The Dassault Systemes Success Story – Part 9

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In 1984, I hired a young engineer called Bernard Charles. He started to work in the R&D department to develop the support of the first IBM graphic terminal called IBM 5080 using the colored raster technology to realistically visualize surfaces and solids. And progressively I promoted him to become the R&D manager in 1990. In 1995, according to an agreement with our Chairman, Bernard Charles assumed the position of President, the position he still holds today. I stayed in the executive team, focusing on market development in emerging countries: China, India, South Asia-Pacific, Russia, Africa, etc.

Regarding China, I was one of the first IT businessmen flying to Beijing in 1985 to negotiate the sale of CATIA to the Ministry of Aviation. I remember the old fashioned, dilapidated and very small airport, the narrow road to go to the only hotel from the 30’s for visitors in Beijing, the “Beijing Hotel” near the Forbidden City. No cars and millions of bicycles. Some people in France joked about my trip, “What are you doing in that country?” And now China is a huge CATIA customer.

From the relationship with IBM and with our key customers we inherited a strong culture of partnership. The general idea was to extend and reinforce our strength, in term of feature coverage, technologies, customers support, research, or sales, not only with our own resources but with partners. Progressively, we built an ecosystem with hundreds of partners. For me, looking at the ecosystem of an enterprise is a key parameter to measure its strength or its weakness. We made more than 15 company acquisitions to accelerate our solution coverage. So the very small start-up with 20 people in 1981 is now a large group with more than 8000 employees, and an organization with development laboratories as well as services and sales subsidiaries in many countries.

CAD/CAM has become too restrictive to identify the Dassault Systèmes solutions. In the early 2000’s, it was replaced by PLM, the acronym for Product Lifecycle Management. And new brand names have been added to CATIA to address full PLM: DELMIA to support the manufacturing plant, ENOVIA to support the collaboration internally and with the extended enterprise of our customers, SIMULIA for Analysis and Simulation, SolidWorks for 3D modeling and 3DVIA for 3D visualization.

I retired from Dassault Systèmes in 2006. How can I conclude this article? Well, perhaps I may conclude in saying that the success of Dassault Systèmes is the combination of several fundamentals which I have drafted earlier:

  1. Being in the right place at the right time : IT revolution, globalization, Dassault.
  2. Inventing a business transformation with a long term vision: “3D for all”.
  3. Making the right strategic decisions: Dassault Systèmes creation, IBM partnership, product management, ecosystem implementation, customers, partnerships and well positioned acquisitions.
  4. A strong management and execution process.