Social Product Development

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:

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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)