Updated 2/3/11: SocialLink is only available in the full Arbortext PDMLink (Windchill)

For many companies, the product development process now crosses organizational and national boundaries, making it more difficult than ever for team members to interact. Arbortext PDMLink (Windchill) SocialLink meets these challenges by combining social computing with rich product content from Arbortext PDMLink, to build powerful communities of innovators. Built upon Microsoft SharePoint 2010, Arbortext PDMLink (Windchill) SocialLink creates a place for product teams to engage within product and practice communities:

  • Create product and practice communities that capture and foster collaboration across the product development organization
  • Organize information based on product content from Arbortext PDMLink, improving relevance for community members
  • Deliver the right content to the right stakeholders in the right context

Here’s the idea

We all know that collaboration is critical to the product development process. Products are becoming more complex, so development teams have to keep pace by bringing on more types of specialists. How can product development team members leverage the capabilities of experts from throughout the far corners of the extended enterprise to solve problems without delays?

Typically, you start by looking inside your team for the expertise needed to overcome these challenges. But in the common situation when you come up short, you’re faced with a difficult challenge.

It may be very difficult to locate an expert with precisely the credentials needed to tackle the problem at hand among the many technical people in the organization. The expert’s title or the specific project that the expert is assigned to might give little clue to whether he or she has the expertise needed to help solve the current problem. It may take a considerable amount of time for emails and phone calls to identify the right person. Even once the right expert is located, they will probably be far from the team that needs assistance, making it difficult to bring their skills to bear on the problem.

Arbortext PDMLink (Windchill) SocialLink addresses these issues by delivering powerful social computing tools that can improve product development team interaction throughout the product development lifecycle. SocialLink allows you to associate product data to communities and collaborative activities. Product designers and engineers can now engage one another in real time within the Arbortext PDMLink environment to ask questions, share information, solve problems and stay in touch with their colleagues.

Arbortext PDMLink (Windchill) SocialLink makes it much easier to locate experts throughout the organization. Arbortext PDMLink (Windchill) SocialLink includes Communities of Practice that can be established and organized by people with shared professional interests, such as plastics or Cloud Computing or DITA. Or, you can create communities that are linked to specific products in Arbortext PDMLink. Product developers can create profiles that provide a detailed description of their areas of expertise and experience. These skilled professionals can contribute knowledge by writing posts to their blog in the context of the product community or community of practice that technical writers can leverage when writing initial product documentation.

A product development team member trying to solve a problem can search for someone with the right expertise by searching profiles and blog posts. The team can post a question to a related practice or product community. Team members can automatically receive notifications of answers to their question, new posts that match a search query or other items of interest. Alerts can be received via the Arbortext PDMLink (Windchill) SocialLink activity feed, emails or toaster pop-ups in the user’s desktop environment.

Once a virtual team is assembled, real-time conferencing makes it possible to begin work immediately on solving the problem at hand. As each member of the virtual team makes comments or adds information, the response immediately appears in Arbortext PDMLink (Windchill) SocialLink. The association within product data dramatically improves the collaborative process. For example, a team member can link to a component when posting a question.

Imagine that one of your technical writers is developing the content for a new interface and wants to make sure that the actions they’re describing match what engineering has been implementing. The writer has never documented this kind of behavior before and would rather have someone with more experience involved to make sure the assumptions so far are correct. The project engineer that the writer would usually go to, isn’t available, so the writer posts a rendering of the proposed text on the UI Community of Practice to solicit input.

A engineer, with relevant experience, working late in Germany receives notification of the question and immediately responds and suggests a change in the text that should improve readability based on assumptions that can be expected by the highly-technical audience. The technical writer immediately messages a senior writer and an editor and asks them to join the conference to get their feedback on the readability of the proposed text change. The team members each provide comments and within a few minutes everyone agrees on a new text that resolves the technical and issue while meeting readability and usability constraints and avoiding a cost increase due to publication and translation later on.

Arbortext PDMLink (Windchill) SocialLink provides social computing capabilities such as microblogging, discussion forums and real-time activity feeds with full connectivity to the product data in Arbortext PDMLink. It enables product development team members to discover experts within the organization while providing a channel for real-time communications that solves problems faster than ever before. The result is a substantial acceleration and improvement to the product development process.

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