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Thought Leaders in Cloud Computing: John McEleney, Head of Strategy, PTC (Part 5)

Posted on Monday, Oct 12th 2020

Sramana Mitra: My short experience with CAD in the early 2000’s timeframe was that mechanical design is one of the highest exit barrier industries. People don’t want to get out of the system. It makes innovation very difficult.

John McEleney: We had a slide deck that said what’s happening in our industry. Over the last 20 years, not a lot. 

Sramana Mitra: Exactly.

John McEleney: However, in the surrounding segments, a lot was happening. The last major change was Solidworks. Part of why we started Onshape was because of what we’re hearing from people. They said that the heat was lost from friction from all the things feeding the system to make it work.

We believe that the cloud and mobile would provide another whole way of looking at it. We made great progress with it. We believe that the tipping point has not happened yet, but it is accelerating.

COVID has become a huge forcing function. People have to work remotely. Many of the people in this industry had to go into the office to get access to the system. With Onshape, they can login on their kid’s laptop anywhere and get access to it.

We believe that this is going to accelerate the tipping point. Zoom clearly benefited. COVID transformed their business because everybody is doing Zoom calls at home. When they go back to the office, they’re going to say, “Why can’t I just use that?” We’re pretty excited about it.

Sramana Mitra: Is there anything else that I should have asked you in this context that I did not?

John McEleney: No, not really. I love the mission of your blog. Taking charge and democratizing technology and access to funding is really great. Disruption happens from the bottom up.

Your husband worked with Steve Jobs. His most famous quote is one of the most powerful ones about technology which is that people overestimate how quickly technology will be adopted but they underestimate the impact once it is. 

Sramana Mitra: On that note and given the way you think about problems, are there any open problems within the mechanical design space that you would like an entrepreneur out there to go and work on that PTC is not working on?

John McEleney: Let me bring it up one more level. Onshape has done an incredible job about how we can make people work together. Could we use GoTo meetings and Zoom? Sure, but those are a bunch of steps that are really sub-optimal.

Google Docs have its own collaboration and sharing engine. Imagine that you’re trying to fix your dishwasher. You talk to the service rep and because of COVID, they can’t come out. They’re on the phone and they tell you it’s on the control panel. You figure out where the control panel is.

Imagine that you can use Vuforia Chalk, which is a mobile application. It’s an online sharing session. You take your mobile phone and show that support agent the control panel, the service technician can take a markup tool and highlight what she’s talking about. It stays relative to that underlying item. 

Sramana Mitra: To synthesize this one for you, you want to tie in CAD, virtual collaboration, and field technical support.

John McEleney: That’s being done today by tools like Vuforia Chalk. It’s very powerful. Let me give you another example and I’ll give you my big idea. My wife and I are doing a construction project. We’re talking to the architect. It wasn’t even AutoCAD. He shared his screen. My wife said, “Can you move one of the walls?” He started moving his cursor around and my wife said, “No, the one below it.” At one point, I just said, “Let’s define a convention. The top is north, the bottom is north, and so on. Go south a little bit more.” I’m asking him to move his cursor.

Each tool might have different collaboration engines. Why can’t we build a collaboration tool that is cross-application? That doesn’t exist today. The big idea is cross-application to allow real-time collaboration and sharing.

Sramana Mitra: Great. Thank you for your time.

This segment is part 5 in the series : Thought Leaders in Cloud Computing: John McEleney, Head of Strategy, PTC
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