The Past, Present, and Future of SOLIDWORKS – an Interview with Ken Clayton, VP of SOLIDWORKS Sales

Article by Alin Vargatu, CSWE updated April 21, 2014

Ken Clayton, VP of Worldwide Sales, SOLIDWORKS

Ken Clayton, VP of Worldwide Sales, SOLIDWORKS

Ken Clayton, the VP of SOLIDWORKS Worldwide Sales recently attended three Ontario SOLIDWORKS User Group Network meetings to present ‘The Past, Present, and Future of SOLIDWORKS’ and answer questions from SOLIDWORKS users. For users who were unable to attend a UGN meeting we were able to conduct an interview with Ken and ask him some questions about the future of SOLIDWORKS…

Who is Ken Clayton and what did he do before joining SOLIDWORKS?

Life before SolidWorks has included multiple business development roles. One influential experience was 9 years in textile manufacturing for the Automotive Division of Milliken & Co. which included a stint as the Tier 1 Molded Parts Program Manager for BMW’s NA assembly plant. That role provided a fast track education at many levels.

How long have you been working for SOLIDWORKS? How did you start?

Between Milliken & Co. and SOLIDWORKS, I spent two years in business development roles for 3D Systems (rapid prototyping). In that role, I made new friends at SOLIDWORKS and they offered me an opportunity in January of 2000. I was one of the initial members of a team charged with working with global companies – ultimately having the pleasure of working with Disney, NASA, Lockheed, Robert Bosch NA, Michelin Tire, Nordsen Corporation and many others. It was rewarding to see the joy of many engineers as they experienced 3D CAD with SolidWorks. We were successful but I was never confused – I gave the credit to the software – our role in business development was easy – enable good communication and let the engineer make his choice.

What do you like most about your job as the VP of Worldwide Sales?

The people and their passion. At every level – customer, reseller, employee and in every country – people love the work they do and their personal connection to this amazing community.When I am in the field with customers, partners and employees – I often ask myself – “do I really get paid for this?”

Describe the SOLIDWORKS corporate culture, the way you see it from your point of view.

Deep commitment to the user community. Seeing the world through the eyes of the engineer. This is in the employee DNA. Overall,  we are a family – albeit a big family with more than 1,000 of the 11,500 DS employees worldwide. The SOLIDWORKS brand carries a lot of responsibility with it today. Our products must meet high standards for relevance, usability and cost. Everyone is watching us – the commitment to deliver on the SOLIDWORKS brand promise has never been stronger.

SOLIDWORKS is such a great product that some people believe that is sells by itself. Is there a difference you experience as a sales professional in selling SOLIDWORKS products versus selling anything else?

I have always reminded my team that engineers are extremely capable and won’t be ‘sold’ anything. Our job is to enable an environment of genuine learning such that engineers are able to make a good decision. You are right, with great products the focus can be on the customer and not on sales tactics. The best sales driver of SOLIDWORKS continues to engineers telling other engineers.

There are a lot of certifications that SOLIDWORKS users can get. Are there any certifications required for the people who want to become professionals in selling SOLIDWORKS products?

Yes! We have several certifications beginning with the Certified SOLIDWORKS Sales Professional. These certifications are gained through a combination of self-driven e-learning and classroom environments. The curriculum focuses on industry, product and process knowledge. It’s important that our customers interface with qualified people. It’s a challenge to properly prepare 6,000+ employees that work for our resellers but we are deeply invested in this ambition and will continue to pursue excellence in this area. It is a core value.

Please share with us three important skills that would define a successful SOLIDWORKS sales professional.

HUMILITY! Honesty & Empathy. Can I have a fourth? Resilience!

The strength of the SOLIDWORKS Community is unparalleled in the CAD industry. The users using other CAD products are really envying SOLIDWORKS users for that. What is your personal involvement in supporting the worldwide community of users?

As I travel the globe, I have the opportunity to talk with the press to answer the questions of who are we and where we are going! I am thankful for this opportunity. In addition, I support as many SOLIDWORKS  roll out events as my calendar allows – which brings us  closer to dozens and sometimes hundreds of users.   I also try to spend as many days a year as possible in the field with the team meeting customers …. And it’s taken a few years to clear my schedule – but I am now finally involved in User Group events!

Can you provide a few teasers in regards to the topics that you will present next week when visiting three of the Ontario SOLIDWORKS User Groups?

The primary objective is to meet our users and hear their thoughts and questions. What I say is always less important than I what I learn.  I will share our values, our evolution and hopes and dreams for the future.

SOLIDWORKS just launched new products on the 3DEXPERIENCE platform and many more are in the pipeline. Do you see them as game changers?

I do see these products as game changers. They offer a choice – engineers deserve the right to choose. We will strive to deliver efficiency through ease of use, functional power and collaboration. But, it’s important to remember who’s opinion matters. Our users will choose or not choose to integrate these technologies. Learning from our customers remains job No. 1. Our objective is bring ‘SolidWorks simple’ to this and every conversation. Our customers will tell us if we have succeeded – they are the ones that decide if something is a game changer.

With the new products comes a completely new way of selling the software (at least new for the current SOLIDWORKS users). Can you explain what are the advantages of the new licensing model for end-user? Are all the 3DEXPERIENCE apps SAS?

