move to a medium where security is of the utmost importance, the real issue at hand is no longer social networking sites but rather ‘encrypted data communication’. Email is only secure to a certain extent; the same for the telephone. What’s the threshold of data security you wish to achieve? Common sense should trump technology in this case.

Q: After collaboration through a social network, what kind of structure is recommended for the follow-up process of consolidation, capture, and use of data (e.g., business process management applications, document repository, etc.)?

A: Wikis are great for multi-author documents. They are fine for one author, too, but a simple notepad.txt file does the trick as well. Pick the right tool for the job. The structure that’s recommended is the one where the barrier of adoption is lowest. A simple file share with MS Word docs may suffice in one instance, where a system of interconnected wikis addresses another situation. Let the need dictate the tool, not the other way around.

Q: How can this tool be used for recruiting talents? How can this tool be used as an interactive communications tools for special groups and special interests?

A: Search for ‘recruiting social media’ (minus the quotes) and you’ll see that there are already myriad presentations on how social networking is being used in the recruiting space. Also, the book Groundswell is a great primer for how social technologies are affecting business. In the book, there is a case study of how Ernst & Young uses social channels for its own recruiting efforts.

Q: Should the output of our employees be monitored for accuracy and company guideline compliance? Where is the line drawn between networking and selling through these venues?

A: It should be monitored to the same degree that each phone conversation and email is monitored. After all, those are forms of communication. If the reaction to this statement is, “Well, we don’t have time to monitor all of that”, then it comes down to an issue of trust in the employees.

The line for networking and selling draws itself. If one “sells” too much in the social channels, the amount of activity, comments, members, fans, likes, followers, or whatever will reflect that.

Q: Do engineers really form a vibrant exchange of ideas, or is it just a series of one-way posts that no one responds to? How do I encourage engineers to get involved, and not just blow it off as another management fad?

A: This is best observed on a case-by-case basis, and any blanket response is an oversimplification of the question. One way to get engineers involved is to show an example or two or three of this practice in action: find an idea mentioned, the discussion that ensued, and the result achieved.

Q: What kind of proprietary information sites can be used for knowledge transfers?

A: Yammer is a tool that lets people interact within a company’s walls to trade information. There is botha free and a pay option. It is proprietary in the sense that it is not open source, and the for-fee option adds a layer of data security/encryption.

Q: How can a new startup-business in technical consultancy can effectively use social networking tools?

A: Go onto LinkedIn and search for discussion groups that discuss your industry space or topical area. Join those groups. Answer the questions. See what people are talking about. Expand your network. Repeat this exercise on Xing and Facebook. Repeat a modified version of this exercise on Twitter.

Q: How was the PlanetPTC Community promoted?

A: Among other things, e-mail, other social networking sites (like LinkedIn, Facebook, Xing, and Twitter), telephone conversations, and good old word of mouth. The point is, it was (and is) a multi-channel strategy.

Q: How critical is face-to-face networking in our world today

A: I don’t think face-to-face networking is any less valued today than it was six years ago. But imagine starting a networking relationship online, trading messages, and getting to know someone. Then, when you actually meet them face-to-face, you feel like you’ve known them for a while already. The networked connection is now ‘warm’ rather than ‘cold’.

Q: How do you recommend handling informal communication guidelines? How do we set guidelines for company employees who participate in social media?

A: Identify who in the company can communicate externally (depending on the industry, etc., this might not be everyone). Then, create a positive, open communication plan for employees. Don’t recreate the wheel – find an existing one online, and modify it to suit your needs. Iterate on it. Run it by a few people. Post it openly on an internal company site for all to find.

Q: Have company's polices been considered as a barrier to uptake in use of social networking?

A: I don’t have direct evidence, but I suspect yes. If these ‘policies’ are written as “don’t do this […], or you’re fired” versus a “we’d love for you to help spread the word about our company, so when you do, keep this in mind…”, then I can imagine two vastly different responses. It’s semantically different, but important.

Q: Part of the reason management is hesitant to support social networking is job searching. How do you overcome that hurdle?

A: If I understand this correctly (“opening access to social networking sites at work means that people will start looking for jobs”), the larger issue isn’t social networking - its company morale. No open or blocked access is going to change that. That needs to be addressed first, and the technology can be put aside. And if that’s really the case, people will search for jobs at home.

