The Future of the Product Development Industry: Q&A with SaaS Leader Jon Hirschtick
Written By: Stacy Thompson
1/30/2020 Read Time : 5 min

Friday, November 1, 2019 marked a momentous day for the product development industry, when PTC acquired Onshape, the industry’s first pure Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) product development platform that unites robust computer-aided design (CAD) software with powerful data management and collaboration tools.

The product development industry has yet to adopt SaaS on a widespread level; however, PTC expects there will be a tipping point for SaaS CAD, just as there was for Windows-based CAD a generation ago, following the introduction of SOLIDWORKS. The Onshape SaaS solution is a perfect fit for a growing number of companies in the CAD market that are seeking to gain the benefits of SaaS tools.

For PTC, the acquisition is groundbreaking: Not only does Onshape provide PTC with a pure SaaS product innovation platform, offering existing customers with options should they wish to switch to a SaaS consumption model in the future, but it brings a team of seasoned product development industry veterans to PTC leadership.

To find out more about the impact of PTC’s Onshape acquisition, I sat down with Jon Hirschtick, PTC EVP, President of SaaS, for his thoughts on the future of the product development industry. Let’s take a look:

Describe your history in the CAD market. How is your personal journey evolving with PTC’s SaaS initiative?

My history in the CAD market goes back to 1981, when I joined Computervision, which was eventually acquired by PTC. I worked at Computervision as an intern writing software, and then I worked at MIT’s CAD Lab as a student.

In 1993, I started SOLIDWORKS and we brought CAD to the newly unproven platform of Windows. We eventually sold SOLIDWORKS to Dassault Systemes, where I stayed for 18 years. In 2012, I started Onshape and, in 2019, we became part of PTC.

Despite working on the same problems for 38 years, we’re only halfway done with what we need to do for CAD users – our toolset is very powerful but there are so many ways we can improve it with new cloud software and new delivery models of SaaS.

SaaS not only gives us a new platform to host on, but it opens up new types of tools that we can offer, as well as new ways for the old tools to work to the benefit of users. With PTC declaring that SaaS is a key part of the future, it’s another great step in pursuing better solutions with the technology and business strength of PTC.

What did it mean for Onshape to join PTC? What does the acquisition mean for the product development industry?

There are several benefits to Onshape joining PTC. First off, we now have a considerable amount of go-to-market muscle; Onshape can better deliver solutions to more customers because PTC raises our awareness and credibility. PTC is also an incredible distribution force that we hope to start working with.

The other big benefit is that we can expand the range of what’s offered on the Onshape platform. Technologies like generative design and others are products that we hope to put on our SaaS platform, in the cloud, with Onshape tools.

For the product development industry, the acquisition is good news because we’re going to be able to deliver better tools to more people. Ultimately, we measure the success of what we do by how many users we have – but the real end goal is to see better products delivered to the market by our customers. When our customers develop great products because of Onshape, that’s the amazing difference that we achieve.

Describe the differences between SaaS and on-premises software. What are the benefits of a SaaS platform?

With on-premises software, you’re installing software on a computer at the user’s company; there’s software installed for the company and usually per user (each user will install software on their own computer).

With SaaS, the software is run centrally in the cloud by a company like PTC that then provides the software to many customers without any need to install anything on an individual user’s computer.

In terms of the benefits of SaaS, there are many: cost savings, accessibility, speed, collaboration, and innovation, to name a few. These benefits are increasing exponentially as more and more devices (mobile phones, tablets, etc.) come onto the scene, giving users the ability to work on product innovation anywhere, anytime.

For product development, there are some particular benefits to SaaS, related to compute intensity. For generative design, for example, SaaS can provide computing power in the cloud instead of engineers working off a desktop computer.

Even more important is collaboration. Product development is not about one user working on one file; users typically have thousands of files and there could be tens to hundreds of thousands of people working on them.

SaaS provides a single source of truth to engineers, meaning everyone is using the same master model at the same time and they’re all editing the same data simultaneously. This means that teams work faster, and they get more innovative results because they can try more ideas as they work.

What does SaaS mean for the future of CAD and PLM?

It means, number one, all of the above benefits – namely a faster rate of innovation. We can add features to our software at a speed the industry hasn’t seen before.

When we started our SaaS journey, people would often ask “How would it even be possible to use SaaS for CAD and PLM? Would SaaS work for performance problems? What about security?”

In the future, people will likely say “How would it even be possible to run CAD and PLM without SaaS?”

What is your future vision for Onshape as part of PTC?

As part of PTC, we can add more benefit to more users by combining the SaaS and cloud platform that we’ve built already with the go-to-market and technology at PTC. We’ll reach more users with more power and, ultimately, that will mean more innovation with better results.

When our customers produce those improved products, we have a chance to better the lives of everyone on earth. All of our lives can improve due to better manufactured products (cars, medical devices, computers, etc.).

Onshape and PTC, together, can bring unparalleled innovation to the world of product development.
With industry leader Onshape joining the PTC team, PTC will be exploring enhancements to CAD and PLM capabilities – real-time simulation, generative design, additive manufacturing, and IoT and AR integration – so that we have leading products in either deployment model: on-premises or SaaS.

Stay tuned for product updates and offerings in 2020 – and beyond!


Tags: CAD Retail and Consumer Products Connected Devices
About the Author Stacy Thompson Stacy Thompson is the Director of Corporate Content Marketing at PTC. She has more than a decade of experience in content, SEO, and social media development, B2B and B2C communications, demand generation campaigns, and analytics/content measurement. She is also a Professor of Content Strategy in Kent State University’s User Experience Design Master’s program.