In another discussion, Al Dean (yes, that Al Dean on the left, not Jason Aldean, the country singer, not that there’s anything wrong with that…) was thinking about the idea that Solid Edge needed some Rock ‘n Roll. Does that mean literally “rock ‘n roll” music, or rock ‘n roll in a metaphorical sense? And then if it is music, I’m not sure we could all agree on what kind of rock ‘n roll. I’m thinking Social Distortion, or somehow work Solid Edge into the base story line of the Blues Brothers movie.
Why does Solid Edge need rock ‘n roll? Other CAD products have succeeded for a variety of reasons. In the ’80s and ’90s Pro/E thrived with the sort of corporate arrogance that was in vogue at the time, but that turned out to be their demise later. AutoCAD’s attraction was that it was cheap, and that it was widely bootlegged. Neither of those give us anything to emulate. SolidWorks’ initial charm was that it felt home brewed – by engineers for engineers. They continued to grow I think on ease of use. Personally, I don’t think any of the actual marketing campaigns SolidWorks led were particularly brilliant, it was the overall persona of the software as being an affordable tool for everyday engineers and designers.
Maybe the Rock ‘n Roll for Solid Edge needs to be internal. A couple of important changes that needed to happen are in place. First, Karsten Newbury is a guy you can believe in. I don’t think the top dog needs to be the CAD brain, but he does need credibility, which he certainly has. Dan Staples, who is the CAD brain is also the right guy. The product has really flourished under his leadership. I think the product is 95% great stuff, with a few areas that need some tweaks. To me, the most important stuff is that they were able to integrate next-gen functionality without disrespecting the customer. I can’t say enough about how important that is. Autodesk and PTC are both trying to emulate the success of Solid Edge in this regard, in my opinion.
One of the ideas I’ve been critical of has been the idea that a CAD tool can make you do better work. I think the quality of the work is more a function of the person doing it. Using the right tool makes the work easy and fast. I’m not a huge fan of the “Design Better” slogan. Again, I don’t think my work would be any better with this tool or that tool, although one might take me twice as long, cause a lot of hair pulling, or might even lead me to give up.
How do other “tool” products sell their wares? Craftsman tools? You know they have a life time guarantee, so you know the company stands behind the product. Dewalt – Guaranteed Tough. Kobalt – Next Generation of Tough Tools. Honda Power Equipment – Power You Can Trust. So companies that are successful at selling great tools market based on quality, power and toughness. I don’t think CAD is any different. The people who use CAD are comfortable with physical tools, and consider their software a tool. I think CAD should be marketed as a tool. Not as some digital experience, or a pretty picture Easy Button. Ford Trucks? Built Ford Tough, not “drive better”.
The ideas of toughness/power and rock ‘n roll are easy to put together. I think Solid Edge needs to come up with themes that engineers can relate to. Stuff that is at the root of our love for tools and the product of our tools. Want engineers to get excited? Connect yourselves to stuff that makes us excited.