Part two of the questions and answers are coming in a follow-up post. In the meantime, I'd love to read your reactions or see if you have similar questions (or different answers!) to what I've shared here.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Introduction to Windchill SocialLink

Why am I starting to feel like the only blogger without a video? I mean, assuming, of course, that the PTCUser afterparty footage - complete with my singing - hasn't surfaced. In lieu of that, I wanted to share with you a very exciting new production from the PTC Studio - an introduction to Windchill SocialLink. The clip features our resident expert, David Blair, VP of Product Management, who'll you recognize from his previous video blogs. Besides looking dashing, David provides an overview of this newest solution for real-time collaboration throughout the product development process, including some shots of the product in action (which also looks pretty dashing). In my opinion, some very, very exciting stuff.

We'll try to catch up with David in the next few weeks to get some additional words from him about the release - any questions you'd like him to answer?

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You can also learn more on

Thursday, September 23, 2010

New video: Quality and Reliability in Social Product Development

I just wanted to take a quick moment to give some kudos to my colleague and fellow blogger. Tom Shoemaker, who also moonlights as PTC’s VP of Solutions Marketing, recently created a video that brilliantly explains some real life scenarios where social computing can help solve product-related business problems. Take a look at the video, below, and tell us what you think! Where do YOU think Social Product Development can add value?

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Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Crowd: Who are they and what does it mean?

I’ve been very fortunate to have been able to spend some quality time lately with folks much smarter than me – and while that seems to be the case more often than not, it does get my little mind turning. One topic that keeps popping up is “the crowd” – mainly, the definition of “crowd,” and what it means for product development.

Crowd is definitely a buzzword in the context of product development and social computing. Certainly, some credit for the conversation is due to
Quirky, a social media-savvy, self described “Social Product Development” company based around the idea of crowdsourcing product ideas and then bringing those products to the market. Admittedly, the concept is pretty cool – you suggest a product idea (for a fee), it gets voted on, passes through various stages of approval and, if it’s lucky, becomes a product.

When I heard about Quirky, my first reaction was that they were going in the absolute opposite direction of “Social Product Development” as we think of it. After all, crowdsourcing in its traditional interpretation seems to be more about finding an alternative to your product development team than finding ways to enhance it. Wikipedia defines crowdsourcing as “
the act of outsourcing tasks, traditionally performed by an employee or contractor, to a large group of people or community (a crowd), through an open call.” Now, if my title includes anything related to product development, this definition might make me a bit nervous. And if I’m a manufacturer, I might fret about a brave new world where crowdsourcing rules and innovation is outsourced. After all, creative IP developing solely outside of a company seems to bring with it some inevitable questions about competitive differentiation.

So, I asked a few questions. First, is crowdsourcing really the greatest area of potential value that social can bring to manufacturing? Second, are the concepts of crowdsourcing and Social Product Development really that divergent?

Well, for the first question, fret not manufacturers – you’re probably not going to be replaced by homegrown inventors anytime soon. Why not? Well, let’s assume the widest possible definition of crowd, to start. Crowds on their own aren’t always the best drivers of innovation. Henry Ford once famously said, "If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” The crowd tends to think at a compartmentalized feature/function level – but responding on the feature/function level risks commoditizing your product and potentially strapping you with a hypothetical car that looks like it was designed by
Homer, not Henry. And secondly, crowds aren’t always the best predictors of success – if I remember correctly, there was a lot of excitement about Google Wave around this time last year.

The core assumption of crowdsourcing is that you are choosing the unqualified crowd over a skilled product development team. It’s not by accident that companies appoint really smart people to important R&D positions, build teams around them, all over the world, and anoint them with the obscene power to get people to do whatever they want. Okay, okay, so maybe that last line should be edited to read, “…get marketing people to do whatever they want.” But I digress. The point is, each member of your product development team was most likely carefully selected based on their strengths and expertise relevant to their job role. You hire your experts for a reason – you think they’re the best at what they do. With this in mind, it makes sense to me, at least, that you can find more value by using social computing to give these experts additional tools.

But what if we change the definition of crowd? I asked
IDC’s Mike Fauscette what he thought. Mike recently co-authored a report called Product Life-Cycle Management and Wisdom of the Crowds, so he’s a pretty good guy to listen to:

So here’s where Social Product Development and crowdsourcing do agree – people are important. Social tools allow a wider pool of people to contribute to product development. And widening the pool of people that can contribute to product development can have a positive impact. The key for Social Product Development is defining and qualifying your crowd, perhaps by granting or limiting access, creating relationships between contributed content and contributor experience and skills, or establishing communities of practice for functional-specific collaboration.

