The COE Experience

By Andy
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Well, another COE Annual Conference is over and the value of bringing together USERS has been proven again.  In these days when online communication is so accessible, it is great to see how users respond to hearing advice and ideas from their fellow users as much as they do to the experts from Dassault Systèmes and other partners.  Perhaps it is the dedicated time, instead of snatching a few minutes while at work, or it is the opportunity to interpret the body language, vocal tone and crowd reaction that makes the presentation of experience more effective at a physical event?

From a Dassault Systèmes’ perspective, it is always an interesting occasion because the focus of discussion moves from the sales people to the technical, training, support and development teams.  Many of these meetings have been taking place for many years, (Philippe Laufer, CATIA CEO, has been discussing with COE members for  years since his time as an R&D product manager).  So the planning and thinking that takes place in these 3 days can drive a years work and the chance to mix the work with an element of socializing only helps the productivity.  CATIA is certainly at the heart of the conference but almost every user also has a connection with another Dassault Systèmes brands or partner application.  This discussion, around real world environments, makes the key difference between a sales and marketing event and a user event plus it links in the participation of nearly all the Dassault Systèmes brands to serve the users needs.

But my personal lesson is that COE is not about just 3 days in April but it is a year round community that has its foundation in the Regional User Groups (RUGs) and the online forums.  Without doubt the annual conference needs to justify the time and investment of  the COE members and their employers but it’s integrity and right to speak for its members is based on discussions and experience that is captured at regional and communal level.

The coming year seems to be a good one! The V6 discovery panel, (a shared V6 design project that is supported by Dassault Systèmes), as well as potential new RUGs in places as diverse as Seattle and Shanghai, show that COE really is thinking about its member’s needs.   The foundation for members coming to COE is about education.  The COE University classes as well as the expert sessions represent significant value to users and the future seems to be bright in this area, so that the new opportunities that Dassault Systèmes brands bring can be tested, learnt and discussed by the COE members and valuable lessons learned.

COE is not the only strong CATIA user group in the world but it does possess a certain style.  This could be based around the people that drive the organisation or it may be that the Florida sun is more appealing than the UK rain :wink: But it is certainly a group of people that when motivated can energize the user base and is never afraid to ask the tough questions.  The coming months will show that CATIA and its user groups can do more to connect users, discussions and awareness of how CATIA can shape the product design experience.  User groups, like COE, are key partners in that and we look forward to announcing some fun ways that CATIA users can hold their hands up to be counted.  I am currently trying to build connections with user groups around the world so that we can increase our support for their efforts, if you are part of a group or would appreciate some assistance in starting a group then please let me know  :-)

Andy Reilly is a member of CATIA brand and a regular COE attendee

The Secret Sauce?

By Derek
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OK, I know Perspectives is supposed to be about 3D and Innovation. But, I gotta be up front. I’m going to skip the 3D for a second.

This year is the 25th anniversary of the COE User Group – an anniversary that was celebrated at last week’s COE Annual Spring Conference and Technifair. This year’s event was held in Seattle with Dassault Systèmes and IBM, COE’s founding partners, in attendance (of course). Despite the tough economic times, a whole host of COE members and DS partners showed up. Sure, fewer than last year, but… the dedication and vibrancy of the organization was only more evident in these times. Even some competitors showed up, hoping to sneak in and see the latest on the PLM front from the industry leader and its customers.

I was struck by the community’s dedication. Some of these guys have been coming to this event for 20+ years! I know there are similar user orgs with similar levels of dedication out there in the software world (especially in the CAD world… SolidWorks users, I’m lookin’ at you!). But, for a company that focuses so much on collaboration, seeing the interaction going on between DS and its users was revealing. No wonder DS believes so strongly in collaboration as an enabler of innovation. We’ve plainly benefited from this very paradigm.

I watched Kevin Fowler of Boeing Commercial Aircraft discuss his company’s cutting edge implementation of Dassault Systèmes’ PLM solutions on the 787 aircraft program. And you know, he didn’t sugar coat it. He didn’t give a standard customer event puff piece. He laid it out. Good (lots!) and not so good (some challenges which they –successfully – faced). But he wrapped it up with an honest assessment, as captured by Rita Stange of ConnectPress in her summary article: “he concluded by saying that he can’t speak highly enough of the V5 capabilities.”

I watched users stand in the hall and talk to their DS counterparts about migration issues, about new functionality, about requests for changes.

I listened to open exchanges between board members and senior DS execs. I saw (tough) questions asked and answered. I saw competitor FUD dispelled by simply discussing the issues clearly, in the light of day (well, maybe ‘light of the main stage’). I saw decisions made, action items slated, all before a large audience.

Every comment, every idea, every suggestion going towards better software, better solutions, better strategies.

There is no doubt in my mind that DS’s passion for innovation and collaboration stems partly from this constant interaction. We are only half the innovation equation. Would we lead the PLM marketplace without this? Without the collaboration between our users and us? Would DS be nearly what it is without 25 years of collaborative innovation?


Derek Lane is Dassault Systèmes’ Americas PR manager and a regular COE attendee.