Cloud PLM, social collaboration, 3D experience, consumerization… If you are breathing the air of design, engineering, and manufacturing technologies and software, you can identify these combinations of words as trends and attempts by vendors to leapfrog into the future of software and solutions.
I can understand it – companies are looking for a new hero. I’m always excited to see how marketing brains are developing new vision and strategies. Thinking about the last decade, much of the innovation came in the form of consumer tech. If you are not following consumer technology trends nowadays, you are in danger of losing lots of important and really powerful things.
Just read the Mashable article 5 Digital Trends Shaping the Consumer Experience by Macala Wright Lee. One trend that caught my attention was Calm Technology. Despite the fact that the writeup was about consumer experience, I found it matched the situation I see with PLM and other engineering data management and collaboration software.
Calm technology refers to applications that cut down on the digital noise of high-volume data to show the user only enough information so that he or she is able to focus on a task. Mark Weiser is considered to be the father of “ubiquitous computing,” a synonym for calm technology. The whole idea is to reduce distractions to our workflow without losing functionality. Weiser postulated that we should not be seeking to enter the virtual world by shopping in 3D environments, but that digital technology should enter our lives in such a way as to make it calmer and easier, not more distracted and disrupted, thus blurring the line between digital and real life experiences.
Do you like this idea? Actually, I think it’s nailing the problem most PDM/PLM products are now facing. Complexity, information overflow, complicated processes. So, how do you reduce distraction from workflows? Here are my top 3 ideas on how it can be done.
- Reduce the number of information streams. The problem I can see is that every piece of software today is competing against the other. In an average company every person has multiple sources of information – email, process management, workflow systems and more. As a result, people are getting distracted by information streams. To reduce it to ONE should be the goal.
- Introduce task oriented behavior. My everyday life is a sequence of tasks. Task (and not UI, workbench, dashboard, etc.) needs to be a focus of new software development innovation.
- Introduce contextual connectivity. Context is the new king of enterprise software. It allows the organization of information according to the specific data elements. The contextual connectivity helps to filter “needed data” connected to the task.
What’s my conclusion? In Designing Calm Technology, Weiser and John Seely Brown describe calm technology as “that which informs but doesn’t demand our focus or attention.” I want collaborative software to stop behaving like a noisy monster and move to a state of invisible, quiet servant.
I don’t think there is a simple recipe for how to do this. PLM vendors can look for examples in consumer devices, web and mobile application behaviors and other consumer-oriented technologies and companies. I see it as possible. What’s your view?
Oleg Shilovitsky writes a daily blog Beyond PLM which focuses on engineering and manufacturing software. Shilovitsky has been building software products for data management, engineering and manufacturing for the last 20 years and holds a PhD in CAD Systems from the Moscow Civil Engineering Institute.