How do I know most Autodesk customers don’t want rental?

In a recent comment, I was asked how I know Autodesk’s move to all-rental is the opposite of what customers want. Have I conducted research? This is an excellent question and deserves a proper answer. So how do  I know this? Why am I so convinced? There are several independent sources of evidence, one bit of critical thinking and one undeniable proof. They all point in the same direction. First, a bit of evidence. There are many public places on the Internet where this issue has been discussed, including Autodesk’s own discussion groups. The viewpoints expressed everywhere are overwhelmingly against Autodesk’s all-rental plans. There are private places Autodesk customers hang out where I have access, and I receive private emails. Again, the overwhelmingly majority of the viewpoints I see expressed are very strongly against Autodesk’s strategy. There’s a poll right here. How’s it going? None of that is very scientific, but Autodesk has  conducted proper research. Among other things, it gathered customer focus groups at AU to determine the mood regarding going all-rental. I know somebody who went to one of those. The customers present at that particular gathering were 100% against. OK, so you don’t want to accept any of that? Can’t trust the sources? It’s all a bit anecdotal? Fine. How about a bit of critical thinking? Most customers of major Autodesk products are long-term users who would undeniably pay more via rental than perpetual and then have nothing to show for it when they stop paying. What are the chances of most of them wanting  that outcome? Still not convinced? OK. The most concrete way in which it could be determined whether customers prefer rental would be an experiment in which both options were made available and the market were allowed to decide. An expensive experiment, sure, but…

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Disaster in progress – Getting it wrong

No, not Autodesk getting it wrong, me  getting it wrong. In recent posts, I supported my arguments against Autodesk’s move to all-rental software with faulty evidence. As pointed out to me by several commenters, I completely failed to take deferred revenue into account. I would like to sincerely thank those who pointed out my error.* Although I included a disclaimer about not being a financial analyst, I should have gone further and simply not ventured into areas I am ill-qualified to cover. I got it wrong. I therefore offer unreserved apologies to Autodesk and my readers. What now? I have done myself a bunch of graphs that I think paints a fairer picture of Autodesk’s position, but there’s a reasonable chance I’m wrong about that too so I won’t be publishing them. Instead, In a day or two, I will remove the content of the offending posts (but leave the shell of the posts there to preserve the comments). I do this not to hide my embarrassment, but to limit the degree of undeserved damage to Autodesk. Feel free to copy/paste, take screenshots, etc. of the posts until then. Of course, it’s not really possible to delete things from the Internet, so if you ever want to relive the joy of seeing me get things spectacularly wrong, feel free to use the Internet Archive to do so. What this doesn’t mean This doesn’t mean Autodesk is off the hook with the rental thing. It may not yet be a financial disaster of the magnitude I argued, but the jury is still very much out on whether it will eventually succeed. Even if it does (and I still have very strong doubts – doing the opposite of what your customers want is rarely a winning long-term strategy), it’s still a grotesquely…

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Disaster in progress – Autodesk continues to lose heavily

This post originally contained assertions about Autodesk’s financials that were based on flawed understanding, and has been removed. It’s not really possible to delete things from the Internet, so if you ever want to relive the joy of seeing me get things spectacularly wrong, feel free to use the Internet Archive to do so.

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Battle of the Bullshit part 3 – Beyond Bentley

Somebody at Autodesk really does seem to have it in for Bentley right now. I thought they were friends? Oh well, times change. Autodesk has launched a campaign to promote its BIM offerings for transportation projects and is promoting this via emails to existing customers, all of which is fair enough. It’s suggesting BIM is a better tool than traditional CAD for such projects. Another reasonable claim, so it’s appropriate for us to evaluate the arguments and examine the options. What did Autodesk decide to call its campaign? Beyond AutoCAD? Beyond CAD? To BIM and Beyond? None of the above. It’s Beyond Bentley. Huh? You may have noticed I’m keen on alliteration, but still, huh? What does Bentley have to do with this? Most Autodesk CAD customers are going to know and care nothing about Bentley products. So why mention them at all? The headline is “Move beyond Bentley to Autodesk, the makers of BIM”. The strong implication is: Bentley only does traditional CAD. You should use BIM instead, and that means you need Autodesk. However, I believe many Autodesk customers will think like this instead: Autodesk seems very concerned about this Bentley mob. I wonder what they’re offering that has the Big A so worried? Bentley must be a big player in this area. I’ve been considering developing an Autodesk exit strategy anyway because of the forced rental thing and I’ve heard Bentley sells perpetual licenses. I must go check them out! Those customers who do check out Bentley will learn that despite Autodesk’s implication, Bentley do in fact provide BIM products, and quite a few products specifically for transportation. I have no idea if Bentley’s BIM and transportation products are any better or worse than Autodesk’s offerings, but I do know you shouldn’t take either vendor’s word for it, including anything…

