Sunday, April 15, 2012

The "Gamification" of PLM

Are you a gamer? Every day millions of people are online playing MMORPG (Massive Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games); do you know what that is? They play games like WoW, SWG, EQ, AO, Runescape, and use terms like MUD, Ganked, Dirt nap, and Crit. If you've ever watched an online game tournament, you know how intense and interactive these "games" can be. Roughly 12 million people are subscribed to World of Warcraft (WoW), and that's just one game. At any one time there might be 10,000 - 40,000 people playing together in this virtual "world".

The other day I was thinking about the amazing power of these online "games": Someone sitting in their home in Germany can be playing an online game with another person in California. They can see the same information, they can talk to each other, and they can interact in real time; they can also see and interact with hundreds of other people. All you need is an XBox, or other gaming device, a cheap headset, inexpensive online access to a basic game, and you're ready to go. It seems easy for anyone to collaborate in this way, and very natural.

I started to think about PLM, and wondered why we cannot have this kind of collaboration in our daily work. Are you telling me that a $500 XBox with a cheap game, and a few added gadgets has more power to collaborate than my $30k worth of PLM hardware and software? This just doesn't make any sense.

Then, the other day, I saw a demonstration of this kind of technology: three people were working on a solid model all at the same time using this kind of technology. Of course, the model was on the cloud on a server somewhere, but all three people were making changes to the model and adding features, and all three people saw the same updates at the same time. These people were able to communicate about the changes, and work together in real time! Now, that's collaboration!

We don't see these types of capabilities as part of our PLM systems today, but the technology has existed for a long time to do this. As more and more PLM capabilities are made available on the cloud, I think we will see PLM vendors pushing the envelope in this direction; at least I hope so. The potential is available to make our experience with PLM at least as good as a person playing an MMORPG. There is no good reason we can't have as much fun collaborating with PLM as we can playing World of Warcraft.

Maybe PLM vendors should add guns, magic spells, and fun characters to our daily work. Instead of logging in as just plain old Engineer1, wouldn't you like to log in as: "Level 34 Spell-casting Shaman"?

What do you think? Can these gaming technologies make an impact on how we collaborate with PLM?

- Jim


  1. I can see a blurring borders between gaming software and design software. It comes also in technological aspects and in behaviors. One thing vendors should remember - future customers will learn games first, CAD systems - second. Just my thoughts.

    More ideas here - PLM and future of gamification from the last year post.

    Best, Oleg

  2. Oleg,

    Thanks for the comment.

    Yes, I agree. Especially the newer engineers that are joining companies today; they all play games. This means that if you put them into an environment that is "gamified", they will readily accept it.

    I hope to see more of this kind of technology in the future from PLM vendors.


  3. It's not just a question of games or not. It has to be a great game. There are only a few mega blockbusters and a lot of once-used discarded games never to be seen again out there.

  4. Ray,

    Thanks for your comment.

    Yes, I agree, but as of today, no one would confuse using PLM with playing a game. So, even if we saw some small amount of "gamification" improve PLM collaboration, I think most people would be ecstatic! Even a very bad online game is probably better than most PLM systems today.

    I will be curious to see how this helps PLM in the future.


    - Jim

  5. Totally agree Jim, great post. 1 roadblock in mmorpg is people behaving badly but within the set boudaries (think about a bossfight where the tank goes afk).
    Even though gamification gets abused alot these days by marketing, the intense, collaborative effort of a few dedicated individuals from all over the globe bend on a single goal can lead to something great.
    There are some interesting examples of gamification (and the pro's and cons) on I can recommend for a start point there.

  6. Thanks for the comment!

    I love the stuff on There is some really great ideas here that I hope we start to see within the context of PLM. When many people can put their brains together to solve complex problems, the solutions is usually better than one person solving the problem.

    I hope we can start to see this kind of Extreme Collaboration.

    Stay tuned...


    - Jim