Do we need SBA for Product data?

I had chance recently to work for a project to refund part of the IS system. This project was accumulating several applications serving different user communities like engineering, program, purchasing and more. One of the objectives of that project was to enhance access of data across different applications. Indeed, it is a common need for an average user to find quickly the data he is searching, even its own data. Working with an increasing number of applications, generating more and more data, users start to feel anxious simply finding the data they generated some month ago. And for sure this is even truer with the data generated by others.

This was strange at the start to admit that most of the existing applications were containing their own search engine, but was not able to satisfy people, and only basic search methods were used because they are known and safe, like searching by numbers. This method is a bit frustrating for most people, don’t knowing the numbers. The other method is to build classical search methods, based on navigation paths across the application, which paths are simply not manageable by users if they do not use the application everyday. A solution consists in implementing those complex search paths into specific search functions, but this is not satisfying all needs and constrains.

So we turned our head to a new technology, which was Exalead. This application was coming from a completely different world, the web world, trying to solve the issue managing huge volume of data, from different sources, and providing not a perfect result like any existing search engine, but allowing to the user to filter data from qualifiers found in the indexed data.

Then it brings back to me numerous old situations were I was trying to figure how to design data models, and associated business processes, but when at the end I wanted to retrieve data created, I was simply not able, because the way used to search data had to be the one used when designing the application: by number, by state,…

With that application, I could imagine search data from a transversal way, which was not the way the application was designed, but the way the users had used the application to enter data, which may be different. Do they enter the name of a customer in the dedicated field or in the description of the object, it does not matter. And we know how much time we spend defining methodologies and control methods, telling the user to enter data following very specific rules, with dash and no space, no slash, with # between the first and second terms, and so on.

Then it brought to me confusion, and make me do a step back. For sure, Google experience has passed before, and we are used to use now for personal usage one search field to find anything. But one of PLM applications objective is usually to provide ability to reuse data, and search capability is a key tool for that purpose. This new way retrieving data could be a source of innovation for product development activities. Because when we think re-use, we think reusing the exactly same data. In fact, today a lot of data exists, and while in the past it was natural to start brainstorming between a group of experts to design a new product, and get ideas from those experts, now a part of the building blocks for a new product are clearly available in the cloud, private or public. The important thing is now to have the right tool to find this data or at least similar data, and not spend too much time searching for it, to finally recreate it.

But the most exciting characteristic of Exalead was to be able to investigate simplification of the semantic challenges that a company with many sites worldwide has to manage everyday, with many languages and many different wording. This may lead to a new trend, building CPI, Cloud based Product Innovation.

So I see clear opportunities implementing SBA for Product data in the future. What do you think?

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One Response to “Do we need SBA for Product data?”
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