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Dassault Systèmes PLM Vision 2014+


logo_3DS_dassaultDassault Systèmes is one of the top 3 PLM players and has been for quite some time. DS has one of the broadest PLM footprints around spanning conceptual design, industrial design, engineering, simulation, manufacturing engineering, product communications, and more. DS is taking a unique approach to expanding their business and has arguably moved beyond the core of PLM by moving into search-based applications (SBA) and “dashboard intelligence.”

This post reflects my views on where DS is going with PLM. It is a part of Tech-Clarity’s Strategic Visions of the Major PLM Vendors 2014+ series.

NOTE: Please see our update on the DS PLM Vision 2015+

A Bit of History

DS has been in the business of engineering and design software since the early days. From a PLM perspective they made a major shift in 2006 by acquiring PLM player MatrixOne. The addition of M1 allowed them to transform their existing PLM solution, Enovia, into a more enterprise-oriented solution. Some would say the M1 platform replaced Enovia. I recall the official story is that the capabilities and data models of M1 and Enovia (and that of SmarTeam, DS’ other PLM that was sold primarily to small to midsized manufacturers) were consolidated into one solution. Regardless of the details, DS went from having three PLM solutions to a single PLM solution.

With the release of V6 DS made a move to an integrated release strategy for Catia (CAD) and Enovia. This signaled the importance of an integrated design / PLM environment that includes design tools, data management, and process management. It was also a big bet on online, web-based, SOA technology. For a trip down memory lane you can read what Jeff Hojlo of Tech-Clarity said about V6 (yes, he worked here for a bit after he left AMR). 🙂 I don’t think we had learned to say the word “cloud” in that context yet, let alone “private cloud” or any other derivatives, but the framework had been put in place.

DS-PLM2-300x225As early as my 2009 post A Vision for PLM and Beyond DS was talking differently about PLM. As I said then “Bernard and the team painted a very different picture of PLM than some might have in mind.” At that point in time, they were using the term “PLM 2.0” which has thankfully faded into the past. But, they were also talking about something profound that still permeates DS vision today – “3D Experience.” At that point it was clear that DS would take their core expertise in 3D and move beyond the manufacturing industry. At that 2010 user conference Bernard also shared the introduction of Exalead (search based applications) and 3DSwYM (social platform) as DS “brands” and surprised me by saying “we now have something to offer every company” and had me thinking about what DS would do outside of their core engineering markets. I should also mention that DS is already working in non-traditional industries such as fashion/apparel, consumer packaged goods (CPG), and process / recipe based industries like food and cosmetics.

OK, that was probably too much background, sorry. But I think it’s all relevant to what DS is doing today.

The Dassault Systèmes PLM Strategy

MenghiniToday, DS talks more about “3DExperience” than “PLM.” Last year, the user conference was renamed the “3DExperience Forum.” 3DExperience has become more of what DS is about as a company. What does it mean? My post from last year’s 3DExperience conference shared that experience goes way beyond product. A keynote from author and consultant Joe Pine gave us some good perspective on the reality that customers care about much more than the physical product. I still think about the gumball machine story he told. DS has embraced this concept, and aims to help manufacturers understand what the full product experience will be through realistic “lifelike experiences” and simulation that help product developers envision how the product will behave in real life. The incorporation of gaming technology, realistic modeling, and simulation are all key components of this capability. I had better add it’s all held together on a common backbone (Enovia), that is an important element of why this is PLM.

How far will DS go beyond product? I believe a long way. The “About 3DS” on their website now identifies DS as “A scientific company – serving science, technology, and art for a sustainable society.” I also had the opportunity to speak one-on-one with SVP Monica Menghini who is driving much of DS’ strategy. What I learned is that DS is giving themselves room to grow beyond their traditional solutions and markets. That is an important thing for a publicly traded company. But what does it mean? Let’s look at the “IFWE” compass that acts as a live representation of the DS product suite and the 3DExperience Platform:

IFWE Compass

DS has clearly expanded their solution beyond core PLM. Let’s focus on the “Social & Collaborative Apps” and the “Information Intelligence” portions. These represent web portals, search, marketing and communication tools, a collaboration platform, and more. These capabilities help connect people together and bring in information from the outside. These new capabilities can be used in a PLM capacity by product developers that are looking to understand customer and market needs, analyze big data, collaborate, and share ideas to make better decisions. DS has grown the available solution set for PLM to include new capabilities that were not previously considered as part of the PLM footprint.

