The Paperless Office


Question: Should we really put all our workflows into the product lifecycle management system?

For the love of God, no. You’ll spend all day long clicking through browser windows to do one simple task. Upload only the essential aspects of those workflows.

It’s tempting to hyper-automate everything online but these PLM systems aren’t really designed for that kind of customized granularity. You’ll spend months just designing screens and testing workflows, and months more trying to convince yourself that it really is better than it was before when you could check in everything in 2 seconds.

It’s OK to keep the commenting and revisions online, if you’ve got a simple tool for it. What I’m talking about are control-based “workflows” with “gates” and “escalations” of the type used in manufacturing design environments.

The point is to keep it quick and simple, but not stateless. The fewer mouse clicks, fiddly selecting of text or tiny tool icons, scrolling, logging into some remote system that keeps kicking me out, swapping of task windows that I have to do on my desktop, the better.

Any task that requires multiple steps is prone to breaking in the middle. It is hard to concentrate with 25 task windows open, and then I’m constantly fishing around for the right one, forgetting what I was just doing. Physically tangible methods such as writing on whiteboards tend to feel more real, and have more mental staying power, than a chat that disappears in 30 seconds.

I prefer reading complex material on paper. However, paper has its downside. It’s less shareable and may not work for 900-page documents.

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