Solid Edge

Solid Edge University 2013, Part 2: Q&A with Karsten Newbury

7 Aug, 2013 By: Nancy Spurling Johnson

Senior vice-president discusses the direction of Solid Edge under his leadership.

Is it just about making people feel better about the product, or is there a business strategy there?

First of all, if we make it easier for our users to be more productive and worry less about the tool, and get more business done, people are going to want the tool because it's better for them.

Customer satisfaction …

Absolutely. Giving them a better productivity tool is absolutely a differentiator. On top of that, if you can make it a fun experience, that's even better because you're not trying to go sell. It's something people actually want to build with.

[The customers we have here this week] will tell you we're helping productivity. We truly believe that we have mechanisms that make it much easier for our customers, compared to our direct competitors. And not in any way, but in these situations where they have to make quick changes to designs and iterate. That's really the sweet spot that we're in, where we can make it much easier for our customers to drive high-quality designs.

I guess it's time for me to ask you about the cloud.

Finally — I'm wondering why I haven't gotten one question on the cloud!

I'm starting to feel like it's one of those clichéd questions now, but I'd like to understand your perspective on the cloud as it relates to product development for Siemens PLM. And how it compares with the approaches of your big competitors — in particular, Autodesk, which just today added Fusion 360 to a rapidly growing line of cloud-based services.

Yes, absolutely. What we can see from how our users work is that the intellectual property [IP] that they create is their competitive advantage. The ironic piece is they might do cloud-based banking, put their taxes on the cloud, but when it comes to earning their living, and having IP, they want control. That's one reason for us saying, we keep that data under your control on the desktop. The other thing is for CAD, for computer-aided design, there are no performance advantages in putting that up on a server. In fact, there are actually disadvantages.

We really have to look at, what are the advantages [of using cloud-based technology]? The raw computing power is one of them. But the other advantage is [collaboration].

We just today announced a collaboration with GrabCAD. They're up to 700,000 members now; that's a lot of people sharing files. They're now offering this Workbench, which allows people to collaborate visually on a 3D design, attach comments, conversation. Now, that's interesting. That's a productivity tool, because ... if I have a design and I can get multiple people to gather in one place without having to e-mail stuff back and forth, and I have a productive thread [of information] around, How do we make this better? And then I take the results back and say, Now that we've talked about this, I can run my desktop applications and work with that. By the way, when I share information into that group, first of all, I can define who I share it with. But still, it's going to go up in the cloud. What I can do is I can take my model. I can say, I'm going to take an abstraction from that …

Like a PDF?

Exactly. But the fact is, you can now collaborate on this PDF and mark it up with comments and make it a better revision. And then you can take that back and you can work on it. So, our strategy's not to say there is no purpose for PLM in the cloud. I think that would be foolish to say. There are benefits that cloud offers in terms of online collaboration and the supply chain, getting people to work together.

But the very important thing is, we have got to let our business managers, our users, be in control of what they do with their competitive advantage, their IP. And that's where we firmly believe the core CAD piece is: on the desktop.

That's how we look at the cloud. It's interesting for me to see that some other companies really put so much focus on the cloud. I guess it sounds new and exciting and "We're innovative" — that type of thing. Actually, our user base is extremely nervous. They're like, "Okay, well, if this is what you're doing — you're keeping our data under our control, you're giving us options — that's good. We're not against that. But don't force us into a direction that we're giving up what is our competitive advantage."

The answer's not black and white. The cloud is going to play a role, but unlike what some of the other guys tend to say, [it's not the] solution for everything. I just don't see it.

And your users aren't asking you for it.

No, they're not. Absolutely not.

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About the Author: Nancy Spurling Johnson

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