An Era of Transformation: PTC Under CEO Jim Heppelmann’s Leadership

Written by: Nancy White

Read Time: 9 min

The new year is a time when many reflect on milestones and prepare themselves for the future. At PTC, that’s something that we do routinely—and it’s been a significant contributing factor to how we’ve evolved in our nearly 40-year history.

This February marks a milestone worth commemorating: James “Jim” Heppelmann will retire after 26 years with the company, the last 13 of which as CEO. During his time as President and CEO, he led PTC through its most transformative years.

Consider this: PTC entered the 2010s as a $2 billion market cap CAD and PLM company, based in a suburb of Boston and today is widely acknowledged as a leader in CAD, PLM, ALM, SLM, IIoT, and augmented reality solutions with a global headquarters in an iconic high rise in the center of Boston’s Innovation District—and recently posted a market cap of more than $20 billion.

And that’s just the broad-stroke points behind the transformation of PTC under his leadership. As its chief change agent, Heppelmann’s savvy vision has expanded our technology portfolio and solutions, but also led to a significant cultural transformation.

To celebrate Heppelmann’s retirement and recognize the accomplishments made under his leadership, we’re highlighting his transformative vision and some of the most pivotal moments of his stewardship.

Vision and innovation

With a vision to transform how manufacturers handle their data across the product lifecycle, Heppelmann led PTC in significantly expanding our portfolio of technologies to become the global leader in product lifecycle management, from design to manufacturing to service to end of life.

Heppelmann joined PTC in 1998 with the acquisition of Windchill, a company he co-founded, and he assumed the role of President and CEO in 2010. As CEO, he quickly got to work expanding the ways we could serve our customers by expanding our technology portfolio. PTC acquired Servigistics (2012) to expand how we could help global organizations service their products.

In 2013, PTC acquired ThingWorx when the Internet of Things was still in its early days. Heppelmann was ahead of his time; most industrial companies did not fully understand or recognize the value IoT could bring, and the advantages made possible by knowing more about their products and machines. Harnessing the power of connecting CAD, PLM, and IoT was a critical part of Heppelmann’s vision and PTC’s strategy.

PTC extended its technology portfolio once again in 2015 with Vuforia, an industry leading augmented reality (AR) platform. Heppelmann saw the potential for AR to revolutionize how people work within industrial environments and empower them with the right information at the right time.

To complement these moves, together with Harvard Business School Professor and well-known business strategist Michael E. Porter, Heppelmann co-wrote three thought leadership pieces about the transformative potential of IoT, and later, AR. Published in the Harvard Business Review, this trio of articles set the stage for how industrial companies could (and should) be capitalizing on IIoT and AR technologies.

In 2018, he saw the potential of how computing power and artificial intelligence could change how products are designed. PTC acquired advanced generative design software Frustum and has incorporated this powerful capability in Creo and Creo+.

During this same period, Heppelmann led PTC toward two important strategic decisions that have set the company up for continued success well into the next decade—a transition to a software subscription business model and an expansion to software-as-a-service (SaaS) offerings.

Transitions for the future

After two-plus decades as a company that sold perpetual licenses for its software, PTC fully transitioned to a subscription business in 2019. Customers purchasing subscriptions benefit from shared commitment to success, flexibility and lower upfront costs, and cloud deployment options.

In the product development space, PTC has pioneered the transition to SaaS solutions. To accelerate the effort, PTC acquired Onshape, the first cloud-native CAD and PDM software, in 2019. Not only did this acquisition accelerate PTC’s ability to attract new customers with a SaaS-based offering, but it also provided the enabling SaaS technology platform—Atlas—on which PTC’s Plus products are based (Windchill+, Kepware+, and Creo+ are already available).

Arena Solutions, a leading cloud-native PLM and QMS software, joined PTC in 2020. The powerful duo of Onshape and Arena have fueled new growth in the small- and medium-sized business market.

Enabling our customers to create a digital thread across the enterprise is a core offering for PTC. In recent years, with the acquisitions of Codebeamer and ServiceMax, our digital thread capabilities have become more robust and extensive. Our technologies can now support the complex hardware and software development of increasingly digital products and transform how companies deliver after-market service of their products.

Emerging and powerful concepts like digital twin and digital thread come to life through PTC’s portfolio of technology, and infusing our products with artificial intelligence and machine learning capabilities is solving real business challenges. For example, machine learning within IoT enables value like predictive maintenance and the addition of AI-driven generative design for CAD brings fresh ideas and efficiency to design.

Consistent recognition as a technology leader

PTC has earned recognition in every major analyst ranking for each of its technologies and is the category leader in PLM, with a robust set of technologies that transform how product development gets done.

Over the past decade Heppelmann has personally been recognized for his vision and leadership, including being recognized as #11 on The Boston Globe’s 2023 Tech Power Players list and in the Top 25 Enterprise IT Innovators by CRN (2019), one of “7 IoT Leaders to Watch in 2017” by Hewlett Packard Enterprise, “IoT CEO of the Year” by PostScapes, and “Technology CEO of the Year” by MassTLC.

Stronger together

Industrial companies turn to PTC because of our portfolio of digital technologies, extensive partner network, and industry expertise.

One of the hallmarks of PTC’s growth has been an understanding that we can’t do it all and need the right partners to effectively support our customers.  Not only that, but also to make software that embraces an open ecosystem where our technologies can integrate with other vendor’s solutions.

Under Heppelmann’s leadership, PTC has made strategic partnerships with Rockwell Automation, Microsoft, and ANSYS.

Cultural transformation

Most of the above highlights made headlines, yet some of the most significant changes at PTC over the past 13 years weren’t newsmakers but were certainly felt by PTC employees. Through consistent effort in strategic initiatives, there has been progress to transform our company culture. These include increasing workplace inclusion and diversity, modernizing the workplace and collaboration, and cultivating purpose and philanthropy.

As a result of these efforts, PTC has made the Boston Globe’s Top Places to Work list seven years running, achieving its highest ranking (#3 for large business) in 2023, and earned recognition as a Great Place to Work in 16 countries this past year.

Leaving PTC in a strong position  

With Heppelmann as CEO, the company has performed while it has transformed. The change over the last decade-plus should be recognized and celebrated by all who have been involved – both leaders and employees. Due to their hard work, PTC is a recognized leader in each of our technology categories and is changing (and will continue to change) how products are designed, manufactured and serviced, and how people work. We also acknowledge the support provided by our customers, partners, and shareholders during this journey.

To complete his time as CEO, Heppelmann took great care in not only finding the right leader to succeed him, but also executing a seamless transition plan. Over the past few months, Heppelmann and CEO-Elect Neil Barua have traveled the globe together visiting employees at PTC offices, which offered ample opportunity for knowledge-sharing and mentorship.

As we enter a new chapter under the leadership of Barua, we’re in an enviable position and will continue to innovate, support our customers in new ways, and achieve new heights as a company.

We offer sincere appreciation to Jim Heppelmann for his dedication to PTC and clarity of vision and wish him health and happiness on his retirement.


Companies that make products the world relies on, rely on PTC

See how PTC helps companies create more innovative products, solutions, and workforces Click Here
Tags: CAD Augmented Reality Application Lifecycle Management (ALM) Industrial Internet of Things Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) Service Lifecycle Management (SLM) Digital Transformation Digital Thread Corporate News

About the Author

Nancy White

Nancy White is the content marketing manager for the Corporate Brand team at PTC. A journalist turned content marketer, she has a diverse writing background—from Fortune 500 companies to community newspapers—that spans more than a decade.