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Battle of the Bullshit part 2 – Autodesk’s sophistry

In my last post, I gave Bentley a well-deserved slap for, er, saying things that perhaps weren’t entirely factual. Now it’s Autodesk’s turn. What’s this about? Carl White, Senior Director of Business Models at Autodesk, wrote a blog post Not so fast Bentley: Separating fact from fiction responding to statements made by Bentley in its press release Bentley Announces Autodesk License Upgrade Program. Some of Carl’s observations on Bentley’s claims were perfectly valid, but unfortunately he went beyond that and wrote a few more things – “facts” – where he’s on shakier ground. Let’s examine Carl’s interpretation of reality, shall we? Fact #1 – No Autodesk customer ever  loses the right to use the perpetual software license you’ve purchased, it is “evergreen”. This is generally true. There are exceptions (read the EULA), but let’s not split hairs. In the vast majority of cases, we don’t lose the right  to use the software. We can, however, lose the ability  to use the software. That loss is practically inevitable long-term because of the progress of technology. I have several old AutoCAD releases I can’t run for environmental reasons, not licensing ones. This means that if we want to use our licenses long-term, we rely on Autodesk’s ongoing cooperation. That’s where customers have legitimate concerns, because there are no guarantees that Autodesk will continue to provide that cooperation. If it does, there are no guarantees that cooperation will remain free or even affordable. And if you’re on a software maintenance plan, you can continue to receive all of the benefits of software updates and technical support for as long as you’d like. This has been officially promised, and let’s give Autodesk the benefit of the doubt and assume that this promise will be fulfilled to the letter. There’s still an elephant in the room.…

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Battle of the Bullshit part 1 – Bentley’s terminological inexactitudes

I note with interest the blog post Not so fast Bentley: Separating fact from fiction by Carl White, Senior Director of Business Models at Autodesk. In this, he responds to statements made by Bentley in its press release Bentley Announces Autodesk License Upgrade Program, stating: Earlier this week, Bentley announced an “upgrade program” for Autodesk customers. We found the offer to be disingenuous and mischaracterizes what Autodesk offers our customers. OK, let’s have a look at what Carl is complaining about. Here’s one Bentley statement that could be considered questionable: For consideration by owners of Autodesk perpetual licenses facing Autodesk’s imminent deadline for the write-off of the future value of their investment, Bentley Systems is offering recovery of the value otherwise subject to forfeit. Carl has a point here. The “imminent deadline for the write-off of the future value” line is presented as fact, but at this stage it’s not true. While perpetual license owners may legitimately fear for the long-term value of their investments, there is nothing subject to an imminent deadline other than the end of the ability to purchase further perpetual licenses. Likewise, the “subject to forfeit” thing is a scaremongering phrase that deserves Carl’s “disingenuous” label. Autodesk isn’t subjecting anything to forfeit right now. Anything else dubious in Bentley’s statement? Bentley Systems considers purchases of perpetual licenses to be long-term investments by our users, so we continually innovate to increase their value. We are glad to now extend this ‘future-proofing’ to Autodesk license owners who otherwise will lose value in their applications. That’s all pretty reasonable but the “…will lose value in their applications” part is questionable. We might suspect that will happen, but we don’t know  it yet. Perhaps “…may  lose value in their applications” would be more reasonable. Bentley also quotes a customer as saying: Autodesk continually sets…

