There's a lot of skepticism around social networking functionality as it applies to product development. Nevertheless, a good number of tried-and-true CAD and PLM platforms, as well as newcomers, are pushing the envelope when it comes to tapping social capabilities to facilitate project collaboration.
One of the more vocal candidates in the social field is Vuuch, which bills itself as an enterprise social software provider. In 2010, we reported on its adding of a social networking layer to traditional CAD, PLM, and desktop tools like Microsoft Word and Excel. The idea was to give extended product development teams a way to share product-related materials and to communicate in a manner that felt on par with how they collaborate in consumer social networks like Facebook.
Vuuch V5 enhances activity threads via Facebook-like interaction, allowing users
across functions to collaborate in a familiar environment.
The Vuuch 4.0 version released last year emphasized integration with other CAD, PLM, and office productivity platforms, including SpaceClaim and Microsoft's application suite. The newest version, Vuuch 5.0, zeros in on usability enhancements, giving the various constituents in the product development continuum the ability to view project data and manage tasks in a variety of ways. Specifically, the new release offers deliverable-specific dashboards and timelines, Facebook-like threaded discussions, and integration with Microsoft Project, which is still the leading tool used by development teams for coordinating program tasks.
One of the most common reasons engineers are hesitant to apply social networking conventions to serious development work is they perceive a lot of what goes on in networks like Facebook (like "Friending") as frivolous. Vuuch takes a different view of social relationships. It draws connections and keeps teams centered on discussions based on specific work deliverables, not person-to-person relationships.
Vuuch CEO Chris Williams said in a press release announcing the new version:
Consumer social tools connect people based on relationships, sometimes called friending. First generation enterprise social software uses this inappropriate friending model for making connections. Vuuch is the only social @ work solution that connects people based on the work they are involved with. Deliverable centric connections allow a team to drive actionable outcome and channel the flow of information that leads to the conclusion of a project and the conversation around it.