Previously, we described the internal processes PTC uses to develop, test, and release Creo. But how do we decide what to develop? How do we know our ideas will resonate outside our own lab? Of course, we look at market trends, analyst data, and changing technologies. But ultimately, we ask our users.
One of our most important sources of user feedback is the PTC/USER technical committees, groups of volunteers who try out software, review plans, and even present to other committee members. In January, Brian Thompson, Director of Creo Product Management, managed a meeting of our technical committees here in Needham, MA. I asked him to explain who’s on those committees, what responsibilities they take on, and how real users can join and help shape the future of Creo.
GH: So what is a technical committee?
Thompson: A technical committee is a group of volunteers that use PTC’s products. We draw from volunteers who have a lot of experience with the topic or product area we’re interested in addressing so we get the direct and credible user feedback possible. Why not listen to some of the current volunteers introduce themselves, their background, and industries.
GH: Is there just one technical committee?
Thompson: No. Right now we have 12 active technical committees, representing different products and topics, including Creo, Windchill, Arbotext, and others. For Creo, we have committees for design, manufacturing, simulation, product installation, configuration, and so on.
GH: What was your impression of the Creo technical committees here in Needham in January?
Thompson: Our January face-to-face meetings were a huge success – over 70% of the sessions were about Creo, and had great attendance. Depending on the topic and session, some members saw and tried out Creo 1.0; some reviewed in detail the plans for future releases of Creo. Everybody had the chance to provide feedback and input and help drive the direction for Creo development. There was a lot of excitement and feedback about Creo 1.0, and especially it’s ease-of-use.
GH: Who sets up these committees?
Thompson: An organization called PTC/USER. It’s an independent, world-wide, not for profit group made up of volunteers from companies that own PTC products.
GH: How active are the technical committees?
Thompson: Very active. We ask all volunteers to:
- Attend face-to-face meetings (usually twice each year).
- Participate in webcasts – giving presentations to other TC members and PTC.
- Participate in specification reviews.
- Develop whitepapers.
In addition, they participate in an extensive network of discussion forums over the Internet. These forums use Web and e-mail so members and non-members can share news and technical information.
GH: How many volunteers sit on each technical committee (TC)?
Thompson: The number of volunteers ranges from 30 to 60 per group. We’re using some of the large TCs for Creo, AnyBOM, and AnyData Adoption.
GH: What types of industries do volunteers represent?
Thompson: We have volunteers from industries like consumer products, industrial equipment, aerospace and defense, automotive, medical devices, electronics and high tech. We also think it’s important they represent companies of different sizes, so we have volunteers from companies with 500 employees through to those with over 300,000.
GH: How do you ensure you’re hearing from international users?
Thompson: Many of the committee volunteers are responsible for PTC product usage across their company. So they gather input from users across sites and geographies. Also the committees include liaison members who represent users from Europe and Asia.
GH: How successful are the technical committees at getting their suggestions into the products?
Thompson: PTC/USER says this is a very successful program, with approximately 80% of member suggestions appearing as product enhancements in releases. Volunteers definitely see their inputs and suggestions in the products, and they’re pretty vocal about the value of technical committees.
GH: How can users become active members of the technical committees?
Thompson: Users of PTC products can join PTC/USER for free and then volunteer to be part of the technical committees. The PTC/USER web site has a tab, Technical Committees, that explains the requirement and commitments needed to join.
Watch for our next Behind the Scenes articles as we review the current status of Creo 1.0.