A conversation with the new Managing Director EuroCentral of Dassault Systèmes, Dominic Kurtaz, on 24February, 2021 at Dassault Systèmes in Munich.
Ulrich Sendler: How does it feel to be responsible for the whole portfolio of Dassault Systèmes now, after you were most recently leading 3DEXCITE?
Dominic Kurtaz: I think 3DEXCITE is a super-exciting brand. In the past, it was predominantly all about pictures and movies. But if you look at it now as part of the 3DEXPERIENCE platform around topics such as IoT, where we really want to bring in digital experiences in terms of how the product is going to behave in context, that is part of the awareness and decision making process. It opens the value of the virtual twin in completely new domains. That unlocks huge opportunities for a real discussion with companies how they can use that for new service and business models.
To be a brand CEO means on the one side you are working very closely with R&D and strategy to develop the next wave of the portfolio, and on the other side you must keep an eye on the customers and make sure you are driving their success. As a Managing Director of Dassault Systèmes you are much more oriented towards the customer dimension.
What is it that you bring in from 3DEXCITE?
Dominic Kurtaz (photo Dassault Systèmes): Dassault Systèmes is already a leader in PLM and CAD and many aspects of digital manufacturing. But on topics like MBSE, Manufacturing Execution, logistics planning – we need to develop a challenger mindset. When we build on the elements of the industry where we are recognized as a leader, an accelerator of innovation, acceptance, and drive on the new topics – we can connect those things together. I think that is the fundamental reason why they put me in this position. 3DEXCITE is a good example of that. It was a very manual oriented and disconnected value proposition, even from technology. Now the virtual twin is no longer a manufacturing or a product representation, but one that you can give to your customer. The scope of the digital twin needs to be thought of again and evolved to the next dimension.
3DEXCITE is a good example of how these technologies were industrialized. To transform the data from engineering to VR, it was a huge effort and an almost discrete process. That was unsustainable. The process how you now get the data to VR is completely different. So, you can think about taking VR from the cave and putting it on to the desktop of the people.
Why are manufacturing industry, healthcare/life sciences and infrastructure/cities particularly mentioned in your bio?
Dominic Kurtaz: We are taking a sector approach. The three sectors we focus on? Of course, the manufacturing as our traditional one, what we are most recognized for; life science/healthcare, which is a key area of investment for several years; and infrastructure/cities as the area, where you live as a user, a citizen, and a patient, where all the manufactured products end up. Why these three? The real value is the interplay between these sectors.
In the manufacturing sector everybody understands what the virtual twin is, what it can mean and how it can be used. In life science that level of maturity is not there. There is a lot of carry-over of knowledge that we can take from manufacturing and start to think how we can build and use virtual twins of peoples’ bodies and how those behave. What we have done in manufacturing like mass personalization or market for 1 we can apply to mass personalization in medicine. And for cities/infrastructure you might have seen what we have done in Singapore. It’s just the start. The aggregation of data from all these new sources, IoT, Machine Learning and AI, we can really claim to build a virtual representation of the context in the city, of these products and the city they can operate in. The value of linking these sectors together is critical. Specifically, Germany is such a hub of innovation from vehicle to vaccines. We are happy here in central Europe to be a showcase for this sector strategy.
“Germany is embracing the cloud in all sectors of the economy. The infrastructure’s behind.”
Is there a hinderance for city-digitalization in Germany?
[Based on the 3DEXPERIENCE platform, Dassault Systèmes’ Passenger Experience industry solution provides an end-to-end digital system for communication, distribution and commerce, enabling manufacturers and their customers to access entire product lines and variants through immersive experiences (picture and picture-text Dassault Systèmes)]
Dominic Kurtaz: Good question. I heard lots of stories that the economy is reluctant to embrace cloud. But data shows that the opposite is true. Germany is embracing the cloud in all sectors of the economy. It’s the infrastructure that’s behind. But that’s because politics is very much driven by the election cycles of four or five years. Infrastructure is something that needs a thinking of a far longer time frame.
What are your goals for this and the next few years?
Dominic Kurtaz: If I look internally, there is a different kind of leadership. Business success is very much driven by people success. I want to enable our people to think differently, empower our people and set a new ambition. If we get the right internal thinking and put the customer above all our thinking, that ultimately drives our long term success. Sometimes we lose track of the fact that it is the success of our customers that drives our own success. So, one aspect is the reimagination of what we stand for here in EuroCentral as Dassault Systèmes.
If I look at the customer orientation, I want to be recognized by our customers not as just the guys that mastered systems engineering, but as a trusted partner for many of the new topics as well as for many of the long legacy topics. Simulation is a good example. In many companies it is still the specialist using simulation, not every engineer having it on his desktop, though it is technologically possible now.
We are recognized as a software developer, always looking for the next What, the next new application, the new extensions to the 3DEXPERIENCE platform. Sometimes we need to step back from that. We have millions of users of our core technology today. And as well as focusing on the What, we must focus on the skills and the workforce required for the future, for example how we help mechanical engineers to be thinking more around systems and software and validation of simulation.
