I am a Twitter user….. are you? I am writing ‘tweets’ (as InsidePLM name also) as I want to understand how this technology can be used and what potential business value it may bring to an engineering process. Tweets you could consider the most simple form of collaboration, you let another person know what you are doing, you are in fact networking. Twitter could be considered a component of collaboration technology.
Today’s business environment of working together is complex and without a technology to help, you would really struggle. Collaboration technology encompasses a broad range of tools that enable groups of people to collaborate including; social networking, instant messaging, team spaces, application sharing, audio conferencing, video, and telephony. Many large but also SMB companies are developing ‘enterprise’ collaboration strategies and standardize on a collaboration framework to allow their employees, customers and partners to intelligently and virtually connect and interact.

Much of this ‘stuff’ is developed under the umbrella of Web 2.0. It concerns the changing trends in the use of World Wide Web technology and web design, with the aim to enhance creativity, communication and secure information sharing. Web 2.0 concepts have led to the development and evolution of web culture communities and hosted services, such as social-networking sites, video sharing sites, wikis, blogs.

In a series of posts I’ll be writing about various functions and capabilities and how they may be used in a PLM context.

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Collaboration frameworks are offered by several PLM vendors and some have experience with SharePoint in a PLM context. A collaboration framework offers companies and employees the ability to share and manage ‘project’ data and through these functions collaborate more effective. Successful collaboration occurs when each participant [or stakeholder] is able to make a unique contribution toward achieving a common goal. In this post I’ll be talking about the technology in support of collaboration.

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Application Sharing is a capability to granting remote access to a computer and enables two or more users to simultaneously and in real time access a shared application to view e.g. a document while being session ‘host’ or ‘guest’. Generally, the shared application will be running on a host computer, and remote access to the shared content will be provided to other users by the meeting host. This type of application provide capabilities to conduct for example a visual Product Design Review while each of the participants are at different (remote) locations. The business benefits are massive. Not only is the conference attendance effort minimized but also the cost of travel. You can also intensify the frequency of these review without any additional effort and cost. Some applications may be integral with for example SharePoint. But also the stand alone applications are rich. Recently I tried the Adobe ‘ConnectNow’ and also InnerPass from Skype. Not only did ConnectNow provide functions to share the desktop; also webcam, (one-to-one) chat, shared meeting notes and files and lastly white board. Obviously meeting notes are candidates to be captured back into PLM when formal; for example as part of a PDR/CDR (i.e. design reviews) and the less formal you would store back into the project collaboration platform.

‘Instant’ Messaging (IM or IMing) is an application to shoot an instant text message for ‘Quick questions and clarifications’ and enable rapid information dissemination and decision-making between one or more persons ‘collaborating’. The text is conveyed via devices (also phone) connected over a network such as the Intra/Internet. It is an informal form of knowledge exchange although the actual conversation can be saved for different purposes. IM is also less intrusive, as ‘discussions’ between co-workers are briefer compared with for example phone. Still certain IM clients today also support traditional phone capabilities (VOIP) as well as support of file sharing and webcam. There is a large variety of IM clients and Wikipedia publishes a list of these. One of the key impediments to a large usage today is the compatibility of protocols. The escape is to use a developer with a strong market presence and rich functions. Skype for example started as an internet phone capability and includes now IM as well (see also Application Sharing).
So IM is an ideal tool to quickly consult an ‘online’ coworker regarding a technical challenge. Working with companies we see this technology used as the need for effective knowledge sharing, team working and collaborative environments amongst employees has become vital, especially those teams working in geographically dispersed. Statistics further learns that Tens of millions of the consumer IM accounts in use are being used for business purposes by employees of companies and other organizations. IM adoption usually is a bottom-up evolution as employees adopt these capabilities, sometime against company (compliance) rules.

Working with a company in the past we discussed how PLM could support the capture of knowledge. We did a brief analysis and realized that in the specific company situation it basically was to do with the with the lack of complete product definition. Although operating a ‘PDM’ system for some years it still lacked a holistic approach i.e. explicit knowledge stored at an all accessible place. The core of our recommendation was to address the issue of completeness and to also apply CMII principles about baselining.

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As I stated in the intro. I use Twitter. I got curious a while ago how this technology can be used in Engineering. Consider Twitter an internet based text messaging service. Yammer is the corporate intranet variant. Tweets are the actual blog posts (like this article). Twitter is in fact a so called micro blog. Twitter can be read by all, whereas Yammer only by those that share the same company email domain name. Coincidental, posts on Yammer are still called tweets.

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‘Facebook’ and the professional network LinkedIn are examples of an interactive way to keep in touch with people you know. In a business context these people may be colleagues or persons you may have worked with in the past or even ‘supplier’ connections.
I suppose we all know Facebook (FB), for those who do not, just google it. In this short post I will NOT be talking about the social side of FB rather the business side/potential.

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