CompassIt’s time for an update. You’ve asked lots of questions about Dassault Systèmes (DS) 3D EXPERIENCEs and how this ties into the DS products you may be using. I’ve answered you from the perspective of DS as a whole, based on what I learn at events like the 3D EXPERIENCE forums; that’s a big picture view that’s just now starting to come into focus.

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to meet the ENOVIA team and get a glimpse into how this core technology is moving forward, and, trust me, there’s a lot of there there. The hype from DS corporate makes it hard to see what’s happening at the brands, so this was a great chance to learn more. The day at the DS campus in Waltham, MA was packed with presentations, demos and Q&A. I can’t reproduce it all (you’d never read anything that long), so I’ve boiled it down as answers to the 9* most important and interesting questions I get from you.

1. Explain the “experience” thing one more time …
CEO Bernard Charles told us at the 3D EXPERIENCE forum in November that “V6 is not the platform. ENOVIA is not the platform; ENOVIA is the architecture. 3D EXPERIENCE is the platform. Everything in V6 runs on 3D EXPERIENCE and you just select which apps you want to run.”

It takes a lot of work to unpack that statement so here’s how the ENOVIA team explained it: the 3D EXPERIENCEs are bundles of industry-focused apps drawn from across DS’ many brands. Each EXPERIENCE is built around industry best practices and processes, with added content (such as specs for piping), where needed. The CATIA apps you use today are bundled into EXPERIENCEs — nothing changes except, perhaps, how you buy them. What does change is how data moves between users and apps; in the EXPERIENCE context, data flows more smoothly because of changes made to the core holding it all together, ENOVIA.

2. How does ENOVIA do this?
Over the last couple of versions, ENOVIA’s architecture moved away from file structures to objects, which the ENOVIA team says is more flexible. In V6, ENOVIA is completely object-oriented, so users can work on part of an assembly without locking the entire file structure for the assembly. It’s also more configurable because individual objects can now be searched, grouped, and used in applications as appropriate. No more shipping around files.

3. But isn’t ENOVIA hard to use? Won’t putting it at the core slow me down?
The ENOVIA I just saw isn’t the old ENOVIA. Some of this is because of UI changes that make the V6 compass the core navigational tool but the 2014x ENOVIA solution is visual, and doesn’t interfere with a design task, but rather make it easier. You access ENOVIA’s capabilities from within your design app, for example, and not accessing design after logging in to a PDM. You can zoom through visual search results, see design alternatives in a turntable-like visual metaphor — DS has worked hard to move data management functions from being obstacles to being enablers. The company says this makes its products fun to use; I’m not sure I’d go that far, but it’s definitely a vast improvement over earlier iterations.

4. How does this all tie together?
Users work within an “experience” of bundled apps, which may include CATIA, DELMIA, SIMULIA or whatever the role- or task-based EXPERIENCE requires. The “ENOVIA inside” means that data transfers from app to app as needed. Think about this: since ENOVIA Requirements Central can capture customer needs, we can go from pre-design, through design iterations and simulations to manufacturing and service planning, tracing all the way back to the beginning of a project — without translating anything. It’s not as simple I’ve written here but the bones are there for enterprises to connect everything together.

5. What’s with the compass thing?
When you begin your work session, you see the IFWE compass and the apps you have access to. The compass has, from the top and going counterclockwise (anti-clockwise): social and collaborative, 3D modeling, simulation, and information retrieval. Apps appear in a pane on the left of the window, and you toggle between apps as you work. You don’t leave this environment, whether you’re working in CATIA or Abaqus Dynamic Simulation, for example.

What DS hasn’t talked a lot about is the tagging and indexing that underly the search and retrieval capabilities –called 6W for Who, What, Where, Why, When and hoW– for structured and unstructured information. If you’re interested, try this video. The few seconds on tagging and indexing, at around 3:20 in the video, are worth a look.

6. What ever happened to SmarTeam?
It’s still very much alive, thank you. What is completely lost in DS’ current messaging is that the brands are vibrant, in and of themselves, especially the smaller ones that don’t get a lot of visibility in any case. Andy Kalambi, CEO of ENOVIA, said that ENOVIA and its sub-brands have 1.3 million users today, at 16,000 customers. Of these, 19% are Smart and, Mr. Kalambi said, this number is still growing.

