It was not long ago engineers were stuck using only a handful of 2D CAD-based software platforms to design their projects. Collaboration and sharing their content meant they had to be on the same network or they had to email their schematics to one another, the fax machine, or even send them on a disk through the mail.
Simplistic nostalgia aside, tech has progressed since those dark ages with the ability to design and render objects in full 3D and have those sent to each other in real-time (regardless of the network). That's not to say there haven't been any issues in the modernization of CAD-based platforms over the last decade. Users on all levels, from hobbyists to company-employed engineers, are typically set on using one of a handful of design platforms, which up until recently, didn't communicate very well with each other. One may have used Autodesk and the other Microstation, which has a low interoperability when it comes to the file types used between them (DFX vs. DGN, for example). A software conversion program was needed to translate those file extensions for use on different platforms.
2D and 3D were often separate and could not be intertwined, meaning one object was rendered twice for both dimensions using separate software models. Content and simulation was done on yet another platform, with the same for projected futures, costs, and materials planning. The amount of different software needed to perform everything from conception to commercialization was astounding, not to mention the high learning curve that was needed to handle every facet of those software platforms.
In most cases, each software suite was delegated to different qualified individuals who were working together on a single project. Imagine the communication restraints and breakdowns that often occurred on those projects and the headaches that inevitably followed, and you can get an idea of how difficult the design process was.
Since the beginning of the decade, more companies are turning to the cloud to house their respective software tools in a virtual environment. This allows unprecedented access to project applications that can be accessed by everyone involved on a particular project. As you can imagine, more companies have capitalized on the relatively new technology and have expanded their software suites for improved productivity.
This has been predominant in the CAD world with companies such as Dassault Systemes, who have embraced the cloud and used the platform to host their 3DExperience design suite, consolidating their CAD, communication, and simulation tools all under one roof.
The 3DExperience platform has to be one of the more versatile design suites on the market as it is more than just a 2D/3D CAD platform. Users have access to 3D modeling apps such as SolidWorks, which allows users to go from conception to full model rendering on the same platform.
Simulation tools, such as Simulia, allow real-world testing of project models along with digital manufacturing data and consumer impact calculations. Integrated intelligence applications allow designers to get information on current trends (data sets) happening in their prospective markets, which help make their project designs more personal to current consumer needs.
Best of all, 3DExperience incorporates social and collaborative applications that connects everyone involved on projects together, allowing them to view, contribute, and communicate their ideas in real-time. Sensitive data is protected and can only be viewed by those who have direct access to the project, allowing users to give access only to those necessary.