Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Why is Social PLM DOA?

For the past two years I have heard many technology vendors touting the benefits of social tools. No one can miss the astounding uptake of such solutions as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Linkedin and others. There have been many articles on the value that social tools can bring to your business. However, the uptake of social tools within Engineering organizations in the guise of social PLM has been very low; possibly non-existent.

Why is this the case? Is there no value in Engineering for social tools, or is it just hard to exploit these tools in the product development environment? There is clearly a need for more social collaboration during product design, so it would stand to reason that these social tools would have some value. As I have introduced many engineers to Social PLM in my PLM Certificate Education classes, I have often wondered about the lack of enthusiasm for these kinds of tools.

I think there are three main reasons for this lack of excitement for the potential value of Social PLM:

1) Age - Most of the people in my classes are not young. No offense, but most of you are pretty old, uh, I mean experienced. Very few are linked up with the tools teenagers user every day. Many of these experienced engineers look at Facebook and Twitter as huge time wasters with no real value. Some of my students are just now learning to text...what? Come on!

2) Email dependence - I am old enough to remember when some people called email a fad. Now we have become dependent on 100s of emails invading our in-box each day. When you tell most Engineers that there is something that might one day replace email, it's like telling them you are taking away their favorite slide rule (I remember those too); the push-back is predictable.

3) Separate software applications - All of the Social PLM tools I have seen are delivered as separate software applications that must be learned. An Engineer is not going to leave the CAD/CAM/PDM/email environment to learn and use another application, unless required.

So, what is the answer? In my opinion, until we have social tools embedded into the native PDM applications that Engineers are using today to do their work, social PLM uptake will be slow. Look at some of what is available today: SocialLink from PTC, 3DSWYM from Dassault, Teamcenter Community from SiemensPLM, and a host of point solutions: Yammer, Jive, Vuuch, etc... Many of these social solutions are based on MS Sharepoint, and they bring the inherent limitations of that tool. All of these software solutions also require the engineer to learn some type of new tool. I just don't see that happening very quickly.

I hope to see social features moved from standalone software solutions into the PDM environment, where they are easy to use, and readily available. Then, I think you will see Engineers and others start to use them, and they will begin to see the value of social PLM tools for product design.

What do you think?




  1. Jim, completely agree with your analysis - Social PLM is officially dead. In my view, most of social tools for PLM were trying to "run a social hype" and didn't provide a clear value for individuals. Here my writeup about that - Best, Oleg

  2. Oleg, thanks for your comments.

    I had high hopes for this technology a couple of years ago, but it has not panned out. I think the social technologies still have great potential for product development, but they must be provided in an acceptable way. The idea that a "Facebook for PLM" will work has been proven wrong.



    1. Jim,

      Your observations mirror mine.
      Even though I am also a member of the slide rule and pre-email generation, I believe we need to prepare for the younger generation of engineers entering the market now. They have quite different expectations, and ways of communicating
      I am sure that Social PLM's time will come.


  3. At least in Brazil, PLM is not yet connecting Product to Process very well, so Social is even more far to happen. Companies are afraid of exposing data even inside the company, this is all about Culture and Trust in Systems Security, and I agree no PLM Company has a good Plataform for Colaboration and well Connected to the PLM tool yet! Hope will soon and in my perspective would be kind of mixture of Google, Linkedin and Facebook tools inside PLM Software, "only" my thoughts!

  4. Great comments. I like your observation about product and process not connecting very well. This most certainly has an impact on social PLM tools. I also agree that as the older engineers retire, and the younger ones take over, we will see a much greater appetite for social PLM tools.



  5. Jim, I have a somewhat differing view. Social PLM was a marketing attempt to attach PLM to whatever was trending - regardless of ultimate value. All the fanfare of social PLM is a distraction from the fact that PLM is not achieving its mission to define a single source of truth in a fully collaborative environment. My full view at: