All systems go

3 min read

As companies continue to look towards achieving increased productivity while saving on costs, software resellers are making inroads into new markets

The tough economic climate has seen companies in all sectors of the economy seeking out new opportunities wherever they can find them, with flexibility the name of the game.

The technical software distribution industry is no exception, as Alan Sampson of SolidWorks reseller Solid Solutions Management (SSM) confirmed. 'This month we are pinching ourselves slightly, as we can't believe how fantastic it's been. February was our worst month in a very long time, but July is looking fantastic. We sold 70-plus systems and more than 1,000 education seats.

'While all this has been going on, our basic strategy has been to do business a little bit smarter and try to cut costs where we can,' said Sampson. 'By doing this we managed to keep the downturn to within normal seasonal variation of the order of 10 to 15 per cent year-on-year, which isn't a total catastrophe as long as there is other business in the pipeline to compensate.'

This kind of financial backdrop can give rise to tremendous opportunity and some sectors are doing very well — areas such as renewable energy. 'I was sceptical for a while, but we're doing good business with lots of companies directly or indirectly involved in the renewable energy market,' added Sampson. 'We have also taken orders from companies analysing offshore structures for the "hundred-year storm" so we are getting CAD and CAE business from this sector.'

The affordability of systems compared to earlier years is also working in the industry's favour, said Sampson. 'As the costs have come down and the capability of the software has increased, getting real productivity from investment in CAD is much easier these days.'

Productivity is also the name is the game for 3Dconnexion, the maker of the SpacePilot 3D navigation device. 'We have just refreshed our product line and there's lots of interest in the new SpacePilot Pro,' said John Moseley of 3Dconnexion. 'We've probably noticed that sales cycles are lengthening slightly and there is some downturn — it's different across the geographies so it's not possible to give an overall percentage, but the downturn is within normal trading parameters. We are in the fortunate position to be selling a product that offers significant increased productivity and in tricky economic times people are looking for ways to save money or to do things faster.'

Adept Scientific, a major reseller of technical computing software and hardware in the UK, remains reasonably upbeat but admitted things are tough. 'Over the past year we have recruited three new members to the team and are continuing to grow,' said Mike Pisapia, general manager. 'In contrast, this year has seen some of our customers in a very different position. Many budgets are being put on hold and there is consolidation of European R&D facilities across many sectors. We believe this is likely to continue for the next six months and we envisage that the climate will be much tougher than we have previously seen.'

Others point to the positive benefits offered by the software sector to its customers. 'During a recession, manufacturers need to focus on those investments that will give them a fast return and also help future-proof their operation,' said Colin Watson, director at Imass Design Solutions. 'The use of digital prototyping with Autodesk Inventor is key in this regard.

'Creating digital prototypes is faster, more flexible and far more agile than creating physical models,' added Watson. 'It also makes communication with customers much more effective.'

Autodesk is usually a good barometer for the reseller business. 'We see differences across the different geographies in northern Europe, said Kristian Sneltvedt, channel director, North Europe for Autodesk. 'Ireland and the Baltic states have probably been worst hit and we as an organisation are focused on keeping these markets alive during these difficult times. In Ireland the focus has been on AEC and as this market is closely related to the building industry the downturn was felt sooner.

'The more popular modern systems such as Revit are still strong across the whole region with no perceptible drop,' added Sneltvedt. 'The market is definitely waking up to 3D and BIM in particular. Revit is gaining serious traction, particularly in Scandinavia.

According to Sneltvedt: 'The signs indicate that we've probably reached the bottom of the market, things have stabilised and all regions are waiting for trading conditions to improve.'