As the announcer bellowed his name as though a boxer was entering the ring and the blistering music rang in my ears I actually got a bit excited about Jeff Ray’s keynote speech at this year’s Solidworks World (SW).
I was slightly taken aback by the rock and roll entry, but it didn’t hold back CEO Jeff. Customer service is up to 91%, 1.2 million people are firing through the customer portal, and localisation of languages has been upped to 16.
So how would he grade their performance overall last year? “I would say it’s a B, but it’s a B-minus because we have plenty of room to improve.”
A survey of users after the last SW said they spend 70% of their time in SW, a huge chunk of their working lives to be in one program, and Jeff seemed set to make sure users have the chance to give their opinion.
Located in the customer portal, Brainstorm, a way to vote publicly about what goes into Solidworks, was key to this message of interaction. “It’s going to be a core part of the R&D process for those people who have access to the customer portal,” said Jeff, adding “The key word here is transparency. We’re going to show you everything and we trust that you’ll give us your best advice in our best interest.”
Showing that his inner cool belies his age, Jeff even gives out the tweet code for everyone to chase-up later on Twitter.
The outlay for the next version was summed up through “three things we have to concentrate on” – and this came through obliterating installs, obliterating the upgrade process, and the way that users have to work when managing design data. “When you need to go find that part, or that assembly, you have to become a database administrator. And we need to obliterate that language,” explained Jeff, his heart clearly set on destroying the niggling parts of the Solidworks experience. “It shouldn’t matter where those files are located – if they’re on your hard drive, on the server, or out in the cloud – you shouldn’t care and you shouldn’t have to talk to the computer in the language that it understands.”
Despite his rallying it was a tricky crowd. Although the audience was there through their love of SW, many of the claims were being met with stony silence as everyone waited for the news of what the financial crisis was to bring.
Jeff attacked this with a bit of history. “Some of the great inventions that we take for granted today came out of adversity.” He began, before extolling the virtues of Spam rising up from the Great Depression. He also gave examples of companies pushing their designs in the modern world – an interesting micro-windmill, UV water treatment for developing nations, and a baby incubator made from readily available car parts – as how resourceful thinking and design is already starting to blossom from our own recession.