Any single Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) implementation is a unique combination of configuration and customization – a direct reflection of a particular company’s process, values, and structure. It’s a rare thing for PLM software to be introduced into a green field IT landscape, devoid of any data ownership competition or entrenched legacies. Not surprisingly, these pre-existing conditions color the solution, and uniqueness shines through even if two companies are executing on the exact same software platform. Long has the industry sought a magical Out of the Box (OOTB) alternative, something aiming to commoditize design and implementation as a simple turn-key package. Just add data, and a magical unicorn pops out, bringing transformational business process and rainbows everywhere. Certainly there have been no shortage of grand visions to achieve exactly that, but most such attempts have been rather disappointing. The common conclusion is you can’t get there from here; implementation must necessarily be unique. Companies are snowflakes. But snowflakes bring customization, and ownership costs rise considerably, becoming an adoption barrier. This is especially true for the little snowflakes, also known as Small-to-Medium Business (SMB). What to do?
Let’s get the obvious out of the way: Google is an innovator. Their domination in advertising keeps the revenue conveniently flowing, and their self-incubating culture affords them the freedom to truly experiment on a variety of technologies or acquire those who do. Some of these technology experiments take off, others not so much. Whether the experiments independently generate revenue is almost secondary – as long as there’s room for it in whatever the current Google vision happens to be. However, such unencumbered innovation has a price: what happens when that vision changes? Google doesn’t like playing second fiddle in any given space for long. Instead of evolving a product like any other company to create an effective self-sustaining business model, Google tends to favor the more dramatic approach once the experiment has run its course: blow ’em out the nearest airlock. Think some aspect of Google’s repertoire is necessarily safe? You might think again, in space no one can hear your disapproval.
This is Episode 2 of a continuing series about enterprise gamification, exploring aspects of game design that have relevance in improving the utility and effectiveness of engineering software and processes. If you haven’t already, go check out Episode 1: Press Start, which introduces the concept of gamification from this perspective.
What’s probably the most identifiable and often copied aspect of modern game design in most any gamification context? Almost certainly, that would have to be achievements. But what the heck is an achievement? Achievements are independent goals abstracted from the main premise of a game, and are a wholly optional aspect of enhancing gameplay or extending engagement. Outside of gaming achievements are often referred to as badging or digital badges (not to be confused with badges on the iPhone). Unlike levels, quests, or other in-game objectives, specific achievements generally have no bearing on progressing gameplay though they may be related to those in-game objectives. Earning an achievement is generally an award for completing a milestone, demonstrating a skill, or accomplishing something unusual. While not vital to the specific game mechanic, they serve to enhance, incentivize, and encourage replayability. The idea is not original – witness the merit badge system long used by the Cub Scouts, for example. The concept is generally the same. Achievements are a visible motivational tool. Though as we will discuss, there’s potential for them to be so much more than just that. Emphasis on potential, in that achievements (even within the exclusive realm of gaming) are often poorly designed.
Tensions in the larger enterprise war between Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) and Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) appear to be on the rise, and the latest battleground is apparently waving the Master Data Management (MDM) banner. The genesis of this conflict stems from the intersection of two different visions, PLM and ERP born from opposite ends of the enterprise. To understand how we got here, check out The Multi-Headed Dragon. Remember how I told you not to taunt happy-fun multi-headed dragon? Well, Multi-Headed Dragon is cranky. Increasingly, it looks like new battle lines are being drawn on the stage of a very old war. An important question to ask: will territory finally be ceded one way or another, or is this just another episode of Bill of Material (BOM) Groundhog Day? Integrations shall be shaken! BOMs shall be splintered! Migrate now to ruin, and the world’s ending! Continue reading
Enterprise software, and the assumptions and paradigms that go with it, are under assault. Consumerized products that find their way into the enterprise are redefining what it means to be an enterprise software application. I was reminded of this very fact just this week, during what has become a rather predictable biennial experience for me: the phone upgrade. The changing of the guard, as it were, sounds rather innocuous, right? Buy shiny new phone, throw old phone into ocean*. Despite my obvious evangelism and appreciation of new technology, the excitement of the moment is always tempered by a little bit of dread. It’s not a fear of change per se, but just trepidation about the consequences of change. With each new phone comes some sort of data migration, analysis of data plans, incompatibilities, interface differences, reconfiguration, re-personalization, various hassling by the carrier, and questions about accessories. Do I need a new case? It’s time to revaluate note and to-do list apps (again). What unspeakable horrors will the new device do to my contacts sync’d in the car? Inevitably, some legacies have to be let go as a consequence of the transition, and new paradigms are adopted. The whole adventure doesn’t cause any acute kidney pain, but it is time consuming. The phone is a mission critical piece of my technological puzzle and the parallels are very apparent. If I were an enterprise, the phone along with my primary PC is my digital backbone. Recalling when I first went from a brick phone to a flip, or a flip to Blackberry, or Blackberry to Android, the reaction was always the same. This is just simply better. With every moment, it’s unequivocally obvious that technology has progressed, significantly. I immediate forget about any concerns – because I sure as hell am not going back. Can we say the same about enterprise software?