Friday, February 18, 2011

Social Product Development: Hype or Chance?

I would like to thank my fellow PLM Consultant Christian Neumann for the contribution of the following guest post:
With the definition of social product development and first business examples of already realized concepts with innovative web 2.0 based software, one question is yet not answered. By using social product development tools and methods, why should this concept speed up your product development and in which stage of your product development process is this concept actually helpful or needed? Is there a conceptual focus on consumer products only, or is it even possible to have  customers develop vehicles?
Idea generation:
Sharing of ideas by company-organized web communities is a very popular application using web 2.0 technologies. Some examples of companies, especially for consumer products, using web based generation methods (e.g. BMW: Customer Innovation Lab) are well known. The obvious motivation for this is to think of the company as innovative (as a marketing effect) instead of getting radically new ideas.
Idea evaluation:
To evaluate already created ideas according to strategic and business ambitions (e.g. strategic product platforms, strategic patents) is a tough task for companies. Quirky is using the web community to evaluate ideas as a first step according to customer benefits and acceptance. As a result of early stage evaluation by customers, the business economic value of these ideas will be more visible. This approach by Quirky reduces investments and effort in proof of concept or the creation of product prototypes.
Pilot application, prototype development and testing:
Investments in prototypes are mostly necessary to check or pilot the application before the production process can start. Windchill SocialLink by PTC already uses functionality of social product development to communicate via web in real-time, sharing of development related informations or chat via instant messaging with worldwide distributed internal development departments. The connection of external development service companies or customers with development skills (using CAD software as freeware) in the prototype development process can be the next evolution to speed up the development process.
In summary, as a very short analysis, social product development as a PLM method has found a way into departments of product development. Social product development is a method to detect market trends, business opportunities and customer needs in the early stages of the product development process. The customer is reflecting his personal needs himself and is proud to have created and developed his own product.

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