Becoming a Platform Company

On one company's mission to build a platform.

platform450This week I was able to attend the DSCC 2011 conference near my home in Las Vegas, NV. (Any reason to hit the tables, right?)

Along with a number of other bloggers and media types, I spoke with Bernard Charlès, President and Chief Executive Officer of Dassault Systems. According to its website, DS is

a world leader in Product Lifecycle Management (PLM). [It] provides solutions that enable businesses of every size and sector around the globe to design, simulate, and experience tomorrow’s products with [its] partners, from suppliers to consumers.

Disclaimer: I attended the conference for free and was granted media access. 

Right now, DS’s applications are traditional (read: on-premise or client-server based.) DS’s software and applications are admittedly too bulky and complex. As presently constituted, DS’s products are not sufficiently simple to install, maintain, and use. Moreover, they are not sufficiently open to encourage third-party innovation. As a result, potential partners are unlikely to develop apps for the company’s products. This is both a short- and long-term challenge.

Maintaining an organization’s status quo is sually not conducive to building a true platform.

Charlès’ candor was refreshing and atypical of many of his contemporaries. To his credit, Charlès realizes that this is not tenable–and he’s taking steps to ameliorate things. Maintaining his organization’s status quo is certainly not conducive to building a true platform, something about which I asked him point-blank. The company is already working on deploying its apps in the cloud.

Emulating the Right Model

Charlès spoke highly of the Force.com model as I do in The Age of the Platform. Ideally, DS will create a platform that will allow others to easily create their own intellectual property (IP). And this shouldn’t be a discrete event; partners should be incentivized keep the innovation coming.

Of course, you don’t “get to the cloud” or create a platform overnight. Further, building a robust ecosystem takes time–and current clients rightfully expect a cogent game plan. Charlès notes that, in the future, DS will offer a number of different options for DS’ clients:

  1. On-premise software–i.e., a continuation of its current infrastructure for clients unwilling to go to the cloud.
  2. Running its software on a public cloud
  3. Providing a virtualized environment for predefined set of companies (multi-tenant)
  4. Offering a country-specific cloud

Simon Says

In the enterprise space, any software vendor faces a major challenge: it has to strike the right balance between leading and following. Many of DS’s clients are large, conservative organizations. As such, they tend frown upon their software vendors telling them about major changes in direction, architecture, and licensing without giving them sufficient time to prepare.

This should be interesting to watch. Charlès clearly gets it; he understands the power of the cloud, ecosystems, and platforms. For a number of reasons, however, many companies have historically struggled reconfiguring their applications and architectures. Microsoft readily comes to mind. There’s no cloud “switch” on any application, much less complex ones that support manufacturing, retail, and other large enterprises.

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philanimated

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1 Comment

  1. Samson Eric

    Phil,

    I also attended DSCC 2011 and I agree with your post. I need to contact you regarding use of this blog post in a presentation.
    Best regards, Eric.

    Reply

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