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The Role of Social Networking in Product Development (or lack of)
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Social networking may have become a deeply embedded aspect of many people’s lives but it will probably be a few more years before it becomes a fact of life for the engineering world.

While the technology has a great deal to offer companies working in the engineering space the industry has to be prepared for a major shift in the way it does business before the technology can be leveraged at its full potential.

During interviews with blogger and president of Lifecycle Insights Chad Jackson, Tech-Clarity president Jim Brown and Bill Boswell Senior Director, Global Partner Marketing, Siemens PLM Software, all three individuals discussed the potential that social networking has in product development and the challenges that have kept it from becoming a fully integrated practice.

All three commentators agreed that the technology still has some time to go before it becomes a fact of life for engineering organizations. “I think it’s still in its early stages and so far it’s just the early adopters that are making it work for them,” said Jackson. “And even they are finding ways to use it only in very specific scenarios.”

Bill Boswell Senior Director, Global Partner Marketing, Siemens PLM Software

Jackson continued saying that he thought a lot of the problems that are keeping the technology from becoming mainstream stem from high-level decision makers in engineering organizations. The problem they have is actually finding a way to make social networking a fit for them, he explained.

From Boswell's perspective social networking is the latest iteration of rapid development in communication technology that has taken place in recent years with the prevalence of mobile phone systems and text messaging, which ultimately enables faster and more efficient communication.

However, while text messaging and mobile telephone networks have largely grown up in a business context, social networking has not.

The outlets that people have become most familiar with, such as Facebook and Twitter, are primarily used by friends and family and for very informal business communications for that matter.

According to Brown engineers and designers who are interested in using social networking technology are part of a group that have made the mental connection that social networking is not a solution that they can just add to their list of other tools. They have realized it will be a replacement for tools, such as email or instant messaging and that in the end could allow them to better streamline their communication processes.

He continued saying this is in many ways the primary appeal of the technology. Not only will social networking give companies an overlapping collaboration tool, but it will also allow them to both filter and store the information that is generated through the collaboration technology.

It seems that in social networking early decision making and collaboration is key. Said Jackson “When I think of solving engineering challenges I think first about how important it is to make the right decisions early on." “I think of ways to solve problems amongst a team that may be widely distributed.”
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Published  08/04/2011 
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