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25 May 2011

Francis BERNARD: People - this is the most interesting and important for me in different countries

David Levin (isicad.ru/net Editor-in-Chief, LEDAS.com Founder and Chairman): Francis Bernard is one of such persons who need only one or two key-words to be globally identified: he is the “father” of CATIA and the founder of Dassault Systemes. Already for a long time, I am lucky to have quite close acquaintance with Francis – in particular because he was the founder and first director of the office of Dassault Systems Russia. Francis has had a great personal influence on the dissemination of PLM ideas in the Russian market. This professional and human influence was also implemented in Siberia where Francis actively participated in three isicad forums: 2004, 2006, and 2008. Along with his involvement as an invited or key speaker, Francis was active in informal parts of the events that he kindly permited to illustrate by the following pictures. From left to right: 2004: with a guide during the excursion in Novosibirsk city, 2006: dancing with a Siberian dixieland, 2008: at the boat, on Ob articial lake (click to enlarge):

In November 2010 isicad.ru published a big article of Francis Bernard “The DASSAULT SYSTEMES Success Story”: in English and Russian. For several months, this article has stably been in the top ten of the most popular publications. The attention and high estimation of Francis’s paper did not depend on the reader’s corporate affiliation: the article was understood as a history of CAD industry and - even more importantly – as fundamental lessons that are very relevant today for all vendors and just software developers. For example, I was glad to see the following words of Francis cited just a few days ago, as an argument, in one of the hottest debates at isicad.ru:
- “A software product should not be specified only by analyzing functions and features with customers or competition analysis. This is a “me too” strategy and the risk is also to develop customers specific products instead of market specific products.
- Mixing innovation through research and new technologies, with a good understanding of each industry segment processes is the only way to define the specifications of the future successful software products”.

Recently I’ve got an opportunity to directly ask Francis Bernard few questions, so there was a small interview, which definitely will be interesting to many readers in Russia and hopefully not only in Russia.

Francis, according to CIMdata, PLM as an industry is quite successfully progressing. What is your overall feeling, do you agree? What new trends in PLM content, focus, application domains, and business schemes can you see?
Yes of course, the PLM industry is going to progress very strongly:

1. It has to take advantage of the evolution of the hardware and software platforms and technologies: Internet, cloud computing, SAAS, tablets (like IPAD), Smartphones,etc…
2. It has to be usable not only by the industry according to the B to B model of today, but also by anybody according to a B to C model and even a C to C model in the future.
3. Many of the current capabilities are still quite immature, for instance it is still necessary to make physical prototypes because the virtual simulation is not yet fully valid.
4. Several domains are still not supported in PLM such as multi-domains analysis and simulation, after sales maintenance and recycling.
5. Several markets are not yet fully addressed, such as chemical industry, pharmaceutical industry, and press media industry.

Not only the big players (DS, Siemens, PTC,…) are growing by a factor 2-3 every 3-5 years, but also dozens of niche players are created every year to address specific applications domains. I know several former employees of DS who have created successfully their own niche business in PLM.

What is your opinion about trends to make PLM lighter in whatever sense? What do you think about such players as Aras PLM…
Addressing B to C and C to C means that new PLM players will take such opportunities, not only the big players.
You are now a Board Director of ESI Group. Could you give brief informal characteristics of this company? Are there quite close connections between your main domain of activity in CAD/PLM and that of ESI? What is your typical role/activity in the company?
ESI-Group is the company behind the world's first car crash test simulators, it develops Analysis and Simulations software products in order to ultimately eliminate physical prototypes through virtual prototyping. It allows simulating virtually the behavior of the future physical product, thus allowing to identify improvements to be done in the Digital Mock-up as well as in the manufacturing process. This is what is called CAE, it is a domain of PLM, the same way CAD and CAM and PDM are other domains of PLM. I am an Independent Board Director of ESI and I am involved in several Committees of ESI to help improve the performance of the company.
How successful is ESI? Does it grow fast enough?
ESI wants to boost its exposure beyond the industries like cars to others like electronics and energy. Recently the company announced that it wants to triple sales by 2016 helped by strong demand for its virtual prototypes. So it is targeting sales of 250 million euros (220.4 million pounds) in five year's time.
Besides ESI, are you involved in some other regular professional activities?
I am also an Independent Board Director of DEM Solutions, a UK company based in Edinburgh which is the leader in Discrete Element Method, a CAE application addressing particles simulation. This is a PLM domain particularly for the Mining, Chemical, Pharmaceutical industries which manipulate particles.

And I am also the Chairman of a new Capital Venture Company called CapHorn Invest. This is a company created in January 2010 by 4 young associates, based in Paris. It collects funds from private and institutional investors, and selects young companies to accelerate their market development.. We are about to collect 50 Million Euros in 2011 and invest in a few young companies, addressing various domains (including IT) to help them grow rapidly.

What about steps which big vendors today make towards (very) small projects or even “Do It Yourself”
See my comments to the first question: hundreds of vendors will address the thousands of PLM applications.
FB-250 Let’s switch from professional domain to personal. First of all, could you please tell us couple words about your family? Did somebody of it follow your example and works in or close to the engineering domain or at least IT?
I have two daughters and five grand children. But nobody in the IT…
Where do you spend your week-ends, holidays? What is your attitude to music, literature, cinema, theater,…
I have a house by the sea and a house in the Alps Mountains. I like any place, if it is dominated by nature and/or culture. I love literature, arts (traditional, modern as well) but I am not an expert.
You have traveled and still travel quite a lot: interesting, what are your favorite places/cities/countries outside France?
I have no specific favorite places. In most countries and cities you can find impressive and interesting areas. But the most important for me are the people in the places, where do I feel comfortable because I like the people. And here, it is a question of opportunity and chance: did I meet the people who impressed me or with whom I felt comfortable because I was in the right place at the right time? If yes, no problem. If no, I try to come back in order to find a new opportunity.
Francis, thank you for your answers! Best wishes to your family and companies you help to develop.

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