Autodesk Takes Customers “Inside the Factory”

by: Eric Chappell | 01/17/2017
Estimated Reading time: 4 - 6 minutes

If you’ve ever wondered whether Autodesk listens to its customers, your doubts would all be erased if you experienced even one day of the Inside the Factory event held last week at Autodesk’s Manchester, NH office.  During this event nearly 30 customers and partners from at least six different countries were invited “Inside the Factory” to get an in-depth look at the software development process. What’s in it for Autodesk? Lots and lots of validation and feedback. Autodesk puts these folks to work with countless review, validation, prioritization, and even beta-testing exercises – and they love every minute of it.

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Dan Philbrick kicks things off with a team pep talk and a rundown of all the things that will be happening throughout the week

What’s in it for the customers and partners? I asked quite a few of them that question and the answers were consistently the same:

  1. A chance to see what’s coming
  2. A chance to talk with other users and learn from them
  3. A chance to influence the direction of the products they use every day

Validation and prioritization were recurring themes throughout the week and there were many sessions which strove to put the picture into focus for Autodesk’s development team as to which areas of the software to focus on, and perhaps which to abandon. The sessions usually began by framing a portion of the software, perhaps road editing, or site design, or quantities, and participants were asked to talk through the specifics of which new capabilities of that area of the software were most important. The tool of choice for these exercises: the beloved sticky note.

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Customer David Garrigues pleads his case for prioritizing one feature over another while Autodesk product development team members listen intently

But it wasn’t all about sticky notes, customers were also asked to dig into beta versions of Civil 3D and InfraWorks 360 to try out upcoming features. The goals: provide feedback about the function and usability, make suggestions regarding improvement, and to try to “break” the functions so that any issues could be resolved prior to software release.

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Autodesk customer Steve Boon finds an issue while beta-testing Civil 3D and gets the attention of product manager Dave Simeone and engineers Mike Wu and Sarah Zhang

The participants got to interact with Autodesk developers, product managers, and folks in many other roles including Mike and Sarah, two programmers who traveled in from China.  At times these interactions were very structured and planned while at other other times were simply a discussion over lunch, a show and tell during a break, or even a chat in the hall while grabbing a coffee.

Autodesk folks and customers take a break for lunch, but the discussion continues

When it was all said and done, four days of validation, prioritization and testing had taken place, influencing the direction of Autodesk civil-infrastructure products forever and impacting features that would be released this year and for many years to come. Participating in this event really made me feel proud that Autodesk understands that none of this is possible without our customers and that we’re dedicated to giving them a voice in developing the products that they use and depend on every day to be successful.

So the next time you see a sticky note, think of it as a symbol of the voice of Autodesk customers everywhere and when you launch the next command in Civil 3D, InfraWorks 360, or any other Autodesk product, know that it was shaped by the influence of customers – maybe even you.

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Are you interested in participating in a future Inside the Factory event? User experience designer Tim Yarris tells me that folks were invited based on their participation in ongoing validation events throughout the year (yes, the customer interaction is not limited to this one ITF event). If you’d like to get in on the action click this link to join the AutoCAD Civil 3D Futures Program.

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