3 Ways SaaS Transforms Product Development

Written by: Will Hastings

Read Time: 5 min

Increasingly, companies are exploring deployment opportunities for their product development software. Computer-aided design (CAD), product data management (PDM), and product lifecycle management (PLM) software are now being offered as on-premises, cloud-hosted, and SaaS solutions.

While it is widely understood how SaaS and even cloud-hosted deployments can cut down on an organization’s IT costs (reducing total cost of ownership by as much as 64% according to this IDC study), few understand how a true SaaS offering for product development, by virtue of its architecture, fosters increased collaboration and leads to more innovative products. 

Here are three ways SaaS transforms product development, changing how engineering businesses operate and enabling them with a myriad of benefits as well as the speed and agility needed to build resilience against disruption and be disruptors themselves. 

1. Simplify Communication

In many new product development (NPD) programs, more time is spent reconciling the needs of each stakeholder following a design change than is spent creating or testing new ideas. In fact, it has been estimated that designers and engineers spend only 47% of their time working directly on product development. The rest of their time is spent waiting on, searching for, or recreating data, waiting for designs from others, or in non-productive meetings.

For traditional NPD programs, increasing the speed at which designs are updated increases the frequency at which the extended team must be brought up to speed – often by sending copies via e-mail. With this approach, ensuring alignment on revisions across functions and organizations is haphazard and time consuming, but the alternative – a tangent workflow based on an outdated revision – can be disastrous. As a result, opportunity for innovation is shackled by a burden of communication. “A burden of communication” is a clear sign that your system for innovation is working against you, not with you.

By deploying SaaS product development tools like Onshape, NPD teams move from a file-based system to a database system. No check-in or check-out operations or old copies floating around. Instead, users rely on a single source of truth. The design information is stored in a single database and stakeholders who have been approved to access the information can see design changes as they are being made in real time.

With this approach disparate teams across functions and organizations can work in parallel with the lead design team by addressing concerns as they arise. Furthermore, all stakeholders can be sure their decisions are based on the most recent design. Using a SaaS product development approach to synchronize workflows via the architecture of the system, rather than the effort of its users, accelerates NPD programs and enables NPD teams to focus more on product innovation and less on design consolidation.

2. Enable Real-time Collaboration 

The same file-less database architecture of SaaS product development tools that enables design data to be communicated in real-time also enables transformational design collaboration in real-time. For example, with Onshape multiple users can edit design data simultaneously. With this capability, entire design reviews can be held virtually with cross-functional and even cross-organizational teams and users can be granted access to annotate or edit the same shared view of the product. Complex ideas and creative solutions can emerge rapidly when spatial concepts that would otherwise be expressed through language can be shared visually.

The technology that enables this is fundamental to the Onshape architecture. It’s available to utilize every time someone accesses design data and so exploiting this functionality to drive innovation daily becomes a matter of culture.

3. Empower Mobile Innovation

By empowering NPD stakeholders with SaaS product development tools that can be accessed nearly anywhere with any computer they are afforded the opportunity to innovate outside of the cubicle. In this regard, the “design anywhere” capability of solutions like Onshape is more than just a feature that efficient-minded engineers can use to squeeze in an hour of work while at the airport. It’s an opportunity to support a new product development culture.

This specific benefit of SaaS technology has become even more relevant with the COVID-19 pandemic forcing desktop workers to work remotely. But it’s important to understand that the benefits of a mobile, flexible workforce are not limited to our current crisis. The changes companies make to accommodate work-from-home now will pay off in the long run.

For example, a recent IWG Global Workforce study found that 85% of businesses saw increased productivity as a result of greater flexibility. The same study also revealed that 80% of participants when faced with two similar employment offers would turn down the one that did not provide flexible working. By enabling engineering workforce flexibility with SaaS product development tools, organizations not only increase productivity at time-zero, they also position themselves to attract better talent in a highly competitive field.

Final Thoughts

There are many benefits of moving to SaaS software. The ones that are first to appear on the balance sheet often get the most attention. However, organizations that have embraced SaaS product development are quickly realizing the ability innovate; tools like Onshape will have much greater and longer lasting effects on their success.


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Tags: SaaS CAD Product Lifecycle Management (PLM)

About the Author

Will Hastings

Will Hastings is a research analyst manager on PTC’s Corporate Marketing team providing thought leadership on technologies, trends, markets, and other topics. Previously Will was a senior analyst for ARC Advisory Group, where he conducted PLM and additive manufacturing research. Prior to ARC Advisory Group, Will was a lead mechanical design engineer for product development programs at Sensata Technologies.