In the automotive industry electrification is a key, mobility of the future is a key, and fuel cell is a key. Nobody needs to tell them where they need to get to. The question is How to get there. We need to focus as much on how to get there versus the What that we were focusing on in the past.
Is Dassault Systèmes looking for something like low code to make transformation easier for the customers?
Dominic Kurtaz: It’s not only about low code, but also about building their own CAD system, like in the early days, when company specific software was the standard. People are inventing their own integrations and customizing their own processes. There is still too much customization. There needs to be a change in the mindset before we can think of and start with things like low code. Which will come, but we are still a few steps away.
A change in the position of the CEO is always kind of a crossroad. Where is Dassault Systèmes going with you?
Dominic Kurtaz: I don’t see a crossroad. It is about acceleration and reprioritizing. We need to move with our customers much faster on cloud. No question, it’s the enabler for new business models with our customers, it’s the innovation accelerator, and it also brings us a much better understanding of what our users are doing, to help us anticipate. It’s a fundamental for us, it’s a fundamental for our customers, and we need to put much more emphasis on that.
On the other hand, we need to think customer, customer, customer. Sometimes, as a technology provider, we would like to think of our technology first and then, how we can apply it to the customer. We need to stop that, flipping that around.
But your customers themselves are not really looking that way with their customers, are they?
Dominic Kurtaz: That’s true. Whenever you see a definition of the digital twin or the virtual twin, it is always for design, for engineering, for manufacturing. The customer of our customer is never represented in that discussion.
Acceptation of IT as a transformation enabler is still the exception rather than the norm
How do you see the trends in the market of industry software?
[Dassault Systèmes’ Smart, Safe & Connected industrial solution enables companies to reduce time-to-market for product innovations, optimize the management of complex systems, and create an integrated platform for mechanics, electronics, software and simulation (picture and picture text Dassault Systèmes)]
Dominic Kurtaz: In our industry it is spoken about transformation and those big topics like PLM for many years. If we reflect and look in the mirror and what some of our customers have done, it has been still deployments of technology within silos within their businesses. The acceptation of IT as a transformation enabler is still the exception rather than the norm. But there is some acceleration during the pandemic that people are starting to think more end to end. The customers are more recognizing the transformation aspects that IT can bring, rather than just being operational excellence within the individual silos. We have come from those specialized domains in the automotive companies, we have come from domains like body in white or chassis or systems engineering. It’s good that we’ve got those deep levels of expertise, but probably less than 30% are dealing with those deep technology silos day to day. We need to make the accessibility for the other 70% to connect into those silos and exploit the data and process from them much, much easier. We are coming from a thinking, where the specialization and capability within those silos was the enabler for transformation. Actually, it was a foundation, but the enabler for transformation is to really make the accessibility to those pockets much easier. This is where the 3DEXPERIENCE platform has hit the nail on the head. We are building on specialization to simplification.
What was the change brought by the pandemic?
Dominic Kurtaz: 3DEXCITE is a good example for that. 3DEXCITE’s business was and still is based upon working with our customers’ very sensitive data. For the last twenty years they were very strict in terms of how we access that data, how we manage that data and even where we work on that data. Within the space of two weeks that completely changed in March 2020. Our customers said, this is so mission critical for us, if you need to mobilize your workforce to work from home, if you are still committed to managing our data, we don’t care about any of those legacy processes. It sounds like an operational topic, but it’s a transformation topic. Why? Because now we can move data anywhere in the world. That allows us to scale up, scale down, take data in the new parts of their businesses, which we couldn’t do before. It completely changed the operating model of the business, and it happened in a two week time frame. It was incredible.
In a discussion an executive of one of our automotive clients was acknowledging that he can’t be in control of the different processes and technologies and access points. He can build a data framework, knowing that he has got no control over the accessibility anymore. That changes IT-thinking. If anybody is going to access that data, they have a common entry point and a common standard. The developer portal of a large automotive OEM is a good example. Applications are developed all over the world across all of the domains of their business. They can’t control this application development, but they can control the foundations of the data that those application developers have access to. That sets a different parameter for the CIO. The control is gone, but not many people have already realized this.
How do you think Dassault Systèmes will exit this pandemic?
Dominic Kurtaz: Dassault Systèmes has a very resilient business model. A lot of our revenues are built upon subscription and renewal fees. And because our offerings are mission critical our customers, we see a high stability in ongoing renewal. That’s a good thing. I think we will emerge from this well.
But ultimately our success is driven by the success of our customers. So the many unknowns across all different industries are an opportunity for us to reevaluate the relationships with many customers and make sure that we are right at the center of that new thinking. In many of the classical topics that we already know, we are already there. But for many of the new topics like how our customers interact with their customers, we are more of a challenger. If our customers perceive Dassault Systèmes as the provider helping them reinvent how to communicate and interact with their customers, that would be a great result, that comes out of this exit of the pandemic.