Yes, the 3DExperience products will be SAS. Advantages? Ease of launching and upgrading software, increased mobility, monitoring usage and controlling IT cost all come to mind. In addition, as we have done with 3DExperience products, the ability to work differently with our team, our vendors and our customers offers potential paybacks. The ability to access a wide range of Dassault Systemes tools easily and quickly within a single user experience – we can design products, test them, generate manufacturing data and communicate technical information all within a single environment in a single, common format.

Can you describe the type of company who would benefit the most by using the new 3DEXPERIENCE ecosystem in general and SOLIDWORKS Mechanical Conceptual in particular?

I am going to let our press release answer that question as I believe these words summarize the answer beautifully:

“SOLIDWORKS Mechanical Conceptual is aimed at design professionals and teams in the industrial machinery sector; specifically those who are involved in Concept Machine Design. The requirements and workflows for concept design are different to those requirements for production drawing. Concept design requires tools that enable designers to rapidly create, innovate, and collaborate. Production design requires detailing tools, manufacturing specific modelling and design release controls.  SOLIDWORKS Mechanical Conceptual is complementary to the existing SOLIDWORKS tools and solves design problems in a new and innovative way”.

I have been using SOLIDWORKS Mechanical Conceptual for about a month and I am already hooked on the ease of use. The interface seems to read my mind to the point that I am “driving” by instinct. I told my friends that going back to SOLIDWORKS V1 after working in SWMC for 2 hours feels like driving the family minivan after returning the rented Porsche. Can you tell us if the development teams of SW and SWMC are sharing ideas and techniques? Would be great if some the best tools from SWMC will trickle back into the traditional SW.

The teams are working together and we expect several innovations from SWMC to flow into SWV1.

At this time, the data produced by SWMC can be saved only on the DASSAULT cloud, which is an absolute NO-NO for some companies due to internal security procedures. Are you working on allowing the users to host their own internal cloud in the future?

Yes to internal cloud or Private cloud. Cannot comment on when it will be available, definitely not in 2014.

Will SWMC ever be available as a desktop stand-alone installation?

At this time, SWMC is exclusively a cloud based solution and there is no plan to offer it on the desktop.

Bertrand Sicot – the CEO of SOLIDWORKS, repeatedly stated that SOLIDWORKS V1 will be actively developed and sold using the current licensing model for the foreseeable future. The fact that users liked the new enhancements introduced by the last 3 releases of SOLIDWORKS, especially the new CAD tools (Intersect, Style Splines, Conics, Replace Sketch Entity, Slots and Slots Mates) seems to prove that. Can you confirm that one more time?

There is no end of life planned for SOLIDWORKS. No changes. We remain committed to delivering the desktop products engineers will continue to choose and recommend to their colleagues.

Are there any plans to have SolidWorks V1 integrated in the cloud in the future? What about having just the option to save in the 3DEXPERIENCE cloud? (Question from Chris)

Yes. Will be able to save into the cloud.

SOLIDWORKS announced that is developing more apps to run in the 3DEXPERIENCE environment. SWMC already has an FEA companion and the SW Industrial Conceptual will be available to selected customers this summer. Will all the products in this family be dedicated only to the concept phase of the design, or are you going to add apps to cater also to the needs of detailers? Anything in the pipeline to address sheet metal, weldments, piping, drawings?

As we announced the second release is SOLIDWORKS Industrial Conceptual. Cannot comment on future plans beyond what we discussed at SOLIDWORKS World.

Is it too early to ask about the pricing model of such an ecosystem? Would you group some of the apps in suites that are sold for a lower price than the sum of the parts (Similar to the Standard, Professional and Premium licenses for SOLIDWORKS V1)?

SWMC is a group of apps that have a bundles lower price than individual components. So, it is already in place with the first release.

At the past SOLIDWORKS World events, you presented the chart comparing the SOLIDWORKS sales with the competition (Inventor, Creo, SolidEdge, IronCAD, etc.). Can you provided an updated chart?

Let’s save this conversation for the User Group Meetings!

Will SOLIDWORKS ever work on a Mac?

Everyone acknowledges the delightful experience of the Mac.    And we respect the passion of the Mac users. Ultimately, we have to rationalize the investment.

We’ve been inching our way along with the Mac, tantalizing our customers with many hopeful “signs” that a full mac version is “in the air”. DraftSight and eDrawings both run NATIVELY on Macintosh. We have a suite of eDrawings  App’s offerings now for iOS. Macintosh itself uses Intel processors and nVidia cards, you are able to install Windows on top of Mac OS through Bootcamp. So, we are able to run non-natively on Macintosh. A full, NATIVE version of SOLIDWORKS on Macintosh is not in the offering anytime soon as just we’re so deeply entrenched in Windows. SOLIDWORKS is argueably the most complex software product native to Windows, it would be a huge task to rewrite it to also be native to Macintosh and would remove significant development resources away from performance, functionality, quality, cloud, social, sheet metal etc.

What is the question you would have liked to be asked and we missed in this interview?

With the many announcements and all the conjecture offered by bloggers and the competition, I think our users may have a simple question: “What is changing in SOLIDWORKS (the product and the company) and what is not changing?” I hope we can answer that question in our User Group Sessions.

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Alin Vargatu, CSWE

Alin is a SOLIDWORKS Elite Applications Engineer and an avid contributor to the SOLIDWORKS Community. Alin has presented multiple times at SOLIDWORKS World, Technical Summits, and User Group Meetings, while being very active on the SOLIDWORKS Forum.