7. I’m in automotive; what do I gain from DS’s entry into markets like financial services? Doesn’t it take resources away from what I care most about?
We’re all self-centered, if we’re being honest. We can see, intellectually, that there may be benefit for us from research and development in adjacent industries (automotive and aerospace; shipbuilding and plant; etc.) but DS is branching out into areas that don’t seem obvious to its core constituencies. But think about two things: first, many of these new industries come to DS through acquisitions, such as mining/natural resources via Gemcom. Those teams weren’t solving automotive issues before acquisition, so aren’t being diverted in any way. Second, DS’ expansion informs everything it does for its long-time customers. Big data, consumer-appropriate visualizations, the 6W tagging — all likely came from acquisitions that, at first glance, had little to do with DS’ core verticals.

During my visit, I learned about the merchandising and financial/business services solutions and can see why DS wants to go after these opportunities — and saw why someone in automotive should be interested in how these solutions develop. Take merchandising: buyers are picky. They want their shopping experience to fit a certain mold: you’ll never buy something really expensive at Walmart nor would you go into a high-end retailer like Nordstrom for a $2 bottle of shampoo. By looking at how a product is placed on shelves, gauging its visual appeal, and examining how a store is configured, packaging designers can optimize the outside of the product to appeal to its target buyer. This has applicability in automotive: a Chevy showroom (no offense, GM) isn’t the swankiest; should it be? How should the experience of buying a Chevy compare to that of buying a BMW?

Financial services seems, at this point, to be learning more from other industries than it is giving back. But think about its issues: massive amounts of data, regulation, a young and churning workforce. Who knows what will come out of the solutions for that market that may inform others?

8. I still don’t buy the EXPERIENCE thing. What else have you got?
Mr. Kalambi says that DS is focused on helping its customers drive to “the power of zero”: zero prototypes, no product failures, no delays, no BOM errors, exceptions, rework, and no latency. He sees ENOVIA as the key to helping DS customers build both their top lines and bottom lines by

  • enhancing the value delivered to end-customers through improving their experience with the product (which could lead to higher prices and greater sales)
  • speeding the rate of innovation, so that more products are in the marketplace concurrently, leading to higher sales; and
  • improving execution across the board, from design reuse and other innovations to improving manufacturing and service efficiency.

He says that we can do this if shift our thinking from modeling products to looking at the bigger picture (“creating experiences” in DS-speak) by combining multi-physics, behavior modeling, big data, social collaboration and dashboarding into a single environment. Add in ENOVIA’s data-driven architecture, and Mr. Kalambi believes we’ve got an online, global, single-instance innovation platform. Alongside the EXPERIENCEs is a serious effort to solve real business problems.

9. Finally, the big, core question: what do users get from all of this? Has DS been noodling with its products in a way that’s good for DS or good for the user? Are they even possibly the same?
I came away from my day with DS a lot less cynical about the 3D EXPERIENCE, both in concept and in the way it’s been executed so far. Yes, DS is still shouting with its capitalization and I do wish they’d stop, and their use of the word “experience” has multiple meanings that sometimes makes it hard to tell what, exactly, they’re talking about. But. But. But.

DS is trying to shift a customer base that sees itself as CATIA operators, Abaqus users and so on. Even their managers may not recognize that there are other parts of DS’ portfolio that they could help solve some of their problems. DS tried to promote the individual brands for a while but realized that it could do so much more if it created pre-packaged solutions to common problems in each of their target verticals, rather than waiting for customers to do it on their own. The bundles, if you don’t like EXPERIENCEs, bring together apps and other content necessary to reach a specific goal: a safe plant, a winning proposal, and so on.

Those are business-level concerns, not at the user’s level. DS is talking to CEOs about what keeps them up at night and trying to target its EXPERIENCEs to those needs. But these bundles are in their early stages; you don’t go from monolithic CATIA to nuanced apps-with-added-content overnight. That’s part of the problem, I think: in some ways, this strategy would have made more sense had DS waited until more was complete. Waiting has its own problems, though, so DS did the only thing it could: start working and hope it all catches up.

While DS corporate noodles with messages and packaging, the ENOVIA organization continues to evolve its PLM capabilities and user interaction, sell product and support customers. What I saw last month shows that it’s come a long way — perhaps a lot further than you think.

Image courtesy of Dassault Systèmes.

* I had 10, but this is already sooo long. Ask me someday what got cut!