Dassault Systèmes ECF2010

The past two weeks have been somewhat fraught for those of us in Northern Europe. Whilst  the icy weather and heavy snow showers may have smug four-wheel drive car owners testing the competencies of their high-tech drive trains and hill-descent aids; nature, however, has an unerring way of reminding us of the that the laws of momentum can shatter confidence in the merest of moments.

 What has the weather to do with Dassault’s recent flagship European customer event, I hear you ask. Held this year in Disneyworld Paris, the theme of the event, ‘Get ready for lifelike experience’ when contrasted with its otherworldly venue reminded me that lifelike experience is not purely about what happens in the ‘norm’. Instead, it’s often about predicting and depicting the extremes at either end of the spectrum. Dassault, with their recent acquisitions of digital visualisation and simulation technologies, has invested heavily over recent years to present digital insight as a valid alternative to practical reality; highlighted particularly at this event in presentations and discussion from customers and executives alike.
There were a number of presentations that I feel deserve a notable mention; the first being that of Michael Zimmermann, VP of Worldwide Sales for Exalead. For me, the discussion on search and enterprise analytics reflects an interesting direction (change) for Dassault; certainly one that sees them progress beyond their current sweet spots and heading instead into the headlights of the Google’s, IBM’s and Autonomy’s of the world.
A discussion from Hans-Peter Heimer of German consumer goods giant s.Oliver highlighted their remarkable performance gains through their PLM implementation. Describing themselves as a company selling ‘emotions and dreams’, they’ve seen a decrease in their development cycle from 500 days to 180, which is pretty impressive considering their 12,000 strong product range (annually). Indeed both Hans-Peter and the next speaker, Ignacio Gonzales Hernandez, Commercial Director of Carrefour, the world’s second largest retail group (behind Wal-Mart), delivered enlightening and entertaining views on their company’s forays into the virtual consumer experience.
Certainly the most prevalent thing to strike me, and what became increasingly apparent from the presentations and discussion at the event was the extent to which Dassault is keen to drive their business beyond their historic AUTO/AERO/CAD/PLM heritage of the past.
Unfortunately I was only able to stay but one short day but riding on the bus back to the airport I sat next to a senior VP from EADS. For him, the most memorable part of the day was the presentation from Bernard Charles. This view was supported by quite a number of the Dassault staff and Customer attendees I had a chance to speak to, all of whom were enthused by Bernard’s naturally enthusiastic and positive performance. Whilst I would certainly support these sentiments, one of my own personal highlights came in a lunchtime discussion with Pascal Daloz, Executive VP of Strategy & Marketing. A well-spoken man of significant vision, Pascal is nonetheless eminently approachable and fiercely bright; attributes that make me wonder why we don’t see more of him in customer facing roles at Dassault events.