Digital Strategy

Collaboration Best Practices for Cloud PLM

September 18, 2017

Thanks to modern cloud platforms like Salesforce (which Propel is built on), it’s finally possible to get everyone working together.

Recently one of our customers, who works with thousands of suppliers, asked me how Propel handles external collaboration. And they wanted a more detailed answer than my typical marketing response of “auto-magically”?  One of their PLM systems that they had been using for years didn’t handle suppliers well at all, and they’re thinking that Propel could help with supplier collaboration.

Sadly this is pretty common. PLM vendors have been talking about collaboration for over 30 years, but truth be told, it’s just been limited to a company’s own mechanical engineers. Sharing product data and changes with suppliers, partners, channels and customers has always been a pain, if not impossible. And it’s not just on-premise systems that make this hard, but even older cloud PLM systems.

But thanks to modern cloud platforms like Salesforce (which Propel is built on), it’s finally possible to get everyone working together. First of all, the Salesforce platform provides Propel some world-class network security, including two-factor authentication, IP login ranges, session timeouts, etc. But how exactly do you segregate different data and objects from different users? It’s so easy that even a marketing guy like me can set it up!

Both Salesforce and Propel have detailed documentation on how to do this, but here are 5 ways that Propel helps manage user security across internal and external users (apologies to those admins who may say I’m butchering some points!).

  • Profile: for each type of user (admin, employee, partner, customer…), you want to set up a profile. Each profile will have a certain set of permissions that allows the profile to do certain things, like create a change, view an item or use an application (see below).
  • Role: different roles allow you to create a hierarchical security model. For example, a role of Standard User would only see a team’s items, but a role of VP of Engineering would be able to see across all multiple teams.
  • Object and Application permissions: permission sets are the heart of Propel’s user security. You can define very granular permissions that allow users to view, edit, delete specific objects or access specific apps. A permission can be Edit Manufacturer Parts for a supplier, but Read-Only Sales Orders for a channel partner.
  • Sharing: when combined with permission sets, sharing settings provide the next level of “magic” to user security. For example, a permission may allow a supplier to edit manufacturer parts. However, you don’t want them to edit all parts (especially if someone else makes them!). So sharing settings can limit that to just the parts that a supplier is responsible for. Just magic if you ask me.
  • Field-level security: finally, field-level security prevents certain people from viewing sensitive data even if they can see an object. So you can prevent external people from seeing information like internal costs and margin targets.

There are tons and tons of benefits from easier supplier, partner and customer collaboration. Faster on-boarding, lower overhead, more responsive partners,  greater flexibility, scalability – you name it.

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Miguel Tam


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