Social Product Development

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.