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AutoCAD 2017 Service Pack 1 is out but you probably don’t want to install it

As reported by Jimmy Bergmark, AutoCAD 2017 SP1 will break add-ins that use Autodesk’s built-in autoloader mechanism. It looks like it’s a problem caused by third party applications, but it’s not. It’s entirely Autodesk’s fault. The only fix at this stage is to uninstall SP1. It’s astonishing that Autodesk would release a service pack like this, introducing a nasty bug that will break customers’ existing functionality. This reminds me of the comedy of errors that was AutoCAD Release 13 with its multitude of updates, many of which introduced new bugs as well as fixing others. AutoCAD 2017c4a, anyone? If you needed any more evidence that automated continuous updates from Autodesk are A Bad Idea, here it is. What a crock.

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Last chance to buy Autodesk software – should you take it?

If, like me, you’ve been receiving increasingly eager Autodesk emails urging you to action, you’ll already be aware that Autodesk will end the sale of its last remaining perpetual license software lines on 31 July 2016. The End Time has already arrived for AutoCAD, so the only way you can now buy any form of AutoCAD perpetual license is as part of a Suite, and you must also commit to a maintenance plan. Of course, any Suite is substantially more expensive than AutoCAD, both in terms of initial cost and ongoing maintenance fees. However, if you only buy software and aren’t interested in renting it, this is your last chance to do so. (Or is it? There’s always the possibility that Autodesk will abandon its all-rental strategy in order to stave off its losses, in which case all bets are off). In sales, this is known as the impending event closing technique. You can see it in action at car yards around the world. The idea is to encourage you to buy something while you still have the opportunity to do so, preferably without thinking too hard about whether it’s a good idea. In this case, is it a good idea? Let’s examine the pros and cons. Pros Last chance to buy a perpetual license. Maybe. Cheaper long-term than renting. Maybe. Cons Very expensive unless you are likely to make use of multiple large components of the Suite. Mandatory commitment to a maintenance plan, at least initially. Unknown price vector for that maintenance plan. However, it’s safe to assume it’s not going to get cheaper over time. Immediate obsolescence of Suites has already been announced. The long-term value of any Autodesk permanent license is a big unknown. Only you can make the call about whether a last-minute Suite purchase makes sense for…

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Microsoft demonstrates why automatic updates are a terrible idea. Listening, Autodesk?

I like Windows 10. After some investigation and with some trepidation, I have upgraded two Windows 7 computers and one Windows 8 (ugh) computer to Windows 10. In use, I’m generally very happy with it. It boots fast, works well and most of the more ridiculous aspects of the Windows 8 “let’s assume your computer is a phone” interface are gone. The fact that I can scroll windows using my mouse wheel without first clicking on those windows to obtain focus is a real productivity plus. I would be happy to recommend Windows 10 to all Windows 8 users and most Windows 7 users, dependant on individual needs. I would, but I’m not. Microsoft is entirely responsible for that reluctance; read on. The one thing I really, really dislike about Windows is the way it pushes updates. With Windows 7 I was always selective about what updates I allowed through and when they were applied. Windows 10 doesn’t give you that choice. It downloads and applies its updates as it sees fit, regardless of the importance of those updates, my bandwidth and the level of inconvenience applying those updates might cause. Windows 10 Professional only allows you to defer updates until the next restart, and will nag you to restart until you give in. This is bad enough, but the Home version just takes over your computer and updates and restarts whenever it feels like it. Yes, even if you are in the middle of doing something and have unsaved work, and the update process leaves your computer unusable for two hours. I wouldn’t have believed it if it hadn’t happened to a very computer-smart member of my own family. Quite astonishing levels of malicious arrogance from the utter wankers at Microsoft. I know there can be some very important…

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Disaster in progress – Autodesk’s all-rental plans are failing

This post originally contained assertions about Autodesk’s financials that were based on flawed understanding, and has been removed. It’s not really possible to delete things from the Internet, so if you ever want to relive the joy of seeing me get things spectacularly wrong, feel free to use the Internet Archive to do so.

