by Peter Thorne
As part of the extensive product and business update at its June 2018 analyst conference, Dassault Systèmes found some time to discuss some of the visionary concepts it uses to drive its business. For me, two of these stand out:
- “3DEXPERIENCE the new book”, and
- “Product, nature, life”
Let’s look at these in turn.
Those with long-enough memories will remember the effort required from Dassault Systèmes to communicate its concept for 3DEXPERIENCE to the engineering software world. For this community, Product Lifecycle Management was an established phrase simultaneously describing a specific capability, the whole of engineering software, and also a business philosophy. So there was plenty of scope for interpretation. So, at the time, for many people, it was a puzzle to understand why Dassault Systèmes regarded the 3DEXPERIENCE concept as important enough to register a trademark (“3DEXPERIENCE ®”) and make this a central theme of strategy and communications.
Now, many years later, the core justification for the 3DEXPERIENCE theme is as it always was, but is more widely understood and accepted. Of course, this is largely due to Dassault Systèmes’ steadfast communication of the message. But another factor is some of the distractions at the time have faded into the background (for example, the transition from version 5 of the software to version 6; the transition from a central role for files to a database approach; the growth of the platform concept for engineering software systems).
My version of the rationale behind 3DEXPERIENCE is an assertion: “… it is not good enough to design and produce a product, it is necessary to develop and support the experience the customer will have as they investigate, buy, deploy and use the product….”. This rationale gave Dassault Systèmes a differentiator, and, while most engineering software providers focused on their traditional target customers in product development and manufacturing organisations, Dassault Systèmes had a reason to address additional functions and departments in industrial enterprises. The enlarged market scope was discussed at the analyst conference, and Dassault Systèmes pointed out the value of digital continuity not only across new product introduction activities such as design, manufacturing and sales/marketing, but also through ownership, business and upstream thinking.
Model it, or write it?
Back to the new focus and growth area: “3DEXPERIENCE is the new book”.
This is a bold claim. Gutenberg’s fifteenth century invention of the printing press, and the resulting transformation of the role of the book into the key vehicle for communication, sharing and growth of knowledge, is on most lists of the 10 most important steps made by mankind to develop the societies and technologies we see today. After reigning for nearly 600 years, is it time for the book to step aside?
Dassault Systèmes chose an important topic – training – to use as an example of 3DEXPERIENCE as the new book. In its 2016 report “The Future of Jobs”, the World Economic Forum highlighted the gap between traditional education and training, and the changing needs of existing and future jobs. Dassault Systèmes mentioned this and presented a broad framework for what it is trying to achieve in this area: anticipation of tomorrow’s jobs; innovative skill building; growth of talent diversity; partnership with schools and universities; support for lifelong learning. But perhaps the simple view is the most convincing – if you had to learn a new skill, which would you prefer, a book with diagrams or an interactive 3D computer model which guides you through the process? This resonated with a comment a training specialist once made to me: “You remember 10% of what you read or hear, 20% of what you write and 50% of what you do”. The test is whether working with a 3D interactive model is close enough to ‘doing’ the task. There is plenty of positive feedback from various types of simulators. For Dassault Systèmes, while the 3D model is evidently central, it is important not to limit the training thinking to 3D real-world objects. The same principles apply in all areas where the 3DEXPERIENCE software provides relevant models, for example, systems engineering, change control documents, material lists and so on.
At one level, it is easy to say “…nothing new here…” (apart from Dassault Systèmes putting more energy, resource and focus into making something happen in training). But I disagree. I appreciate aircraft simulators were quite sophisticated even before NASA developed Apollo flight simulators in the 1960s, and many more use cases have been developed since then, from machinery maintenance to training of surgeons. But if the technology is presented to a training course or content designer alongside the concept that “3D experience is the new book”, I believe there is a realistic chance that the training designer could be bumped out of their existing thinking (“…a few snapshots as illustrations…”), and perhaps spend time looking at the existing printed materials/online documents, and use this time to plan alternatives. Same problem, same technology, just an extra pathway for thinking – which might just catalyse new results.
“Product, nature, life”
This was the second visionary concept which stood out as an insight to the way Dassault Systèmes differentiates and drives its business. The core of the concept is that as starting points for innovation, technology topics such as digital transformation, blockchain, IoT act as an immediate constraint – they define boundaries of capability. Instead, innovation should be defined by requiring contributions along each of the three dimensions of product nature and life.
As explained by Dassault Systèmes, this is a natural consequence of the concept of innovation by starting with the end goal, the customer experience; and this changes the way you think. One simple example is the concept of cross-industry – broadly, most projects should be cross industry. For example, of course electric cars are innovative in many aspects of automotive engineering. But if your team is allowed to think about the customer experience first, then it will have identified and perhaps acted on the broader scope, for example chemicals needed for batteries which need to be charged/replaced, requiring infrastructure which can be used in or near roads, towns and homes.
Dassault Systèmes described five features observed in these cross-industry projects.
- Start from the experience
- Break silos. Connect the dots
- Profitability and sustainability
- From supply chain to value network
- Open and protected innovation
These points help drive definition of the role of a collaborative solution. For example, people must work across functions and lifecycle, and this needs process….. but people hate process, so how can we make the process disappear? One partial answer from Dassault Systèmes is ‘do away with email, use a 3DEXPERIENCE collaborative solution’. By following this line of thinking, Dassault Systèmes can develop requirements for the collaborative solution, which must include connected, contextual and continuous communication across all participants, whatever their role.
Exploring new business models
With its focus set to include ‘business’ and ‘upstream’, it is perhaps no surprise that Dassault Systèmes is using its marketplace capabilities to explore new aspects of business models. It has two active marketplaces – Make, for on-demand manufacturing, and Part Supply, for intelligent part sourcing.
Like other providers, Dassault Systèmes now offers a comprehensive set of options across software packaging and licensing – upfront/subscription licenses; on-premise and cloud deployments; products/solutions, including ‘Industry Solution Experiences’ and ‘Industry Process Experiences’ which capture industry know-how into templates for workflows.
But unlike other providers, Dassault Systèmes is talking openly about outcome based pricing. Its creation of the ‘Make’ marketplace in which designers can select 3D additive manufacturing service companies to create parts was one of the first triggers for these discussions. Dassault Systèmes earns revenue by charging a percentage of sales made through this marketplace. Perhaps versions of this business model would allow design software to be provided at low or zero cost, so long as resulting products were sold through the marketplace.
For a different industry sector, Dassault Systèmes has created the home.by.me website to explore this concept further. The website provides instant, free use of design tools to define interior spaces, and then a range of tools to furnish the space, and visualize the result. One business model concept to explore is whether this free, active design-and-visualize capability will make home.by.me a desirable combination “design tool and furniture catalogue” for people planning to buy new furniture. If so, furniture manufacturers will want to be sure their furniture appears in suggestions and responses to searches during interactive home.by.me sessions.
As always, Dassault Systèmes steers its own path. It is addressing a broad scope of the range of industrial enterprises’ needs for technical software – from multi-lab R&D integration, support systems and molecular modeling for biopharmaceutical giant AMGEN, to more than 100 ‘go-lives’ in the last year for DELMIA manufacturing systems (which include the acquired Apriso technology). Dassault Systèmes is definitely one to watch if you want to see new ways of thinking which embrace scope, philosophy, vision and business models as well as engineering software capability.
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