But I think there’s one other crucial difference between crowdsourcing and Social Product Development that bears mentioning. That difference is ownership. Crowdsourcing implies giving up ownership of tasks, processes, and decision points by moving them outside of the company and into the crowd. Think back to those smart R&D folks – even when you change the definition of the crowd, I still want those R&D folks to have control. So, in my view of Social Product Development, you may still use web 2.0 tools to invite feedback from your customers, partners, cross-functional team members, and others within your defined crowd, but your core product development team has the freedom to decide how to incorporate that feedback. If we think back to the Ford quote, this level of control allows your team to capture the user request of a faster horse, interpret it as a customer requirement for increased speed, and use the understanding of that requirement to drive development of a solution that the crowd didn’t see coming. And THAT is pretty cool too.

So what do you think? I’m pretty grateful for the car, myself.

And yes, as you may have suspected, that’s not the only question I asked Mike. I’ll blog about a few more of his answers coming up next, and then make the whole interview available for download.

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Friday, July 16, 2010

A Means to an End: Collaborative Product Development

Last week, Mashable! posted an article titled “How Social Media Has Prepared Us for Collaborative Business.” If you have a few extra minutes, jump over to that article, and come back afterward.

The core of the article is that working collaboratively – whether shoulder-to-shoulder on a drafting table, or across the ocean using a webcam, or asynchronously through a discussion forum – can produce great results. Most of the “social” social sites, like Facebook and MySpace and Twitter, get press that relates to those sites being a place to goof off or waste some time. However, we’re a sum of our surroundings, and we’re often connected socially to some contingent of people with whom we interact professionally.

As Kraig states (and my emphasis added):

But when we come to work, we throw all of this out the window. The concept of immediacy doesn’t exist here, and arguably, this is where it matters most. Many businesses are stuck in the past, using antiquated technologies that were put in place before the web even existed. For new graduates entering the workplace, it’s counterintuitive to have to revert to these slow forms of collaboration. As a result, we are more productive with our personal networks than we are with our colleagues and customers.

Think about that for a moment. Look around you at work. Are you surrounded by people older than you, younger than you, or the same age? How technically savvy are they? How resourceful are they in seeking answers? In my experiences and observations, I’ve used and seen used many tools to get the job done, from Google searching to asking friends on LinkedIn to a telephone call to asking the senior engineering manager in person. All are forms of social collaboration. Two of those methods didn’t exist 13 years ago. It might not seem like it, but social search is a form of asynchronous social collaboration. The power of social search is not to be dismissed.

The table that Kraig uses on the Mashable! post is perfect:

“Yes, but how does this relate to product development?” you may ask. Imagine you are working on an antenna design for a mobile telephone, and you want to ensure that holding the device a particular way isn’t going to obfuscate the radio reception. But, the radio engineer with whom you regularly consult is away on vacation. And there aren’t really any other engineers in the office to whom you can turn. If you are connected to a network of other engineers (who might have knowledge on the subject matter, but you didn’t really know that; or might be connected to someone who does), you could possibly get your answers.

Instead of…

You Now…

Post photos from the BBQ last Saturday and it will show up in the feeds of your friends and family.

Post renderings of the assembly housing to get reactions from the team.

Collaborate with friends to plan a camping trip for next month.

Organize the next cross-functional team meeting.

You follow @tylerflorence or @gdelaurentiis on Twitter for cooking tips.

Follow your competition on Twitter to ensure that you’re keeping pace (if that’s relevant to you).

You follow @Starbucks on Twitter for the latest deals and customer service.

Follow customer service/technical support for your product/s so you can understand the issues and the resolution.

You post questions to your Facebook wall or Twitter feed to get recommendations and insight from friends and industry experts.

Externally, you post questions to solicit use cases and design ideas. Internally, you post issues to get multiple responses, perhaps surfacing one you didn’t initially think of.

There are more examples of this. Jim Brown and Dora Smith talk about this as well. Check out their SlideShare presentation, and be sure to note the graphic on slide 21.

We’ve talked about this on the Social Product Development blog more than once because it’s something in which we passionately and truly believe. Do you? Can you share an example of using official or unofficial digital and social collaborating to develop a product? Let us know in the comments.

opening image source: Mashable! table image source: Mashable! article

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

From the Field: Microsoft's Worldwide Partner Conference

So as promised, an on the ground report from Microsoft's Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC), where PTC was honored as Microsoft's Global ISV Industry Partner of the Year. And by "on the ground" I literally mean I am sitting on the floor waiting for my next session at WPC to begin.

