Autodesk University 2004: Strategic Trends

By Hal Reid

Corporate philosophy can indicate the nature of a company's products, the way they do business and the type of competitor they will be.It can also give you a clue as to their future.

On Monday in a press briefing at Autodesk University 2004 [Nov. 30 - Dec.3.Las Vegas], Autodesk outlined several things that would define the nature of their future products and how they would approach the market. These were identified as:

  • Addressing a global community (existing and potential users)
  • The democratization of technology (creating products that most people can use)
  • To provide volume market leadership.
Perhaps the most important of these is the second one, the democratization of technology.

For years, a view of the GIS industry has been that the software is too hard to use, costs too much money and ends up only usable by backroom specialists.The concept of democratization may change this.

Democratization means that the software is affordable, intuitive to use, has a nice, gentle slope to the learning curve and productivity is achieved in the very near term.Not only does the product have to be comprehensible to that majority of people who may use it, but has to be acquirable in terms of cost and the related technology as well.

For years, we have talked about spanning the enterprise with GIS and moving it to an embedded technology.But, it would always actually be done next year, in the next version or by the next GIS company that may actually achieve the pervasiveness of the technology throughout the enterprise and down to the average person.Possibly, it has been corporate philosophy as much as the technology that has prevented this from happening.Maybe their philosophy will crack the code.

Autodesk identified three dominate trends for the next decade.These were:

  • Excellence in business as an expectation - works first time, every time
  • Productivity software - rapid return on investment, no long term roll outs
  • Lifecycle management - create, manage, share - functionality across the process.
The net changes were that expectations would be higher, tolerance for long time frames lower, and the products had to match the entire process, whether it was design, build and manage as in real estate development, or in creating a tangible product (widget), or even a marketing campaign.Not only are you anticipating a rise in expectations of service, quality and delivery, but new systems have to be usable, deployable and functional in shorter periods of time in order to validate their contribution to the enterprise's ROI.

Matching perceived dominate trends with products that parallel those trends is an obvious challenge both in verifying the future and delivering into it.

Autodesk has some very interesting new things coming. Whether they match the trends will be up to the market, if their perceptions have been correct, and if the nature of the 21st century doesn't move faster than they do.At least, they have articulated the issues and are aware of the problems.

Preparing for the future is wise, tough to do and subject to unpredictable events.The best approach has always been guess well, plan diligently, and be very flexible.We will see if they have done all three.

Next week's newsletter will include additional information I am gathering from my time here at Autodesk University 2004.

Published Friday, December 3rd, 2004

Written by Hal Reid

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