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Suites to be replaced by Autodesk industry collections

I just got this email. Maybe you did too: Dear Christopher [sic],   I have some important information to share with you.   As we continue our transition to a fully subscription-based business, we remain committed to providing you greater value, more flexibility, and a simpler way to access the Autodesk software you need.   On August 1, 2016, we will introduce Autodesk industry collections and end the sale of Autodesk Design & Creation Suites.   Industry collections will provide you access to a wide selection of the essential Autodesk software for your profession. They will offer immediate access to new technology, cloud services, and several licensing options. In short, industry collections will give you the freedom to access the software products you want, when you want them. Learn more about the industry collections here.   To make way for industry collections, we will end the sale of new Design & Creation Suite subscriptions and perpetual licenses after July 31, 2016.   If you wish to purchase more Design & Creation Suites before August 1, 2016, we encourage you to subscribe now and rest assured that we will provide you with a simple way to switch to an industry collection in the future, if you so choose. If you prefer, you can purchase perpetual licenses of a Design & Creation Suite with a maintenance plan before August 1.   If you wish to continue receiving updates, support, and other benefits for your Design & Creation Suites, you can do so for as long as you continue your existing subscription or maintenance plan.   To learn more about Autodesk industry collections and options for switching your subscription (if you choose to do so) please read our Frequently Asked Questions. [I fixed the email’s URL which didn’t point to the FAQ].  …

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Autodesk Answer Day – 18 May 2016

Autodesk is encouraging you to use the Autodesk Community (formerly know as forums, discussion groups, newsgroups, etc.) to get answers to your questions by setting up a special day where Autodesk people will attend and be responsive. I don’t know if this includes responding to people’s concerns over Autodesk ending the sale of perpetual licenses, but it’s worth a try anyway. The forum for discussing that particular issue is somewhat hidden. It doesn’t appear among the list of forums, so you would only know it existed if you happened to pick on the Installation and Licensing link and had a look at the header to see the Perpetual License Changes link. But now you know it’s there, you can go and ask your questions. Meaningful answers are not guaranteed. Here is the announcement. When is this event, exactly? Join us at our first “Big Bang” Answer Day online event on Wednesday, May 18th from 6:00am to 6:00pm Pacific Time. Pacific Time is currently UTC (GMT) -7 hours, so for people outside North America, that means UTC 1 PM Wednesday 18 May to 1 AM Thursday 19 May. To calculate the times in your own location, I suggest using the very handy timeanddate.com site or thetimenow.com.

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Don’t be a technology lemming

In response to Shaan’s variant on the old “if you question the value of any change you must be a Luddite” argument, I was going to write a lemming-based parody. I didn’t, mainly because I didn’t want to perpetuate the lemming mass-suicide misconception. Instead, I’ll answer the point more directly. Autodesk will acheive better success in convincing customers about Cloud computing and other concepts by actively and interactively engaging with them. Addressing their specific and legitimate concerns has a chance of success if the concepts have merit. Insultingly likening customers to allegedly stupid animals isn’t going to convince anyone. Besides, the point has little validity. Armadillos have 20 species, are currently dramatically increasing their territory in North America, and have been around rather longer than humans. Maybe we should wait until we’ve been around a few tens of millions of years longer before we get too cocky about how terrible those stupid armadillos are at surviving. Edit: Shaan has responded to this post on his own blog, deleted my reply and closed comments. He seems rather upset about something. Edit: …and has now restored my comment and opened comments again.

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Let’s have your AutoCAD WS 1.6 reviews

