Confession time: I have degrees in both mechanical engineering and business. I’ve always done well in math and science. But there was one class in both high school and college that just gave me fits: chemistry. To this day, I break into a cold sweat when there is Jeopardy question on ion-chained reactions in the presence of free radicals (OK, so I watch some pretty nerdy Jeopardy episodes). So it was with great trepidation that I took on the assignment to get the story behind ourmost recent news. Catalyst Series? I thought we were in the PLM software business? What’s a catalyst anyway?
To answer that question, like all good blog writers, I turned to Google which of course sent me over to Wikipedia. There I learned that “A catalyst is a substance which causes the process of catalysis.” Do you think I would have gotten even partial credit if I had used that answer on my Chem 101 test? Since the web was failing me, I decided to go straight to the source and ask Steve Bashada, the head of our industry group, what a Catalyst is and why it appears that all of the sudden we are in the chemicals business. Here are some excerpts from our chat:
Chris: What is it exactly that we're announcing?
Steve: Today we are announcing The Industry Catalyst Series which is intended to deliver faster time to value for our customers by focusing within the context of their industry. Traditionally, PLM vendors had come to the market with a very heavy product focus and then the customer really had to adapt and understand how that product functionality mapped into their particular industry and their industry processes. That made typically for a rougher, slower installation and startup. Typically a lot of customization happened as well.
Chris: Why did we decide to do this now?
Steve: Everywhere I go people ask me ‘what are your best practices for doing this, that or the other.’ What we wanted to do is augment our products with a package that got our customers there faster. A catalyst is a way to package those best practices and describe exactly to our customers how we recommend they implement and use our products. It’s a great starting point for customers because since it's within the context of their industry, they relate to it very quickly and they get a nice jump start towards where they want to be. They end up doing fewer customizations and they get to the end point a lot quicker.
Chris: We made a big splash about being more industry focused a few years ago. Is the catalyst series a change in direction?
Steve: No, I think of it as more of the next level, if you will. There's a certain completeness that we were able to achieve with our own products and our products’ capability. When you look across our stack and you look at using NX, persisting in Teamcenter, finishing with manufacturing, doing simulation with LMS. Those things are now in an integrated process flow that a customer might expect, given the industry that they're in. So that's very different than where we were. It's a big step forward.
Chris: We’ve talked about the name Catalyst, but what is it really? So if a customer buys one from us, what is it that they actually get?
Steve: Now that's a good question. Well first of all, it has a set of industry best practices. Let's talk about electronics and semi-conductors for example. What we've done there is carved up the end-to-end process and pulled out what we call the process pillars. These are the things that in any electronics company we believe are key.
Next is user interface. We make sure the user experience is great by using process and terminology that they are already familiar with based on their industry context.
Then there are deployment accelerators. Whether that be techniques, documentation or code, anything that helps a customer get to the time to value as fast as possible. So, that again is packaged in the catalyst.
Lastly there are configurable components. Customers tell us that they spend a lot of time deciding how to deploy and configure PLM products that come with a lot of functionality. We want to make those decisions easier, so we recommend certain configurations as part of the install process. You'll be able to install a catalyst component and you'll then inherit all of these pre-configured items automatically.
Taken together we are sure that a catalyst will get a customer productive with PLM more quickly.
Chris: So say I work at an electronics and semi-conductor Company and I've decided that the catalyst you just described is right for me. I still need some products too, right?
Steve: Absolutely. The foundation is still our products. In fact, you know when I talk about industry solutions I really talk about all the capabilities that are in the core products that you install. The catalyst makes them easier to access and apply, because it's pre-configured, the UI is tailored to your industry, so it just makes it a smoother end-to-end process.
Chris: Rather than it being in PLM terminology, it's in electronics and semi-conductor terminology.
Steve: That's exactly right.
Chris: I know we don't like to talk about product futures too much, but we’re announcing three specific industries that we have catalysts for as of now. What generally can we expect after these three?
Steve: Our goal is to have an industry catalyst for every industry by the end of 2014. We will apply catalysts to industry segments, not only at the top level industry sector. In other words, marine will have a shipbuilding catalyst, consumer products will have a footwear catalyst, etc.
That discussion was a whole lot more helpful to me than Wikipedia - hopefully it was for you as well. If you are still looking for more, watch the video excerpt below where Steve describes how a catalyst is created: