I recently joined the Technical Committee (login required) for the PTC Arbortext product line. The technical committee is a customer-focused mini-conference where the attendees are customers of PTC and PTC project managers.

In addition to the Arbortext TC meetings, I attended two meetings for the other product lines — Windchill and MathCad.

The Arbortext meetings were each hosted by two PTC project managers. One PM presented a particular feature (“Review”) or product (Styler) or application (S1000D); the other would record, take notes, and run the projector (as most presenters were remote). The discussions were geared at finding how customers are using the product, what work-arounds they’re doing, so PTC can address these as necessary. As in, what prompted the work-around and can they improve that experience?

The Windchill meeting had 4 user presenters who got 30 minutes each to present an issue and answer questions. These sessions were also hosted by a PTC PM, but the presentations were by user/customers. After talking to the Windchill users, this appears to have been the standard for the Windchill presentations. They said there was only one that was driven by PTC.

The MathCad meeting was similar to the Arbortext meeting, in that it was PM driven/presented. These guys are a lively group of users! I did some usability testing for the next release of the MathCad product. It’s very friendly to new users. I haven’t used MathCad (or maybe it was MathLab) since my Calc 3 class in college nearly 20 years ago. I had no problems writing or changing equations or doing simple problems (provided by the usability test).

Over the last two years, as PTC/User has taken over the annual conference, Arbortext users have been consistently disappointed by the lack of PTC presence there. We were used to having developers and product managers there to talk to, discuss issues and problems with, and discover strategies for handling particularly tricky requirements that weren’t so easy to do. The Technical Committee structure appears to be the forum for that sort of interaction between customers and PTC. The focus was very much on finding out what issues customers have in the product and what the nice-to-haves and must-haves are. At the end of each session (not including Windchill), there was a prioritization of issues that came out during the session discussions.

We also got a bit of a preview of what’s to come. The TC meets twice a year: January at PTC HQ and June at the PTC/User conference.

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