Once little more than a futile cry in the enterprise woods, there are signs the end user is finally starting to find a voice. Enterprise software platforms are tools of business transformation, and as such they focus on the foundations of business process and execution to serve C-level initiatives. Their architectures are largely designed with IT departments in mind as agents of implementation, in order to optimize deployments and integrations, and consequently maximize sales. The one casualty of this business model is the end user, who through no fault of his/her own is an interesting but largely irrelevant factor. They are cogs in the machine, batteries in the Matrix. However, the social and mobile revolutions in consumer technology, along with generational change are beginning to transform old assumptions.
In today’s edition of death by acronyms (DBA?), we’re talking the transformational vision of Model Based Enterprise (or Model Based Engineering depending on your mood and relative wind speed). MBE, quite simply, is a methodology designed to replace the traditional engineering drawing with model-based annotations and information. In theory, MBE aims to dispense with the long-held drafting board legacies in engineering documentation, in order to reduce the labor needed to create drawings while retaining and/or improving the value of documented design intent. In a prior life, MBE was either defined as a drawing-less (Less Drawings – Get it?) initiative or via the prominent subset capability of Product Manufacturing Information (PMI). PMI (not to be confused with the Private Mortgage Insurance or Present Minded Individualism) was a term used to describe the methods of model annotation before it expanded into the full-blown enterprise initiative known as MBE. Chad Jackson of Lifecycle Insights fame just yesterday introduced a 3D Collaboration and Interoperability Report and an accompanying blog entry with some puzzling conclusions.
Share. Collaborate. Profit. It sounds so simple doesn’t it? The file sharing phenomenon is a major trend across both consumer and enterprise, with a deluge of collaborative platforms both large and small. After watching all the shiny demos from Office 365 / SkyDrive to Salesforce Chatter it’s easy to believe that we are at the dawn of a new era: where mankind shall break the bonds of earthly file systems and ascend into the glory of the cloud. Make business social! Stand back mortals, we’re creating value. But, there’s a wee problem, as a species we have a certain trait that even the most meticulously designed system has difficulty overcoming: we can make data landfills like no one else’s business.
The pace of transformation and innovation in software, combined with the rise of the cloud is beginning to challenge traditional notions of software “ownership”. Perpetual licensing, once the cornerstone of software delivery seems now to be under assault, for good or ill. In the past software has been treated much like an appliance or a car, fork over alot of money and stick with it for quite some time. The boldness of vendors pushing hard on subscription models has been the source of some genuine excitement, but also quite a bit of consternation. And now with recent subscription announcements by both Solid Edge and AutoCAD even the sheltered world of CAD is not immune.
The so-called enterprise social networking revolution, determined to transform business collaboration, is in a bind these days. Social continues to manifest itself as cloned Facebook functionality grafted on every enterprise tool from SAP to Windchill. You’ll be hard pressed to run your finger across a tablet or move a mouse pointer across a desktop without tripping over at least a couple social networks . Most of us have accepted this to some degree in our personal lives, and -as many have assumed- there’s plenty of opportunity to accept exactly the same on the business side.
Elon Musk, everyone’s favorite real-life Tony Stark equivalent, recently unveiled a video touting The “Future of Design”, complete with a gestural motion 3D CAD interface and some metallic additive manufacturing thrown in at the end for good measure. While neither Elon himself, nor his pioneering SpaceX engineers are directly responsible for any of the specific technologies involved, their compelling mashup has been quite popular on the interwebs.
The point of the demo, other than fabulous PR, is to emphasize that technologies for intuitively manipulating 3D design are here now. The fact the mashup exists without really having to invent anything is evidence enough. The ideas only need refinement and a healthy dose of iterative development to bring about some interesting new UI innovations.
You know who they are. The end runners. The troublemakers. Rogue squadron. They are the people in your organization fed up with the status quo and staging a little Coup d’état as an act of defiance and frustration. There’s a token few that are just outright anarchists, but most in fact believe themselves to be fighting for a noble cause. Perhaps their rationale is slightly flawed, and their means troublesome, but they are just trying to get their work done in a way that makes sense. You may very well be one of them.
They are, collectively, Batman Shadow IT. <<really need a theme song here>>
These are the people who are floating company IP out on Dropbox because it’s easier. They may have their own homegrown key value store database server next to the toilet because it’s faster. They may have found a way to spoof that mandatory attribute screen on the PLM system or they’re hacking away on the company’s proprietary schematics on their iPhone. Do they mean to be reckless? Generally, no. They just may not have thought through the consequences completely – especially within the larger business picture. Generally, security tends to be rather high on the list of oversights. And when oversights end up affecting quality or worse – violating laws and/or regulations- this can be a serious problem.