Nobody could have predicted the devastating impact of COVID-19 and the tragic loss of life around the world. Social distancing, enforced lockdowns, business closures and the resulting staff layoffs are also likely to have a long-lasting effect on the economy. Leading economists are forecasting V-shaped, U-shaped and even L-shaped recovery curves, and are unable to predict how much the economy will shrink and how long it will take for things to get back to normal. This will undoubtedly have a profound effect on your business, your supply chain and your customers.

One thing is for certain – it is unlikely that things will ever get back to “normal.”

The anticipated lockdown was inevitable, however many engineering firms found themselves ill-prepared. The temporary shutdown or reduction in output has caused significant financial problems for businesses and the economy as a whole. The result is that many firms are exploring ways to improve operations and reduce overheads during lockdown.

Most companies are set up so that their engineers work in the office. This makes a lot of sense – collaborating with your peers is much easier when they’re in the same room. However, when teams are spread across multiple sites, they may as well be working from home. Communication, data sharing and collaborating on the same projects across any sort of distance is a constant battle.

The lockdown has introduced a new normal. Engineering teams have been forced to work apart and to find new ways to carry on functioning as best they can. For those teams using desktop-installed CAD and PDM systems, working together (and for some, being able to work at all) has been a challenge. Those without laptops have had to haul their desktop workstations home and take over the kitchen table. Data has had to be shared by email, online file-sharing services, or a VPN to access the office network and the company’s PDM system. Some users have reported having to haul their desktop machines back to the office just to refresh their software licenses. This puts a tremendous burden on your employees and your IT staff, and makes it much harder to run your business.

So what is the way forward? How can you make sure that your business is prepared for any future lockdowns or other major disruptive events? How can you minimize the disruption to your business operations and the financial pressures that ensue?

One of the more substantial costs in running a business is to keep the engineering department running at peak efficiency, ensuring that every team member has the tools they need to get their job done with the least amount of friction. The reliance on dedicated hardware and the challenge of making company data accessible while keeping it secure has been a massive problem for many.

Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) tools offer a solution to this problem. Engineers can access the data they need from any device without having to rely on company network access or workstation-class computers. Nobody has to visit the office, nobody has to fight to get the software to work, nobody has to wait to get access to the data they need. Engineers can collaborate in real-time and work on the same project data at the same time. Data is shared, never copied, so you can be sure that your data is secure at all times.

Workers can be in the office one day and at home the next without any interruptions.

Now may not feel like the right time to be evaluating new product development solutions. However, if the past few weeks have taught us anything, it’s that the future is unpredictable. The most pragmatic and forward-thinking engineering companies should be preparing for the future now. Any scenario planning must include the provision of SaaS technologies to future-proof your business.

Comparing the Total Cost of Ownership

Software applications that are installed locally on desktop computers and servers are often referred to as “on-premise” to describe how the software is distributed, installed and used. Typically, when investing in a new on-premise product development tool, the only line items on a software vendor’s quote are the upfront license costs and training. When considering moving forward with your chosen solution, be mindful of the “iceberg effect” where only the top 10% of costs – the license costs and training – are visible and obvious.

The Iceberg Effect: The hidden costs of on-premise product development solutions.

If you already use on-premise product development software, then you’ll know firsthand that the total cost of ownership is an order of magnitude higher than that suggested by the software vendor.

The costs involved in managing a team of engineers and their requirements for hardware and software can be substantial. Companies need to manage and maintain multiple servers, networks, firewalls, VPNs, storage, backups, and disaster recovery plans. Facilities require server rooms with adequate power, cooling, fire protection, and physical security. Software needs to be downloaded, installed, configured, licensed, and updated several times a year on each server and every client workstation. All of this needs an army of IT professionals to keep things running smoothly, keep all systems up-to-date and ensure that everyone is on the same version of the same software.

If your company operates across multiple sites, continents and time zones, simply multiply all those costs. Implementations take longer and the downtime for maintenance or disaster recovery can halt an entire business.

If you can put actual figures on all those activities, including the number of lost hours per employee and their hourly rates, then you’ll get a true snapshot of what your systems are costing you every year. It all adds up to a tidy sum.

In comparison, a quote from a Software-as-a-Service vendor can be taken at face value.

With a SaaS platform, the price is truly the price. Just add the annual software subscription costs and training (if required). What makes the big difference is the delivery mechanism – everything is served from the cloud and accessed through a web browser or mobile device. Since every device has a web browser, regardless of its specification or operating system, existing hardware in many cases can be utilized without having to invest in the latest and greatest to get the best performance. Backups and upgrades are taken care of automatically with zero IT overhead.

If you search for any online ROI Calculator that compares SaaS and on-premise software (and there are many, believe me), they all report similar results. Some go into a lot of detail and some are more conservative than others, but they all arrive at the same conclusion – SaaS is more cost-effective than on-premise.

The amount of savings you can expect will vary from company to company. Some example figures are detailed here and you can try it out for yourself using your own numbers and Onshape’s ROI Calculator.

SaaS tools are being deployed in virtually every other area of a modern business to streamline operations – Sales, Marketing, Finance, HR.  So why not Product Development? To learn more about how Onshape can reduce your overhead, improve your product development processes, and give you a competitive edge, please contact us or request a live demo.