Autodesk has just released the latest iteration of its free online CAD app, AutoCAD WS. It’s available directly via your browser or as iOS, Mac or Android apps. This is the closest Autodesk has yet come to showing us what real CAD in the Cloud can do. Autodesk has now had three years’ work behind it since buying the company responsible for this technology. I’d like you to put aside any Cloud concerns you may have and give it a fair go. Please try it out and report back what you find in a mini-review. How well does it work? The customer stories are all from organisations using it as a viewer or for simple markup edits. Is that all it can do, or does it come close to deserving to have CAD in its name? What do I want you to try? It’s up to you, but I don’t want to waste too much of your time. Why not have a go at something that would only take you a couple of minutes in any AutoCAD release from the last quarter of a century? For example, I’m sure everyone here could start a new drawing using a template containing your company’s layer standards, insert a title block and populate a couple of the attributes, then accurately draw and dimension a single 2D view of a rectangular plate containing a single round hole. Try to do the equivalent in AutoCAD WS. If you have difficulty with that, try uploading a simple drawing and perform a few simple edits instead. How did that go? I’ll be interested to see what you came across at each stage of the process. Was the setup process straightforward? What was easy to do in the WS editor? What was difficult? What was impossible? What worked well? What didn’t? What happened quickly?…

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Carl Bass confirms Cloud-only future for Autodesk – or does he?

As reported by Joe Francica (via WorldCAD Access), Carl Bass has confirmed, in a somewhat ambiguous way, that his Cloud-only vision rules at Autodesk. I do believe that everything is moving to the cloud. But… There are a lot of applications that will [still] be done on the desktop. Whether Autodesk does it or not, I can’t think of a single function that won’t necessarily be done in the cloud. Still a bit confused? Me too. It’s not clear where this leaves his underlings who have been rushing to contradict Carl’s earlier statements by unambiguously reassuring customers that Autodesk would continue to provide desktop software. Will they now come out with “clarifying” statements that fall into line with whatever it is Carl’s saying here? I doubt it, that would be just too embarrassing. I suspect we’ll see things go very quiet on this subject for a while. Now we know (or do we?) it’s full steam ahead with desktop dismantlement, what about all those Cloud concerns? Carl does the standard Cloud PR thing of “addressing” that question by restating some of the concerns, ignoring others, but not coming up with answers for any of them other than expressing a vague hope that some of them will go away: Foremost in people’s mind is security, privacy, reliability, confidential information. Some of those concerns will fall by the wayside. Asked to come up with a compelling reason for customers to embrace the Cloud, he didn’t: In many cases, for anyone to move to any technology platform you have to do more than what people have today. So what’s the compelling event? I think what you will see in the cloud is that it will look like every other disruptive technology. Some people will downplay it. Some will poo poo it. More of the same, then. It’s disruptive, but…

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MDT users and other Autodesk orphans, let’s have your good news stories!

I was going to ignore this subject, but I’ve changed my mind because it allows me to post something positive about Autodesk. After all, I do try to post positive things; it’s hardly my fault that Autodesk has a habit of making it difficult. In upFront eZine #756, Autodesk’s Andrew Anagnost (or was it Clay Helm?) had the following to say, and must say I agree totally with the first sentence: The best evidence is how we have behaved historically. When we included Mechanical Desktop with Inventor, the media complained that we were killing Mechanical Desktop; you were probably one of them. But we didn’t; we came out with six, seven more releases of it, completely free. So, MDT users, you’re the poster child for how Autodesk looks after its customers. You’re also evidence for how wrong those nasty media naysayers can be. So here’s your opportunity to offer your gratitude to Autodesk for looking after you so well and giving you all that completely free software. Or perhaps you’re the user of another Autodesk product that fell out of fashion or was deemed a technological dead end (like desktop software, apparently). Let’s hear your good news stories about how well Autodesk treated you and your investment. If you don’t want to add a comment, there’s a poll over on the right. I look forward to seeing the “Brilliantly” option show a near-100% rating!

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Autodesk’s social media consultant spills the beans

Ever wondered why Autodesk is putting so much emphasis on social media these days? Why AutoCAD needs Facebook and Twitter commands? It’s because Autodesk pays social media consultants lots of money to tell them about the importance of social media, and how to be social and media-ish. In this video, one of those consultants explains the process:

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Who is telling the truth in Autodesk’s Cloud PR trainwreck?

