Reflections on Dassault Systemes Business, Strategy, and Progress at DSCC


I had the chance to talk with … the execs at Dassault Systemes at their recent customer event, DSCC. DS carved out time for analysts and press to share some deeper perspective on their business, their strategy, and their progress this year. DS had a lot to day, starting with sharing some very good financial results and continuing from there. I also had the opportunity to present some early findings from my upcoming report on “The Business Value of  3D Technical Communications” and sit in on some great DS customer presentations. I even had the honor of sitting next to CEO Bernard Charles at lunch.

What’s New with Dassault Systemes?

At these events, most vendors like to announce new strategies or new products to their customers. DS did not disappoint in the arena, and it was great to see an event that included the full scope of DS’ brands. What are the key takeaways?

  • Bernard believes that “Lifelike Experience” is the future for the next ten years
  • Companies can use the social environment to create a new approach to innovation
  • DS is bringing a social computing platform to market (SwYm, see next section for more)
  • DS focuses on creating digital models that comply with the real world (not a trivial concept)
  • DS may be hinting at offering model-based programming for embedded software, mentioned CATIA generating code from functions (intriguing, the intersection of software and product design is a big issue)
  • Exalead – the search engine that DS acquired earlier this year – is a much bigger part of the DS strategy than I originally suspected
  • Exalead is a platform on which other companies can develop search applications
  • Customers – including Ford, Microsoft, and P&G – are doing some great things, and getting some impressive results, with DS products (although the story on stage tends to gloss over a lot of hard work each of these companies have put in)
  • The iPad is everywhere (evident from Dassault demos, comments onstage, but also from participants in the conference)

Dassault Systemes – Progress on Vision

No one would every accuse DS of lack of vision. Last year, in my post A Vision for PLM and Beyond – Dassault Systemes, I outlined seven elements that I took away from the DS vision at last year’s event. Among the top were “SWYM” or “See What You Mean” and Social Innovation. DS is delivering on both of these strategies with the introduction (or soon to be introduction) of their SwYm collaboration workspace. SwYm is only one part of the message Bernard and his team presented to customers, but it is significant for a number of reasons. I will provide my thoughts here, and I have already planned some follow up to learn more given my focus on social computing in PLM.

The short story is that DS has developed a scalable social computing platform. In fact, DS has been using the system internally to prove it out. The platform includes microblogging, blogs, communications, and more based on the Enovia platform. DS targets the solution to help companies develop communities around a center of interest and to help them innovate new intellectual property (IP). While this is “more than Facebook on top of CATIA” as VP of Enovia Bruno Delahaye explained, I expect that we will see more integration with underlying product development solutions. This is how DS will differentiate itself from more generalized social computing platforms like Microsoft Sharepoint. That, and the promise that “it will be lifelike.”

See more of my thoughts on the general topic in Why Does Facebook Fail for Product Development? (and how to fix it), and look for more from me on SwYm. The answer today is that the early, unstructured work will be in SwYm and then be transferred to Enovia when it becomes a formal, controlled project. I expect this to change over time with more integration across the lifecycle, but that is just my speculation at this point. OK, I spent a lot of time on SwYm in this section, you can see I have a lot of interest in the subject. Sorry! Oh, and I didn’t even mention that it includes advanced search technology from Exalead – a very intriguing element of the strategy.

Another topic many of us are interested in is the continued adoption of V6, the latest version of DS solutions.  While DS didn’t announce anything earth-shattering here, it was a realistic assessment of progress. V6 is a significant change from previous releases and it will take time for big companies to move to it. But DS was also very careful to point out that they will continue to support past version for some time to come, and are still actively investing in V5. But the customer base is making progress on V6, and time will continue to tell what the adoption looks like.

At the risk of making this post even longer (I told you they had a lot to say), I totally underestimated the importance of the Exalead acquisition to the DS strategy. DS is planning some big things for the platform, and see it as a way to move into new industries and work with partners that can develop 3rd party applications on the search infrastructure. Stay tuned for more here.

DS Going Beyond their Base?

One of the more surprising elements of the conversation with Bernard Charles was his comment that “we now have something to offer every company.” This is both exciting and concerning at the same time. DS has aggressive growth targets, 20% organic growth over the next several years, and plans to be a company twice the size of DS today. With Exalead and SwYm, DS has applications that can go beyond the traditional DS markets. And by beyond the traditional markets I don’t been from Automotive and Aerospace to CPG, that has been in progress for some time. I mean into markets like services companies (banks, hospitals, etc.) and technology companies. Perhaps even government and other sectors. This can lead to growth, but could it also lead to distraction from core competencies?

I asked Bernard about this specifically to make sure I understood, and he confirmed that by buying Exalead they are already in financial services and healthcare industries. This offers some great opportunities for growth, but also puts DS in competition with more general IT infrastructure companies like Microsoft, Oracle, and long-time partner IBM. These are different competitors, and it may be a challenge for DS to differentiate in non-manufacturing industries. How far will “lifelike experience” go for a bank? I am not sure. But DS has already proven (with 3DVIA) that they can add value in the customer shopping experience, they are willing to test the edges. I guess time will tell on whether we should expect DS to transition to a more generalized set of offerings to compete out of the current base. But it is clear that business is good and they are growing in the core markets, so I don’t expect them to make any radical shifts.

So that’s what I hear from DS, I hope you found it useful. What do you think? What else should I have asked them?