COE Ten Years After
In October, I was privileged to be invited to share the 10th year anniversary of the
founding of COE. I joined a tremendous meeting in Dallas and renewed acquaintances with
old friends and customers and made many new friends. A few days after the meeting, Bill
Abramson called to ask me to write an article about my memories of COE. After protesting
to Bill, citing my memory lapses and time, I agreed to share a few perspectives.
Let me start with my first involvement with Dassault and CATIA®. About 13 years ago, as
an IBM sales manager, I was called into my managers office and asked to take
responsibility for the sales of a product named "CATIA." I blindly accepted, ran
to my office and tried to find out what CATIA was. In those days at IBM, we had a czar of
acronyms. He at least helped me understand that it was a sophisticated 3-D computer aided
design product. Now my search was narrowed. Then I started to read about such esoteric
topics as: surfaces, wire frames, solids, kinematics, NURBS. I realized I had much to
learn in order to be successful.
After a while I learned that CATIA was a recently announced product from this small
subsidiary of Avions Marcel Dassault in Paris. In the United States at that time, there
were about 5 customers of CATIA. Between the customers, there were fewer than 100 seats.
In accepting the sales assignment, I was asked to quadruple the installed users over the
With further research, I learned that Dassault Systemes was a small organization, about 25
people, led by Francis Bernard. I called to introduce myself and ask for help. This
started a long and close relationship. In the subsequent months, Dassault sent Robert
DeMonts and Antoine Raymond over to work with the IBM team. At IBM, we expanded our sales
and support organization and started developing closer relationships with our customers.
John Spivack, Ach von der Nuell and Dick Smith provided wonderful technical support. Jerry
Buck helped in developing sales strategies; Gerry Murtaugh worked with Dassault in
expanding the product line. Bob Tiel continually gave us ideas, encouragement, and great
Francis made several trips to the US to help us further. Francis and I would barnstorm the
country, seeing customers and potential customers. We would end up Friday nights at my
house and decompress over the weekend. We started to have some modest success. We achieved
that first year sales goal. We started to grow the user base. Joan Hoeberichts started
Dassault USA to provide training and support.
As we expanded the user base, we started to have some new concerns. One was how do we
maintain contact with the growing base of customers. Another was how do we enable these
people to share their experience with each other and us. We were looking to improve the
product and its visibility in the market. At the time we were overshadowed by
Computervision, Intergraph, Applicon, Calma, and Unigraphics. We wanted to grow, but
needed to understand what our users wanted.
Several different threads started to come together at one time. My manager, Bob Tiel told
me how valuable CUE had been in expanding CADAMs user base. He suggested we consider
a CATIA User Group. Being a creative, resourceful and imaginative sales manager, I
immediately leaped to a conclusion--lets start CUG. UGGH!
At about the same time, the jungle drums were beating. Joan called to discuss establishing
a user group. Bill Abramson, Joe Red, Bob Tolleson, John Galizan and others started
sharing their experiences at CUE and suggested we do the same. Clearly, great minds think
A small number of us agreed that we needed to get together and start a group. But how and
where? CUE was having a meeting in Atlanta. We realized that a large number of the CUE
members were also CATIA users. We called to arrange a small meeting room and started
contacting as many users as possible.
I have forgotten how many people attended the first meeting. I think it was about 30. At
the time, we had such a small number of attendees, we could not have breakout sessions. We
had one meeting in which a variety of people were gracious enough to present what they
were doing with CATIA. We talked about how we could formalize a users group. Francis and I
were concerned. We wanted it to be a users group, not a vendor group. We were worried that
we might be asked to run it. Fortunately, Bill, Joe, Bob, and John took the bull by the
horns and established the first steering committee. Francis, Joan and I pledged our
support, but wanted to remain in the background. We, also, started what has ended up as a
tradition: As one of the last sessions in the meeting, Francis and I went to the front and
tried to field as many questions about CATIA and its direction as possible.
After the initial meeting, I think I attended one or two other sessions. I recall the
group grew. I remember at one meeting needing to contract 5 hotel conference rooms to
accommodate the breakout sessions. We were hitting the big time!!
All that is distant history. Last June, after many years working in different industries
and several relocations; my wife received a call at home. The voice at the other end of
the line pleaded: "Please be patient with me, but is this the home of Dave
Brock?" "Yes," my wife responded cautiously. "Is this the Dave Brock
that used to work for IBM?" "Yes," my wife responded, now curious. "Is
this the Dave Brock that used to be involved with Dassault Systems and CATIA?" When
my wife responded positively, there was an explosion at the other end of the line. Bill
Abramson said "You dont understand what Ive been going through!!
Ive been looking for Dave for six months! Please have him call me as soon as
In re-establishing contact with Bill, and subsequently other officers of COE, I was
delighted to hear of the success and growth of COE. I was embarrassed about being given
credit for starting the organization; after all, I just rented the room and paid for
coffee, isnt that what a salesman does? The real people who started COE were the
small group of dedicated users who attended that first meeting in Atlanta! The real people
were those initial officers who dedicated their own time to keep the group going.
I was thrilled to join the members of COE in Dallas. I was amazed to see the size of the
group! I was delighted to see how much CATIA has developed over the years; surely this has
been a result of the impact of COE on the Dassault development plan. I continue to be
impressed by the dedication of the leadership organization. It is larger than before, I am
not sure I really understand the structure. However, it has the same element of dedication
that was part of the founding group.
Congratulations to all of the members of COE on a smashing 10th year anniversary! I look
forward to seeing many of you at future meetings! I hope we have the opportunity to
celebrate together the 20th year anniversary in 2004! Perhaps then we will assemble
through putting on our virtual reality helmets, traveling through cyberspace and meeting
in some plain with CATIA models surrounding us.
This article was written by Dave Brock of Partners In
This article appeared in the Summer/Fall 1995 edition of
CATIA User Update. It appears here with the permission of the CATIA Operators Exchange.
CATIA is registered to Dassault Systemes.