Does Autodesk intend to move all its applications exclusively to the Cloud? That is, online only and no longer available on the desktop? Autodesk people who say yes: Carl Bass, CEO Phil Bernstein, Vice President, Building Industry Strategy and Relations Scott Sheppard, Autodesk Labs Software Development Manager (with private Cloud caveat) Autodesk people who say no: Kenneth Pimentel, Director, Visual Communications Solutions Andrew Anagnost, Senior Vice President of Industry Strategy and Marketing Clay Helm, Public Relations Manager for Manufacturing, Cross-Platform, Sustainability, and Consumers Various other underlings who make reassuring but non-specific noises about expanded choice, or who admit to inconvenient impracticalities There’s huge irony in the way Clay (or Andrew) attempts to paint the shafting of MDT customers as a we’ll-look-after-you example, but I think that’s a deliberate distraction tactic; other than this comment I’m going to ignore it. I’m ignoring, too, the spin about informal interviews, misinterpretation and the like. There’s a black-and-white contradiction here. Autodesk either intends to move all its applications online and away from the desktop, or it doesn’t. Two men say they’re Jesus One of ’em must be wrong Dire Straits – Industrial Disease So who do we believe? Last time I looked at an org chart, the CEO trumped the lot. The buck stops with Carl. So why is he letting his underlings go around undermining his Cloudy Vision? I see the following possibilities: Autodesk is going Cloud-only but it’s supposed to be a secret. Carl let it slip out and the underlings have been sent to try to cover the tracks by confusing and obfuscating. Autodesk is going Cloud-only, Carl had it right, but the underlings haven’t all been told yet and are incorrect in their “corrections”. Autodesk isn’t going Cloud only and Carl was just making stuff up on the fly. Why?…

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Why owning stuff is still important

Let’s start with a few questions: Do you own your home or rent it? Given the choice, what would you prefer? Why? Do you own your car or rent it? Given the choice, what would you prefer? Why? Do you own your TV or rent it? Given the choice, what would you prefer? Why? Do you own your computer or rent it? Given the choice, what would you prefer? Why? If you’re like me, you answered the same for most or all of those questions. I own all of the above and rent none of it. I prefer owning all of the above. Why? Three Cs: Continuity. If I own my home, there’s a pretty good chance that I’ll be able to go on living in it as long as I like. There are exceptions (wars, natural disasters, etc.), but ownership is generally much safer than renting if it’s important to retain access in the long term. This is because it removes the significant possibility that the owner may eventually terminate the agreement for reasons of their own, or make the relationship financially impractical. Control. If I rent my home, for example, there are strict limits on what I can do with it. I can’t just install an air conditioner if the place gets too hot in summer. The owners or their representatives can come calling to make sure I’m looking after it as they desire. If I want to keep pets or smoke in the property, my options are severely limited. Cost. There’s a reason people invest in property to rent out to others, or run profitable multinational businesses hiring out cars. It makes sense to be on the side of the relationship that’s taking the money rather than the one that’s paying it out. In other words, it usually makes…

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Dilbert and the Cloud

I have an Autodesk-related Dilbert story to share. Back in the late 90s, I was visiting Autodesk’s San Rafael offices (at Autodesk’s expense) and had an appointment to see a product manager. There was some confusion when I arrived at Reception, but after a few phone calls I was shown into a meeting room containing the manager and a lot of other Autodesk people. However, the open mouths told me that they were discussing very confidential stuff. They were clearly shocked and horrified that an outsider had been allowed into that particular room at that particular time, even though I had signed an NDA and was due to spend that day giving some important future software a very thorough going-over. The manager quickly shuffled me off to his own office and let me know he would be back as soon as the meeting concluded. I waited a while, staring into space. I did this for a while, but eventually got very bored and looked around for something to read to keep myself amused. Ignoring what was probably a lot of highly confidential paperwork, I discovered a Dilbert book and proceeded to read it. I became a fan right there and then. I also found myself respecting a manager who could see the funny side of the sort of management stupidity that is so effectively and bitingly satirised by Scott Adams. Somebody who buys a Dilbert book, I thought, is the sort of manager I can happily work with. When he eventually returned, I thanked him for the uninvited use of his book and asked him what he thought of it. It turned out that he hadn’t bought the book himself. It had been presented to him as a gift. From his underlings. Oh dear. Fortunately, he hadn’t yet read it. I…

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