Solid Edge Needs a User Community to Thrive

Over at Matt’s Solidedge blog, http://ontheedge.dezignstuff.com/community/247   you can find the topic of user community today. This is a topic near and dear to my heart and a source of continuous frustration. To me I regard the SW user community in both the social aspects and the integrated apps aspects with real envy.

It is  a lynch pin of  SW success for both the users and the company that creates it. I could say that it is one of the chief indicators as to whether or not a software company regards it’s users seriously. I was going to say the chief indicator until I thought of SW where Dassault’s destruction of the software against user wishes may very well outweigh the value of community  in the near future.

But I do believe community has been key to long term growth and retention. The user community both in social and in integration is going to be the thing that will sway many to stay in spite of being abused by Dassault with “Catia Lite”. Community is the thing that convinced many to be with SW over the years.

I think that the problem of integrated apps is probably being addressed with SE at this time. How well and how fast and with what and to what degree is a deep dark secret I am not privy to. I can only say that I hope they realize the seriousness of the time limits placed upon them to do this. Once Dassault finishes destroying the SW people knew and loved and gets around to running off their customers  the winner had better have their alternatives in place and proven. I figure about a year is left.  A year has just been squandered. Half the time is gone with nothing to show.

SE has had as far as I know, and in spite of large seat count growth, only one new user group formed since 2005 and it is moribund. I quit trying to have a meeting because it is just to darned hard to get dates from SE. Last year we were supposed to wait for the ST4 Rollout meetings like there were for ST3.  Wait for the dates so they don’t conflict. Then there is 60 days before and after PLM World so they don’t conflict. I never did hear back and I assume there just was no interest. Lets face it, NOTHING will happen with the user community unless it is driven and promoted and sustained from the SE side.

After the ST3 regional Rollout meetings there were 17 groups that should have and could have been started. People who proved their interest by showing up were ripe for the harvest and SE did nothing. The interest was there, the people were there and in retrospect the only thing that was not was desire on the part of SE or Siemens or whoever was responsible to follow through. Really, the majority of the work had been done, people found and then all those seeds die from lack of water.

The Huntsville ST4 Rollout was a tremendous success as far as I am concerned. It took many jaded long time users from the status quo apathy they had been trained to have over the years to enthusiasm for the software again. But then nothing follows. We have ST5 in Nashville this June, and I heartily recommend you go if you can, but what comes after? A trek to “Mecca” once a year is not enough. It is just a begining and a springboard to launch into a planned multipronged sustained effort to build a community.

Community by the way is not Local Motors nor is it Colleges or Universities. These entities are ancillaries to but not the drivers of community success. Community is built with professional users and a suite of applications used by them. Community is where like minded people with a common connection gather to assist each other in work, software, jobs and contracts. It is where after hours you can take your laptop or do a webex with another user and solve your problem. It is where the practical experience of day to day users will save your bacon time and time again. You know what, without an active professional user community to point to all a software company has to bring to the table is, if I may play on words here, just academic and pretty meaningless in the real world. The one where the rubber hits the road and companies earn their yearly sub fees from. No one is enthused about learning software if they think there will be no work as a result. There are a lot of professional SE users out there but try and find one. How and where do you go? And just how did this sorry state of affairs not only start but now continues?

I watch what is going on and wonder how the legacy of the dumb things SE used to do under Integraph and UGS can still be here. I know Siemens wants it to be different but I just wonder how many little fiefdoms of preservation of past poor results will have to be dismantled before SE will take it’s rightfull place under the sun. I just grasp at straws here for the reason this goes on. I honestly can’t for the life of me figure this out and the single biggest ally Dassault’s Catia Lite has, I am sorry to say, is the publicity and community planning department of SE.

I like an anecdote attributed to Lee Iaccoca years ago. He was talking to a counterpart at GM and bemoaning the fact Chrysler was getting such lousy ads. He asked how GM had turned things around. The answer? The people who were responsible were told that either they produced or they were fired. I think that whoever or whatever is the reason for the holdup at SE needs to shape up or ship out. There is no more time to fiddle around. There is now less than a year to succeed from when I started this post and the clock keeps ticking.

Stop having meetings to plan what and how to do it and start doing things or you can have crash analysis meetings in the near future to dissect what went wrong. If SE does not want new customers I am sure someone else will be willing to pick up the slack.

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