Friday, January 30, 2009

My Thoughts on the Recent Autodesk Layoffs

I found out today from a good friend about the reductions announced at Autodesk.  What I also learned was that someone I really respect and enjoyed working with was one of those unfortunate folks who were let go.  I don't work for Autodesk, but I feel like sometimes I "did".  For those that don't know much about me, I spent almost twenty years working with Autodesk products as a developer of add-on software.  So when things get shaken up in San Rafael, or anywhere throughout their organization, I usually hear about it and I always pay attention.  When I heard that some good people were let go, while some terrible people were kept, I was a bit upset. 

I won't provide any names, but I will say that their choices of who to let go are being noticed by a huge community outside of their company.  Customers are going to notice because some of them (like my company) are getting sick and tired of dealing with the shlock being put in our faces to deal with instead of the skilled folks they keep under lock and key.  Instead of shuffling the deck, they threw out some Aces and kept some bad cards.

Years ago, before Carol Bartz came aboard, Autodesk was focused on customers and developers.  That's how they grew the business.  From the ground up.  Things got stupid in the boardroom and that's why Carol was brought in: to clean house and straighten things up. But she went wrong in two key areas:

1. She shifted the focus away from customers and developers towards shareholders.  Almost to the point of exclusion.

2. She allowed the company to get distracted in too many directions outside of their core competencies.  Remember AutoCAD 2000i?  The home design series?

Lucky timing of a few acquisitions and key licensing deals are what kept their stock prices afloat for so long.  That and squeezing their backroom developers for drips of innovation to meet shareholder demand.  The days of letting them play and invent crazy stuff were drying up because that's too costly and difficult to control.  Shareholder value.

So, almost ten years after I sat in an ADN conference room and listened to the VP tell us all that Mechanical Desktop was being replaced by Inventor, and Architectural Desktop was being replaced by Revit, well, we still have MDT and ADT.  That's execution for you.  I don't blame the developers for that.  I blame the boardroom.  And today's news is also another bad decision I blame on the boardroom.  No wonder our district has endured almost a dozen sales reps in the past eight years.  Who would want to work under that mess?

I know there's little chance anyone at Autodesk reads my rambling mess, but in case someone there does:  Next time you decide to lay off someone, start by asking your customers to rate the Autodesk folks they deal with.  I mean EVERYONE they deal with.  Not just the official boilerplate faces that show up to sign subscription deals and fly off before the ink dries.
Post a Comment