It's been an enjoyable event for me personally - besides the obvious fact that Microsoft and various generous partners really know how to throw a good party, seeing the excitement around Windchill, including our new SharePoint-based solutions, is really a great feeling.

There have been more than a few highlights - from seeing former President Bill Clinton give a keynote earlier this morning, to seeing Rob Gremley, PTC's Executive Vice President of Marketing, co-present with Simon Witts, Corporate Vice President, Enterprise and Partner Group for Microsoft, on some of our recent joint wins. But perhaps my favorite moment was seeing Iain Michel, Senior Vice President, Corporate Development, go on the main stage to officially accept our Partner of the Year Award. Want proof? That's me whistling in the background (filmed with my phone, if you can't tell by the quality):

(The original post has an embedded movie. Can't see it? Pop out and go here.)

Friday, July 9, 2010

Aberdeen Group Market Alert: Windchill SocialLink and Social Product Development

Now that the US based folks are recovering from the 4th of July holiday, I wanted to take a moment to wax nostalgic about that other big summer event by sharing some perspectives from folks who AREN’T me. This past week, the team at Aberdeen Group published a Market Alert on Windchill SocialLink, a solution they got to check out when it was introduced at the PTCUser event:

Aberdeen Market Alert: Can Windchill SocialLink and Social Product Development Transform Engineering Collaboration?

As mentioned in the press release linked in my previous blog, Windchill SocialLink leverages social computing capabilities to bring the collective wisdom of communities to bear on product development challenges. My favorite part of the Market Alert? Aberdeen’s assertion that Windchill SocialLink “has the potential to transform the way product development organizations share information and solve design problems with an ultimate impact on time to market, development costs, and product revenue.” I think they’re on to something…

Next week I'm off to the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference in Washington, DC - where PTC will be honored as Microsoft's Global ISV Industry Partner of the Year. I'll post some thoughts from the show floor, assuming that the Microsoft-sponsored social events don't wear me out (I am getting old, as of today, you know). Of course, if you can't wait that long, you can follow me on twitter to get the latest happenings in real(ish) time.

In the meantime, I'd love to hear your thoughts on Aberdeen's perspective. What’s *your* prediction? How will social change product development? Does it mean new features and functionality, or a true transformation of the space?

Thursday, June 17, 2010

My PTCUser Recap: Social, socials, and a little bit of singing

Whew – well, I feel like I’m finally recovering from my first PTCUser. If you’ve ever spent five days in high heels you might commiserate. Actually, despite the physical exhaustion of it all, the event was pretty invigorating – there’s just something catching about excitement.

One of the highlights of the event for me was actually meeting a lot of the folks I’ve worked with for the past four years – in person for the first time. Some were my PTC colleagues (including a wonderfully patient Canadian VP who suffered through more than a few of my off-key renditions of “Savez-vous planter les choux”). Others were analysts, bloggers, partners, and customers who I’ve had the pleasure of working with across time zones and weather patterns, but just haven’t had the chance to meet face to face. Those meetings certainly reinforced for me how important social collaboration is for business today – I already knew the people whose hands I shook, since we so regularly interact through various web 2.0 methods. In fact, I even recognized most of them, thanks to videos, blogs, LinkedIn pages, and tweets featuring our smiling mugs. Jim Brown, you’re much taller in person.

Of course, my focus at PTCUser was on our announcement of PTC’s four solutions built on Microsoft SharePoint 2010 – Windchill PPMLink, Windchill Web Parts for SharePoint, Windchill SocialLink, and Windchill ProductPoint. With all this talk about social computing and product development, it’s exciting to see all of the new and innovative ways that our product teams are putting it into action. In fact, I don’t think I could have summed it up better than my very enthusiastic new friend here, who I met in the hallways after a session:

(The original post has an embedded movie. Can't see it? Pop out and go here.)

Did you catch the “social” up there in that listing of product names? Obviously, we think that’s going to be a big one for Social Product Development. It certainly got a few folks buzzing…including Desktop Engineering’s Kenneth Wong and Tech-Clarity’s Brown. I told you it was exciting, right?

In any case, there will be a few more updates over the coming weeks recapping our experiences at PTCUser…but in the meantime, I lied about that recovery, so I’m signing off. I still feel a bit like I’ve been hit by…um…Lightning.

