Five Questions for Jeff Ray

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Former SolidWorks CEO Jeff Ray moved to Paris in January and began his Dassault Systèmes job as EVP of geographic operations.  Recently I chatted with Jeff to see how everything’s going and learn more about his plans.

Welcome to France! It would be great to know what have you been up to for the last 60 days and how are you finding Paris so far?

Personally and professionally it has been an exciting adventure. At first I was looking for an apartment for my wife and dog, sending videos and pictures to her. She trusted me and fortunately we found an apartment that we love. We moved in early February and have been getting settled. At 3DS, it has been exciting getting to know the people on the campus and jumping into great projects. Everybody has been incredibly helpful and patient with me. I appreciate their tolerance for my abuse of the French language!

I know that you are still settling in and it’s the early days, but what do you think is the most important work that you are going to be doing regarding our existing customer base?

When I am successful in this job, it will be in a way that I don’t think that it should be in your face or something that everybody should notice. It should be subtle for our customers. The internal changes may be significant, but customer impressions shouldn’t be.

First, it is all about speed and growth. Our customers are impatient with us – they want and like our products and technologies, but sometimes find us difficult to work with. Our customers are challenged to find the right solutions to solve their problems. We have great people trying to help, but old habits and ways of doing things can get in the way. The geo leaders are committed to helping remove barriers and shortening the time it takes for our customers to realize the benefits of our products.

It’s about stretching ourselves. I have no doubt that we will achieve the goals we have set for this year; my obsession is on growing at rates beyond our business targets. We are an awesome $2 B software company – not many can claim that. But, why aren’t we a $5 B company?  I hear from our employees that our opportunities go way beyond what we see today.

It is a fact that, with more and more people comfortable living in a digital world, big decisions are being made with the help of rich digital content, and in our case, rich, lifelike 3D content. We can  be the preeminent provider of the technology, tools and the resulting content to do that.

As we look at new industries and types of customers, what for you are the top of the list of things to do?

For customers we don’t work with already, we first need intimate knowledge of the industries they work in and their needs. Real precision; hard facts. This goes beyond simple market research. Great companies give customers what they need, not what they want. That is hard to do!

I’ll give you an example of hard research leading to a new way to reach a wider audience – DraftSight, which is a profoundly different model of how we have brought a product or technology to market before.  All driven by social media and word of mouth. The entire  marketing team for DraftSight is one person, but through innovative use of technologies that make it easy for happy users to share their experience with one another we have downloaded over 500 000 copies of the product in under nine months.

What is really interesting is that the majority of DraftSight users were not Dassault Systemes customers.  We have to have an appreciation for that market. What if we had used our traditional methods for developing, marketing, and distributing DraftSight?

The message here is not that we are doing things wrong. Indeed, we are world class for the things we have traditionally delivered. This is all about being uncomfortable with the status quo.  DraftSight is a good example that demonstrates that we can change this approach successfully.

We need to understand markets, the feelings of the people we are trying to reach and communicate with them in the way that they want. This can be very different to what we have done in the past. We will work on this. For those of you with bold new ideas – we want to hear from you!

3DS campus

Are there any surprises about DS since you moved – living and working here – despite knowing the company and players well already?

The only surprise is being able to get to know more and more people and see so much brilliance. There are so many ideas waiting to come out.  I am impatient to work out how to turn these ideas into actions. It is a company very rich in ideas, staggering technology, and new ways of thinking. Our challenge is to turn these in to action.

Do you have a specific message that you would like to share with Dassault Systèmes’ customers?

I am thinking about a customer I visited a couple of weeks ago, where I had a fascinating discussion. It was about sharing ideas of how they could fundamentally change the way they create products and introduce them to the market. We discussed things they had never thought about before. This made it fascinating and it was not about the technology. And it was not a manufacturer.

If I want to say anything to a customer or prospect it would be to open up and tell us  what is standing in the way of your success. Trust us to take you down new paths you have never explored.  Challenge us; we will deliver!

One thing I learned at SolidWorks and now see with every user of Dassault Systèmes products is what I call the ‘emotional paycheck’. It isn’t the technology that excites us, but watching what our customers do with our products to improve business and introduce great new products. In most cases these improve lives. In some cases, they save lives. That’s an emotional paycheck and very exciting. We are so fortunate to be given the chance to participate in this journey!

Many thanks Jeff!  Or shall I now call you Geoff?  😉