My conversation with Monica also point to broader ambition for these solutions. In her keynote, Monica said “…although born in 3D, the 3DExperience platform is not just applicable to 3D industries.” DS plans to grow. As I have said before, that is good for customers. They need a vibrant, growing vendor. While targeting non-engineering-intensive markets like financial services or healthcare may not be the dream of many current customers, it is a valid growth strategy. The only time that existing customers should grow concerned is if DS appears to be moving away from supporting, enhancing, and growing the core technologies. DS shows no sign of that, and my conversations lead me to believe the DS execs are keenly aware of the value of their existing assets and customers.  Their continued investment in areas like systems design and simulation indicate a continued focus on engineering and manufacturing.

The 3DExperience platform is brought to market with “business experiences.” These experiences are tailored to solve clear business problems in specific vertical markets. DS’ markets include the usual suspects (auto, aerospace, industrial, etc.) but are now as far reaching as financial services. What “special sauce” does DS have outside of their core markets? How can they compete against other broad technology providers if they aren’t leveraging their core expertise in 3D modeling, simulation, etc.? Ms. Menghini and DS feel they can leverage DS’ expertise in unique ways. Clearly the “Information Intelligence” and “Social & Collaborative” apps can apply across industries. As Monica told me “the key is our analytical software capabilities.” We were even given examples of applications like leveraging Simulia’s simulation algorithms to predict financial market risk.

My final comment on DS strategy is about the cloud. Given the SOA architecture behind DS’ solutions one might expect DS to embrace the cloud wholeheartedly. DS execs were clear in pointing out that they support the cloud – but that they believe the on premise cloud is the viable option for companies today. It’s an interesting stance given that they appear to have the technical capabilities required but are choosing to opt away from the public cloud. This is an area to watch.

That was a long post, there was a lot to cover and the DS strategy is not what some might expect. I look forward to your feedback.


  1. Oh man, I thought I was weird because I thought I understood what Dassault is up to. Clearly you have not only drank the Kool-Aid, but you LIKED IT. Think about the typical buying decision, the moment when the CEO asks, “We use your drawing software in engineering, now you want us to trust you with Business Intelligence?”

    • Randall,
      First, thanks for commenting.

      Second, great example with your CEO comment. I actually agree with you. I have serious questions about what “special sauce” DS brings to help them compete against Oracle, Microsoft, IBM, Google, and others that provide cross-industry IT infrastructure. I asked Monica about that, and I am reporting the answer. The part that I agree on is that they need to grow and that is a good thing. Whether they will be successful growing in the non-3D markets remains to be seen. TIme will tell.

      I see my role as reporting the strategy, but I do raise concerns as I see them. For example in my early Autodesk PLM posts I was very concerned that they were planning to be both “insanely configurable” and also support a standard, cloud-based application. I didn’t see them setting themselves up to support those potentially conflicting goals.

      Thanks for commenting and I hope you have a great Christmas and a fantastic 2014.


  2. Oh, and a more general comment about on-premise cloud. Being willing to hobble cloud technology by insisting that only on-premise cloud technology be used misses the true value of cloud. You can’t pay for only a week’s worth, or rent an extra 500 servers for the day, if you insist on limiting your “cloud” technology to on-premise. Maybe they should call it fog technology, because it restricts vision.

    • There are a lot of other benefits to cloud computing beyond computing resource elasticity. DS will provide some of them, but not all, with this approach. I don’t pretend to understand the full reasoning behind their decision. They stated their position very clearly, but not their reasoning. It might be interesting to revisit this in a year or two to see if their position changes.

  3. Really good article.

    What I found the most interesting was the comment:

    “DS has clearly expanded their solution beyond core PLM”

    Expanding beyond PLM to include external (in relation to product development) information intelligence about the product performance, realiability, customer satisfaction, etc. has the potential of extreme benefits for DS but more importantly their customers.

    I guess my only comment/question would be that expanding your core (PLM) you need to ensure your core has the feature set and reliability your clients and potential clients need. Do you think that DS is ready to move beyond their core?

  4. What I found the most interesting was the comment:

    “DS has clearly expanded their solution beyond core PLM”

    Expanding beyond PLM to include external (in relation to product development) information intelligence about the product performance, reliability, customer satisfaction, etc. has the potential of extreme benefits for DS but more importantly their customers.

