Aras’ Community Event (ACE) 2015 Observations

by Martin van der Roest

Last month, during April 22 to 24, Aras Corporation held their annual Aras Community Event or what is known as ACE.  The event was held in Detroit and was attended by customers and partners from around the world.  It was by far the best event for both its organization and attendance in the company’s 15 year history.

Part of Aras’ mantra is “Aras is Different”.  As a long time participant in the PLM and engineering software space, this phrase should not to be dismissed as mere marketing hype.  It’s the real deal.  I used to think that Aras was playing catch up and slugging it out in the shadows of the long time established players such as Dassault, PTC and Siemens.  It’s no longer the case.  They are a serious player and one-by-one subtly displacing their rival’s presence.

The “different” vibe would quickly be noticed by a new comer.  First, there’s no cost to attend ACE.  Unlike other industry conferences that can run hundreds if not a couple of thousand dollars, this event is FREE by simply registering.  That includes access to all the sessions, the exhibit hall and meals. 

Another notable observation would be that many of the sessions are conducted by users of the Aras solution.  These are open, fully transparent presentations not filtered by the ministers of propaganda.  There are stories of what works, successes, and also what needs attention.  As a user-driven community, this is what Aras pays close attention to.  Their development roadmap is in direct response to the issues their users face.  In fact, the development roadmap is visible and open for user input and voting.  It’s very different from how other vendors work.

As potential customers hear the stories and visit with others in the community, it won’t be long before they get stunned by the next “different” offering.  That is, major revision upgrades are performed by Aras as part of the subscription model at no additional cost.  When was the last time your organization needed to upgrade its enterprise solution and the vendor did it as part of your ongoing support relationship?  It doesn’t matter if custom code was added, processes modified, etc.  Upgrades are part of the model.

I have seen Aras’ growth over the last several years as being quite significant.  My sense is that users are drawn to a culture that is powered by openness, transparency and ultimately software that works.  It feels like you are working with a company that wants to help you solve your challenges.  The conference was evidence of that.  Based on what I read from Aras, about 400+ community members attended, representing more than 180 companies from 24 countries around the world.  My guess it was probably up 30% over last year.  I didn’t get a count on partner participation, but looking around I imagine it was probably up 50%.  And all this happened with minimal marketing.  It’s very organic.

I can see Aras being the “last boat out of the PLM harbor” for years to come.  The “Aras is Different” story is real, has substance and is worth paying attention to.  ACE 2015 did a great job of illuminating this story.