Thursday, August 13, 2009

Product Development is Social

tinkering_alsion Thanks to one of Dion Hinchcliffe's tweets I found an interesting post about 'Social Network and Product Development' on the Cadalyst blog. It was written by Tom Shoemaker.

To me product development is a deeply social activity. People develop product. They have ideas, write them down, share them, design what has been specified, model it, build it, sell and service it.

What I see in the IT world in general and specifically in the world of tools for product development and resource planning, is a big abstraction from reality. There seems to be no 'social' in their stories. Product development, to stay with that topic, is a mechanical process you can automate in big, formal, heavy and expensive tools and you're all set.

I find, the whole Web 2.0 movement is teaching us this is wrong. People are (usually...) social. Information is social. Processes are social. To me that's the big reason why blogs, wiki's, etc are so popular: they connect with reality, with the way people work and think. And there's hardly a technical barrier to get started. No big investments, no long training before you can get to work.

For this reason, the above-mentioned post surprised me. It gave me the idea that you have product development supported by the old, formal tools. This is non-social product development. On the other hand you can 'reach out to the broader network' by socializing these old tools. You just add 'Web 2.0 tools' to it, in a smart way.

But isn't this the wrong way around? If the old tools aren't supporting the social process of product development, they're not supporting much... Product development is not supported by 'a social network organization' as the post says. Product development is the social network, the community, so you will.

And 'Web 2.0 tools' are not just 'forums', 'votes' and managing 'documents. It's much more. Let me turn things around: why do the old tools only support part of the product development process? And therefore see 'web 2.0 tools' as an add-on? (I know vendors that support document management.) Why aren't the old tools 'fun', as the post says? Doesn't this have everything to do with the fact that these tools lost their sense of reality?

So, I don't see a 'risk' in adding 'social' to product development, as is mentioned in the post. (This could lead to less control...) The product development process is social. Taking social from it basically kills it.

Indeed, 'the train has left the station', as the post says. Web 2.0 tools in product development are here to stay. These new tools may even make the old, formal tools obsolete. What would happen, for instance, if Mediawiki (a much used wiki platform in R&D's) would add baselining? (Allowing versioning of a collection of wiki-pages instead of one page.) What then would the real added-value of a Product Data Management System be?

I hope this makes sense. Comments are very welcome.

By the way, talking about social: no commenting on the above-mentioned post is possible...

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