    I guess my only comment/question would be that expanding your core (PLM) you need to ensure your core has the feature set and reliability your clients and potential clients need.
    Do you think that DS is ready to move beyond their core?

    • Denis,
      Thanks for your comment. You ask a very hard question. How much is “enough” on the core product before you expand? There are clearly features and processes that DS could add into the core that would benefit their customers. There are usability enhancements (as with all vendors) that would help quite a bit. I don’t think any vendor can say that their core PLM is “done.”

      DS will need to continue to invest and innovate in the core package through development and acquisition. I was pleased to see they acquired RTT. While this can apply outside of the “core” it will be very helpful to traditional engineering and manufacturing customers. From my discussions with DS execs I feel like they recognize this, but feel they need to grow outside as well. I would be surprised to see them neglect the core in their efforts to expand given that their revenue is so dependent on the core. Personally, I think it would be a big mistake. Time will tell how they choose to invest.


      • To be honest I know it was a tough question but it was just something I was thinking to myself. You answered it well.

        I am not sure what my answer would look like however with all the disruption in all of the PLM space I wonder what the next step should be for companies. For example I think customers are not technically asking for something different today but they are now prioritizing ease of use and flexibility a lot higher than before IIMPO.

        From the traditional big 3, looking at how they can make their offering meet the wants of clients is interesting, especially if you look at the market segment (small to medium) which is the most vocal about a lite, easy to implement and maintainable solution. Enterprise clients want ease of use as well, but that seems to be on a different scale for the most part. Should they focus on Enterprise clients or possibly both segments, however I do think companies which have been focused only on Enterprise for so long will have to change internally substantially. It reminds me a lot of the ideas shared in “The Innovator’s Dilemma”

        I will have to ponder this a little more during the holidays while I am paralyzed on the sofa from eating too much.

        Thanks for the great article and the comments, I look forward to reading your other ones.

    • As a consultant who worked with DS people, I had an interesting discussion with them
      on the direction taken by the company. Some veterans have a hard time accepting strategic change. Straying away from core engineering customers such as aerospace and transportation and targeting new one such as CPG did not sit well. Ever since the iPod and the iPhone came out, we saw that you can only go so far in engineering until there is a fork in the road. The other way is the consumer market. We shall not forget that DS is a publicly traded company and investors want to see growth. That growth can only come from non traditional markets. With her background, Monica works to provide an answer to that part of the equation.

      • I believe there are different strategies for growth. I understand what Monica is aiming for. But if you read my post on PTC’s and Siemens’ visions (see related posts) I think you will see that they are both targeting growth in different ways. Growth isn’t optional for any of these companies, the question is where they choose to find it.

        DS is certainly being the most adventurous by doing after non-traditional markets with non-traditional solutions. They are taking on a new set of competitors including the likes of IBM. Monica wants DS to be more like Google. More adventurous, but also more risky. And with potentially higher reward if DS can transition into a level that allows them to compete as a technology company and not a PLM technology company (if that distinction is clear). I think the biggest risk to this is what special capabilities, or “secret sauce” DS has to compete against larger vendors when they don’t have the core “3D Experience” assets and expertise to rely on. For example what synergy to they really get when they use Simulia analysis algorithms to solve a problem in banking? That will be the thing to watch as this strategy unfolds.

        Unless, of course, you are an existing PLM customer. Then you will be watching for continued investment in PLM. I haven’t seen any indication that DS is pulling back from PLM, although I think it’s legitimate to question focus at the strategic level. DS is a big company, though, and has resources to invest in PLM while exploring new markets. It will be interesting to see what they look like in five years, that’s for sure!

        • Not to say that DS has pulled back from investments in PLM but the fact that they ran their UK customer event in the City of London (one of the worlds largest financial centres) as opposed to the manufacturing heartlands of the UK (Midlands) as per usual sent a message to their clients (from f/b) …perhaps not one that they’d prefer be made?

          I can’t see Monica’s comments ATM but I’ve talked to a number end users where much of their bandwidth (for new opportunity) is focused on PIM (Product Information Management) and the like, and not PLM as was…. In that respect, and as I’ve said in past comments elsewhere, I see DS moving (some of their focus) to a space normally addressed by the likes of Google, IBM, Microsoft et al; a noted adjunct(perhaps shift?) from their traditional focus/competitors. This is in addition to moving to some new business domains and verticals. Many of these led by acquisitions, for example in areas such as the shop floor (e.g. MES) and in markets such as Mining/Geo.


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