Vuuch, an Enterprise Social System for Product Development

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SMB Research had a conversation with Vuuch at the recent Enterprise 2.0 Boston show.  While we struggled briefly to know how to characterize this company and solution properly, CEO Chris Williams quickly helped out, explaining that Vuuch is an “enterprise social system for product development….sitting between enterprise social software (things like Jive and Yammer) and PLM [product lifecycle management].” Vuuch This really piqued our interest, and so SMB Research visited nearby Sudbury, MA-based Vuuch last week.   What did we learn?  If you are involved with product development, and find yourself wondering if there is an easier way to manage the email traffic and other project-related team interactions, then Vuuch may be worth a look.

Vuuch cares less about document management than about the dynamic connections that often come with being part of a team, and the importance of the interactions between team members.    Whereas solutions like Microsoft Word and Microsoft Excel are focused on ‘Creating’, and other widely used enterprise applications   like SAP and SalesForce.com are focused on what Vuuch would call  ‘Managing’, Vuuch focuses on providing “ubiquitous” availability and access in what it calls an Interact’ layer’, and integrating with these solutions in the “Create” and”Manage” layers.

Chris and Alex Neihaus provided a demo that highlighted Vuuch’s capabilities in several areas, including creating specifications, and managing Engineering Change Orders. The solution showed a level of early-state sophistication, while not sacrificing navigability.  It is undeniable that the amount of information is exploding and that much of this is unstructured work, requiring that a lot of time be spent capturing and documenting interactions, managing email, reading and parsing email threads,  and tracking conversation threads that may contain information that is critical to a project’s success.

Vuuch’s premise is that to the extent an ‘Interact’ layer tool can enhance and change the way people interact around this constant flow of unstructured information (most of which stays unstructured, despite wishes and efforts to the contrary), this can drive time-to-market, mitigate project risk, drive innovation by, well, controlling the number of change orders, as one example.

While Vuuch clearly lacks some of the broad and deep functionality of a heavier-duty PLM tool that might map against a broader PLM capability footprint, Vuuch works with fairly uncomplicated “Activity”, and “Page” and Deliverable objects Vuuch screenshot which appear fairly easy to configure and manipulate; the simplicity of these objects allows the solution to lend itself to end-use cases outside of the traditional PLM arena, into conceivably almost any area where there is a service that can be thought of as a deliverable “product” (for example, a financial institution).    While we get very excited thinking about the possibilities (for instance, sales and operations planning, where a team has to coordinate documents and plans), Vuuch’s target is clearly focused on the Project Manager who is tracking of projects on spreadsheets.

Vuuch claims to be the only PLM interactive-based vendor with a truly cloud offering, using the Amazon cloud platform.   Its approach to target the project manager for licensed seats, and then allow unlicensed users to have some basic access to Vuuch, seems to prove the viral nature of the solution as Vuuch sees more internal users wanting the full licensed access.  At the same time, Vuuch is seeing some demand from smaller companies, and seems to be earning some street cred with SMBs.

The solution really focuses on enabling and managing the interactive stream that carries the project, and does not even make a pretense of caring much about document management, versioning, vaulting, or where documents reside.  These are all things that Vuuch feel are addressable by the team communication that Vuuch is enabling   Vuuch also takes a relatively unsophisticated approach to supplier collaboration – whoever gets connected, gets access to the project.  So it does not appear possible to, for example, provide selective access to suppliers or other external collaboration partners.  Use of the solution may, in this respect, require some careful use.   Vuuch in many other respects, reflects the deep industry experience evident in the Vuuch team.

Do you have a project or process where clear team connections and interactivity is of paramount importance?  Do you want the ability to dynamically configure the team and team’s connections? Vuuch may be worth taking a close look at.

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