More Autodesk deception over LT productivity study

Following on from the AutoCAD 2011 productivity study I critiqued earlier, there is now an LT version. Do the same credibility problems apply to this study too? Yes, and then some.

In addition to the drawings and operations being deliberately hand-picked to demonstrate new features, no direct comparison is performed at all between the two releases on the same platforms. Every single quoted “productivity improvement” figure includes, free of charge, three years of hardware and operating system progress and a more upmarket graphics card.

If you read business “news” sources that just reprint press releases, such as this Yahoo! Finance one (thanks, Carol Bartz), you won’t see this mentioned. Instead, you will see deceptive statements like these:

David S. Cohn, an independent consultant

Er, no, in this context he’s not independent, he’s an Autodesk consultant. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

overall productivity gains of 44 percent for users moving from AutoCAD LT 2008 or earlier versions to AutoCAD LT 2011

…as long as you only ever perform certain carefully selected operations and upgrade your hardware and operating system. Like the other study, the 44% figure is totally meaningless and quoting it without qualification is downright deceptive.

Most users will be able to get more work done faster by upgrading to AutoCAD LT 2011

This statement is totally unsupported. There is no analysis of what “most users” do with the software, and no attempt to quantify the portion of time such users spend on these hand-picked operations. Neither is there any analysis performed on more common operations to see if the new releases introduced any detriment to productivity in those areas.

Improvements to the graphical user interface deliver a 43 percent productivity increase.

If that’s true, why do so many users of 2009 to 2011 immediately turn off the new user interface? Are they all stupid Luddites who have a burning desire to work much less efficiently? This study, like its non-LT counterpart, contains many unqualified statements about the Ribbon improving productivity and providing other benefits. I’d really like to see a proper independent study done into that.

To sum up, Autodesk is quite prepared to say misleading stuff about its products that will be regurgitated unquestioningly by those who don’t know any better, in the hope that it will be believed by those who do, and not exposed by those who care. But it’s not prepared to answer straightforward legitimate questions about its business, offering a pile of spin instead. This, supposedly because “management in publicly trade companies are forbidden by US laws and accounting regulations to discuss some topics”.

I think I’ll borrow a phrase from Deelip here, as it seems appropriate.

Bottom line. This is bullshit.

It just so happens that right now I’m in a no-bullshit mood. I’ve been exposed to more than enough of it lately. Unfortunate timing, Autodesk.

I know this sort of marketing device is nothing new, and maybe that’s the point. This kind of thing is so 20th century. In the good old days, negative commentary about stuff like this would be seen by few, and largely confined to company-controlled environments and one-way media such as printed magazines. Things aren’t like that any more. This sort of nonsense is being increasingly noticed, criticised and derided in blogs and social media. I have hope that the point will soon come when companies’ PR consultants work out that the negatives of spewing bullshit outweigh the positives. When that point is reached, the bullshit will stop. And won’t that be great?

4 comments to More Autodesk deception over LT productivity study

  • “Improvements to the graphical user interface deliver a 43 percent productivity increase.”
    ~~~~~~~~~~
    That is a real stumbling block for me. I’m trying to be as open as possible about the new GUI and realize that for new users, the Ribbon, etc., may very well be the better GUI. But I have yet to find any experienced users who have dropped the pre-Ribbon UI and started using the new one with complete satisfaction, much less anyone that claims to be more proficient with the new one. This goes for non-CAD applications that have followed the “ribbon trend” also.

    I suppose a better definition of the phrase “Improvements to the graphical user interface” would help.

  • I don’t know if the new GUI is better because I can not provide an unbiased opinion. I will say that I do prefer the Ribbon to toolbars and the menu bar for my work process. I primarily use the command line and supplement that with the ribbon and QAT. I find it easier to train new and less experienced users with the Ribbon because it is always the same and the tabs are easily identified. Toolbars are bit tricky to describe for many users. I am going to reserve judgement on this study until I fully read it myself, but 44%? That’s hard to swallow. Real hard.

  • I’m pretty much in the same camp as Brian, using the Command line, and supplementing that with tool palettes that are anchored and hidden, I only use 2 tool bars, and the amount of ribbon I use, amounts to the equivalent of a pull down menu, no buttons, just text. With the wide screen monitors, I can get more effective screen space by turning off menubar, and anchoring the ribbon, hidden to one side. However, for training, I still prefer training via the command line.

  • R. Paul Waddington

    The problem here is Autodesk management are trying to maintain a visual ‘position’ in the market place when they have absolutely nothing new to sell; too much spare money you could say, without enough brain in charge to know how to spend it wisely!

    True productivity increases using these type of products has long past as well we all know. It’s stupidity trying to sell productivity to users, who, for many of them productivity is a well understood measure. Autodesk management have lost touch with their customers and the reason for their products existence and are desperately clinging on to a worn-out method of promotion because they have nothing else (of value) to say.

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