In times of economic downturn companies need to prepare themselves to take advantage of the upturn to come, and that means exploring new processes and new solutions. Yet IT budgets are often the first to get slashed when companies start cutting back. For engineering companies, where the quality of IT systems has a direct impact on the design team’s ability to deliver innovative products to market on time and on budget, trimming IT can sound the death knell for their ambitions.
When it comes to evaluating new solutions and processes in a difficult economic climate, the overly cautious fall into one of two camps. First, there are the companies that are busy and unwilling to invest time in exploring new approaches; effectively sidelining innovation and long-term company objectives to focus on the next quarter’s results. The second group are the companies that aren’t busy at all. These companies have no excuse for not evaluating new approaches and they should make it a priority to think about new ways to work when they have the time.
We are witnessing a sea change in how companies access software and computing power. More and more companies are tapping into Web-based applications and SaaS (software as a service) portals, assigning computing tasks to remote locations, collectively known as the cloud. While the SaaS model has proved suitable in areas like HR and sales, questions have been raised about its potential in more complex and compute-intensive ares such as engineering design.
The experience of dezineforce has shown that the SaaS model lends itself extremely well to the project-based nature of much design activity, enabling new solution providers to make an impact in the design process. Instant availability means subscribers can immediately focus on designing, rather than wasting time in the definition, procurement, and configuration of commodity technology. Built-in flexibility enables immediate and essentially infinite availability to grow capacity in response to demand.
As we come out of this recession we will face more aggressive competition from companies in countries such as India, Brazil, and China, where companies are increasing their design capabilities all the time. The new generation of SaaS-based design technologies—search and optimization techniques, high-performance computing and workflows, all delivered over the Web—are the cost-effective way to prepare for the economic upturn and fight off competitors from these emerging economies.
For those out there shrinking away from making decisions, it is time to consider the value of those decisions. For engineering firms the end goal of any evaluation of new solutions or a new approaches should be to make the design process more effective and efficient, and to make the business more agile and able to respond to client needs.
The time to look at new ways of working is in advance of new contract wins, not after the contract is signed. Design companies need to improve their processes now and when those wins come through they can access the new capacity immediately and hit the ground running. For manufacturers this means less time to market; for design houses, greater competitiveness in bidding for design contracts.
Engineering companies can no longer rely on traditional approaches and existing processes as they face competition. SaaS is an enabler for companies trying to work their way out of a slump and it is time to investigate new delivery methods and a new generation of providers dedicated to helping companies raise their design capability to an entirely new level.
Peter Collins, Ph.D., is the commercial director and founder of dezineforce. His doctorate is in computational fluid dynamics from Imperial College in London and he has an MBA from INSEAD. Send e-mail about this commentary to DE-Editors@deskeng.com.