Interview With Analyst Jim Brown

I often point out a Jim Brown example when I talk about social media here at Siemens. It was probably a year and half ago when Jim and I realized from respective tweets that we were both in the Philly airport. The next thing you know we were eating some fried green beans and catching up live. So when people ask “why do you tweet where you are at or what you are doing” I point to that example as how it helps you make live connections.

Jim and I haven’t been in the same airport for a while so I caught up with him over e-mail to find out what he’s working on. He’s become the driving analyst voice in our industry on social computing so I’m always interested in what he has to say.

Q: What kinds of projects are you working on right now?


A: I am researching a number of topics. The common theme is how companies can improve business processes and the use of technologies (such as PLM) to improve business performance. The business areas I focus on are product innovation, product development, and engineering. I also touch on other issues for the manufacturing industry. Sample projects include the business value of simulation on one end (engineering), to the evolving nature of product portfolio management (on the marketing / strategy end). I also focus on issues like roles of ERP and PLM and how they should work together. Perhaps the newest topic I have been spending my energy on is the use of social computing in PLM. Some very interesting possibilities.


Q: How has PLM evolved in the past few years in your opinion?

A: I believe PLM has evolved in four major aspects. I started writing about that in my blog post “<a href=””>What I Learned – PLM Please Take 3 Giant Steps Forward,” but that was only considering three of the four, and the fourth was “honorable mention.” It has since been promoted. The three areas of expansion are to include more people, to cover a much broader view of the product (commercial and technical), to a greater portion of the product lifecycle (including ideation / innovation on one end, and service management on the other). The fourth is to cover more business processes. See graphic below.


Q: Where do you think PLM is headed?

A: More of the same, really. The one major shift that I see (that I didn’t predict) was the increased use of social computing. That has really taken me by surprise. But the potential is significant. It is fascinating to see how creative companies are being in how they use it, although adoption is still in the early, experimental phases for most. But product development is a “team sport” and what better way to get a group of people on the same page?

Q: How has your view of the industry and software changed as you changed roles from user to vendor to analyst to consultant?

A: Good question. You missed management consultant in there too. wink I think having those different roles has been very important. I don’t think of “users” of software, I think of people I used to work with. When I was a consultant, I knew there was a difference in what the vision that companies were striving for and what it is like in the trenches trying to get your job done in less than a 10 hour day. I try to keep that perspective. I think it keeps it real. That is also why I spend so much time talking to manufacturers for my research. To keep it real. Even if I am talking about something that is a couple of levels of maturity above where most companies are, I want to make sure I am sensitive to that.

Q: Why are you on Twitter?

A: To communicate with my peer group, and to learn. I like Twitter because of the community, which is the same reason I like Facebook. I am not as active in the “water cooler” chit chat on Twitter (although I enjoy it sometimes), I am more interested in seeing what articles and insights people share, and sharing my own.

Q: Can you give me an example of an interesting conversation you’ve had on Twitter or LinkedIn the past year?

I was tweeting about a conference I was attending, and I got a direct message back from a woman that works for a very interesting vendor in the Quality Lifecycle Management arena. The last time I spoke with her she was at IBM. Because we were both interested in the context of the event and both communicating via Twitter (using the hashtag for the event), we ended up reconnecting and I was able to learn about her new software company. There is real value in connecting the community around common interests, whether it is a topic, an event, an organization – or perhaps a product development project

social computing & product collaboration report that we provided some funding for. What were your key takeaways from that research?

Q: You recently did a

A: I should ask what your takeaways are after you read it, with the depth of experience you have gained in social media. If you remember, you were one of the people that first got me started with Twitter. I believe there is a “Product Collaboration 2.0” on the horizon. There are a few.

Fundamentally, product collaboration and social computing are a natural fit. Social computing helps people collaborate in a way that has been lost with virtual teams and global business. It puts the community back in touch. Very importantly, it puts them in touch around a context – the product. At COFES last year a guy from Boeing said “we aren’t going to design an airplane on Facebook.” Too true. But the concepts behind something like Facebook, when coupled with PLM are huge. But you know that.

The two new things that I am trying to point out relate to product knowledge. Social computing helps develop more electronic conversations around product development. That leads to better sharing of existing knowledge, but also the discovery of new knowledge. The traditional form of collaboration is usually only with people you know. Social approaches lead you to discover new knowledge from people you are connected with through your network, but would typically not find. Whether that is a public network (less likely) or corporate social networking within your company. Finally, there is knowledge capture. All of the decisions, discussions, debates, conversations, and arguments that were previously lost can now be associated with a project so future projects can leverage that information. How powerful is that? To imagine that your company can really learn from all of their past intellectual work, and not just try to copy the answer (which may not apply)?

Q: What are the top issues you think users of CAD/PLM software have on their minds in 2010?

A: The recovering economy. Most people are happy to have jobs. There are signs that the manufacturing industry is hiring. Last year companies were in a “survive and thrive” mode. Survive the down economy, and then innovate behind the scenes as much as they could to set themselves up for the recovery. Now is the time where the dust is starting to settle and we will see who was just able to survive, and who had the ability to continue to innovate despite lean times. But mostly, I think they are just saying “thank God 2009 is over.”

Thanks Jim for answering my questions. See you on Twitter.

If you have a question or comment for Jim, please leave a comment here or visit him on his Clarity on PLM blog.


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