Autodesk answers – 1 of 4

At the end of January, I asked for your questions to put to Autodesk product managers. My intention was to pose your questions in a video interview format while attending the AutoCAD 2010 product launch, but for logistical reasons I was unable to make this happen.

Autodesk’s Eric Stover kindly arranged for your questions to be answered anyway. The delay in getting these answers back to you is my responsibility, not Autodesk’s. The answers come courtesy of the following product managers:

  • Diane Li – lead manager on AutoCAD;
  • Guillermo Melantoni – 3D and Parametrics expert;
  • Kathy O’Connell – customer requests, quality improvements, and 2D improvements.

I will post each question and answer a day apart, to give you chance to comment on each issue separately. Here is the first question, courtesy of Chris Cowgill:

Q: With the current release cycle being so short, has anyone considered suspending a new release for a time, to spend an entire release cycle working on improving/restoring functionality of existing features and fixing bugs, why, or why not?

A: With any given release, we aim to deliver a healthy balance of new features & functionality along with improvements to existing functionality, so we can help enable new ways of doing design, but also provide more efficient ways of working the way you do today. We plan to continue this balancing act for future releases, but have also started delivering regular product updates (formerly known as ‘service packs’) throughout the year. So, rather than requiring you to wait for a new release of the product to get product improvements, this year we delivered 3 product updates that included hundreds of bug fixes to existing AutoCAD features and functionality.

16 comments to Autodesk answers – 1 of 4

  • Condensed “Green” version of this answer: “NO”.

  • metis

    not only, “no”, but “we’re going to keep releasing software that isn’t ready, and make the problem worse.”

  • Chris Cowgill

    thanks Steve for submitting these questions and getting a response. It still leaves you to wonder why it takes so long to fix very obvious bugs that should have been fixed releases ago, but keep popping up.

  • If these answers are being emailed to you, then they will probably have been edited by Autdoesk’s marketing department. Which is why the answers sound like they are trying to say yes to everything, without committing to anything.

  • I think our answer is fair and accurate. We develop new releases over about a year period that include new functinality. We do wish to remain ahead of the competition in terms of functionality. Our competitors are not spending a year developing bug fix only releases. Recognizing that AutoCAD is essential to our customers’ workflows, we release service packs that are essentially mini-releases that are bug fix only. We don’t make you wait a year for them but provide them periodically.

  • metis

    scott, your answer may be fair, but is not accurate.

    accurate would be (paraphrasing you): no, we try to balance adding new features with streamlining current workflow processes and we want to get those new features out as soon as possible, irrelevant of the impacts to workflow for implementing new features in the workplace.

    you did not, however, address actually fixing all the bugs and streamlining the code. you did not address why given the rigorous alpha and beta testing autodesk is still releasing products that need to be patched several times a year. now, granted there will always be unforessn bugs, and patches are necessary, but i suspect that there could be massive improvements in system performance if say the 2012 release focused solely on rebuilding the program and patching known issues.

    i’d rather see a 5~10% boost in performance on the same machine than a new GUI or new way to automate some process, and i’ll wager that i’m not in the minority.

    sure, give us a bonus command mid year, or quarterly, but tidy up the program.

  • METIS says “i’d rather see a 5~10% boost in performance on the same machine than a new GUI or new way to automate some process, and i’ll wager that i’m not in the minority.”

    How many existing customers, especially subscription customers, are dropping AutoCAD and flocking to the competition? Virtually nobody. They are going after new customers, plain and simple, and “rebuilding the program and patching known issues” is not going to sell new seats. They need the flashy new look, and big features to do this. If that doesn’t please some existing customers, then so what…?

    Could (and should) there be a little more balance? Sure. The easiest way to fix this IMO would be to extend the period between releases in order to have more time to “bake” the new features, patch known issues, and streamline other things that never seem to get attention.

  • metis

    at some point existing customers are going to get annoyed, and really with the exception of specialized softwares, ACAD is *the* benchmark for drafting, and it’s starting to weigh in heavily for real 3d work. yes, it should continue to add new features, but *not* at the expense of utility.

    i.e. i have a framing square that i use a lot for various projects, however i rarely use it for laying out stairs. why would i get a new framing square that is heavier, and marked less clearly than my old one if the new version comes with additional stair layout charts on the side? if the new one was lighter and had clearer markings, and i got a discount for sending back my old one (upgrading my license) i’d be all about it.

  • R. Paul Waddington

    Any problem with any software has a cost attached to it; maybe it is time those who are ‘un-happy’ with a new version or are plagued by a bug that is long overdue sits down and works that cost out. Get the facts to back your concerns; after all, earning money and improving productivity is what CADD is ALL about.

    When you have those costs worked out, and to hand, do two things with it; first publish your findings, openly describing how you arrived at them so otherS can see their relevance to you and possible them.

    Secondly send a copy of those finding to Autodesk along with an INVIOCE for your losses. Doing this will bring the point right home to Autodesk showing just how their actions have inconvenienced you or your company and put a bill, and paper work, into their business system that cannot be ignored.

    YOU WANT ACTION, THEN TAKE ACTION.

  • Paul, when one of your invoices to Autodesk gets paid, be sure to tell us about it, won’t you. ;)

  • R. Paul Waddington

    As requested: Steve you’ll be pleased to know that when I did this some time ago it got immediate action and a visit from the then employed Paul Kovacs to discuss the issue; job done.

    Can I add it is long overdue for users of Autodesk products to start applying some real commercial business principles and pratices to their dealering with Autodesk. Applying some commerical restraints, possibly collectively will achieve what a simply request or complaint will not.

  • Yes, but did they pay the invoice?

  • R. Paul Waddington

    Didn’t need to, got what I wanted and the invoice had done it’s job.

    Have done this on several occasions to others as well and in every instance it has yielded a return and action. An invoices on the books present problems for the accounting staff. Some have thought of just ‘binning’ them but that is actually risky particularly if there are late payment penalties attached; and I have done that also. It only takes one or two statements and someone wakes up to the fact action needs to be taken.

    I like you are a small business; our effort, interruptions and inconvenience is no less valuable than another’s and I can see little reason why a problems created by employees, of or another company, should not be corrected and if they cannot, or are un-willing to do so, then their employer/the company should compensate.

    Additionally, it’s ok for people to complain publicly about problems with products – any product, bugs etc. – I do also, but I only do so if I am prepared to go further. I believe if a person is only prepared to complain verbally it is pointless unless the complainant is prepared to act!

    Terms and Conditions are the classic: nobody likes them, many whinge, few take action; vendors take advantage!

    This is a great topic Steve; one which you probably don’t want me to pursue, but I’m happy too. I may be able to fit in between what I need to do and the submission being prepared for the new consumer laws relating to software ‘contracts’ ;-)

  • Paul, you can pursue what you like. It sounds like an ideal topic for your own blog.

  • R. Paul Waddington

    Yes that might be the case given its name; but for the moment its role is to document publicly my stance in relation to Autodesk’s Subscription and licence terms and conditions.

  • Nancy

    So the programmers fix that bug and in the process cause other commands to not work properly. Are you happy now that your bug is ‘fixed’? Probably not. Fixing a portion of a program can cause more problems so I hope Autodesk is doing the best they can to fix things without breaking others.

    No, I don’t work for Autodesk, but I have a relative who programs for a large company and hear the horror stories of ‘fixes’ that weren’t tested thoroughly before being implemented.

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