Image credit: Camlin Photography -

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Social Product Development: A Home Team Advantage

The soccer World Cup - often dubbed "the greatest show on earth" kicks off this weekend, and as a Brit living in the USA I’m preparing for two challenges. The first will be keeping up with the events as they happen in South Africa. Soccer is not exactly a headline sport here in the US, you may have noticed. The second will be preparing for the roller coaster of emotions that are unavoidable for any England supporter; 90 minutes of hope, despair, joy and disappointment in any game.

What’s interesting about this year, though, is that the first challenge is easier to overcome than any other world cup I’ve seen. Here’s why; I’ll keep up with the scores and headlines in the same way I keep up with my colleagues, industry headlines, my hobbies, and the news in general – through social media. Every goal, every foul, every full time whistle will be instantly followed by thousands of tweets and profile updates. The FIFA fan page I subscribe to on Facebook will provide me with a constant feed, wherever I happen to be.

The point, of course, is that social media is (or could be) playing a part in every aspect of our lives, whether it’s providing my much-need soccer fix during the world cup, or helping engineers and teams keep up with latest technologies and project updates. At PTC, we’ve seen this coming for a while and have been working hard to incorporate web 2.0 tools in Pro/ENGINEER and core software products - you *may* have heard us talk about this "social product development" stuff.

If you happen to be in Florida for PTC User, get your game card and come see firsthand what these tools are and how you can use them. Visit us on the Pro/E booths. Tell us your story, try out the newest Pro/E capabilities for social product development, and learn about PTC’s brand new customer community – PlanetPTC Community.

But, most important, give me your prediction for June 12, when England meets the USA in Rustenburg. I’m thinking a solid 3-0 to the Lions. Am I wrong?

Monday, June 7, 2010

Thoughts from Inside PTC R&D: Communities for Product Development

This is the next installment in a series of blogs I am posting on how PTC R&D is approaching Social Product Development from an application development perspective. My R&D team is working hard to create some very interesting and innovative software. One of the components of this software is Communities for Product Development... and that is my topic for this post.

In the video below, I discuss how PTC is working to enable two types of communities that will help with colloboration during product development activities. The first is around "Product Communities", where project teams can come together with new Web 2.0 tools and have community type conversations around their products managed in the PTC Product Development System. The second type of community is around "Communities of Practice", where like minded individuals who have a common professional interest can come together to share knowledge and information.

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Take a look and listen below... (And feel free to comment and let me know what you think!)

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Good Products Gone Bad

You don’t have to look far for stories of high-profile product catastrophes (see BP, Toyota, etc). Beyond their severe human and environmental effects, these failings shine a spotlight on product development. Creating viable, safe products entails solving a massive multi-dimensional constraint problem. You need to find the optimal mix of function, reliability, and aesthetics. But you need to do so quickly while thoroughly, with trusted yet cost-effective components, made with minimal manufacturing investment but without taking cheap shortcuts.And so on, and so on.

The sad fact is that sometimes these conflicting dynamics yield a product that fails to meet its expected level of quality with consequences ranging from trivial to fatal. To be clear, this discussion is not intended as critical commentary; it’s only to ask: can social product development help?

We’ve been writing for some time about the ways in which Web 2.0 methods can bring some great process advantages to product development and PLM. But, can these methods also act as a preventative safeguard against the release of under-performing goods?

What if, for example, a project team crowdsourced the validation process of a new component or system, called Project X. Within a secure workspace, guarded by proper access controls, the project manager would provide relevant product data, perhaps including CAD files, past FMEA (failure mode and effects analysis) approaches, and lessons learned from fielded equipment. The company might offer an incentive (a financial reward, public acknowledgement) to the community (which might be internal personnel with the requisite experience and knowledge, but who are not members of Project X) for the best validation approach offered. Previous attempts have been made along these lines. Commercial entities, such as OREDA, have been established for the purpose of aggregating and providing reliability best practices within specific industries. The difference is that this community-based alternative could offer a less costly approach.

Companies such as P&G are very active in this regard , so maybe it’s not too far-fetched. What do you think – could this alleviate some pressure in the realm of quality and reliability management?

On the lighter side, when it comes to bad products, I can’t help but think toy mogul Irwin Mainway pitching one of his top sellers, the “Bag O’Glass.” (You’ll have to endure an ad, but it’s worth it)