[Update: Earlier today Autodesk released a more thorough response to the issues raised in the open letter. See the bottom of this article.]
At the beginning of the week, a group of top 25 U.K. architecture firms representing over 5,000 collective seats penned an open letter to Andrew Anagnost, president and CEO of Autodesk, decrying the rising cost, complexity, and licensing structure of Revit. Although big names such as Grimshaw, Zaha Hadid Architects, Wilkinson Eyre Architects, and Rogers, Stirk, Harbour + Partners openly signed on, only 17 firms made their names public, out of fear of potential reprisal from Autodesk.
The letter was aggregated in response to a June 2020 Autodesk survey, which asked users to rate the software giant’s performance and of the Revit platform in particular. “Even before the Covid‐19 pandemic costs were under significant scrutiny and the value added by software vendors is now being questioned as never before,” reads the letter. “Where once Autodesk Revit was the industry enabler to smarter working, it increasingly finds itself a constraint and bottleneck. Practices find that they are paying more but using Revit less because of its constraints.” At the time, the letter demanded that Autodesk respond to the group’s concerns with an actionable roadmap for making its software more accessible as well as affordable, and for improving interoperability between Revit’s closed ecosystem and similar programs. Followers of AN’s social media channels may have noticed that a number of readers mentioned having the same issues and even listed their preferred Revit alternatives.
Now, Autodesk has issued a response through a representative, and although it does present a mea culpa of sorts, there’s a distinct lack of concrete action proposed:
Engaging, listening to and addressing the concerns of our customers is a top priority for Autodesk, and we appreciate the feedback we received in the open letter. While there are points it raised that we disagree with, there are also issues raised that we must take to heart, which highlight areas where we’ve fallen short. Over the past several years, we increased our product development to serve engineering and construction customers, because we believe having a multi-disciplinary BIM model connected to construction enables better collaboration among all project team members. As with any business, there is the need to prioritize resources. We do recognize the need to balance and have recently increased our development on the architectural capabilities of Revit. Expect to see progress here in the future. Our current roadmap for Revit is publicly available at: www.autodesk.com/revitroadmap. We also empathize with customers that have gone through different license models in the last few years as we’ve transformed Autodesk to become a subscription-based company that can serve our customers better. We’ve done our best to balance these changes with a more valuable experience and trade-in offers that give longtime customers a path to experience these benefits at a cost consistent with what they pay today. But we must always be open to customer feedback. We’re planning to continue engaging with these customers directly, to have an open and honest dialogue, helping us further understand their needs. We have more to say, but first we will listen.
Following that, today Autodesk released “A Reply To Our Customers’ Open Letter On Autodesk Revit,” where the company elaborated on a point-by-point basis how they would address the concerns raised in the open letter, touching on everything from the licensing structure to improving programmatic interoperability:
Like any company, we have finite resources and we make investment decisions and trade-offs based on our understanding of customer and industry needs. And, like any company, we don’t always get it right. (Some of our long-time customers will remember the problematic Revit ribbon from 2010. We own that, and we’ve fixed it.) We have underinvested in architectural modeling functionality in recent years and are working to make that right.
We want to share some of the thinking behind our decision-making with Revit over the past years.
Our goal with Revit has always been to maximize the value it brings to the AEC market, and to do that we must enable all major stakeholders to participate in the BIM process. In pursuit of this goal, we increased our product development to better serve engineering and construction customers. This required several platform projects to improve scalability and performance to support fabrication detail for engineering that also benefited all disciplines. The result of this was a slowdown in development on core architectural modeling capabilities. We recognize the impact this has had on our architectural design customers and at the end of last year we increased our investment and resources for architectural capabilities in Revit. It will take some time for this impact to be fully realized and you can follow our progress at the Revit Public Roadmap.
We also empathize with customers who have gone through different license models in the last few years as we’ve transformed Autodesk into a subscription-based company that can serve our customers better. Our subscription business model has given a whole set of new customers access to our software, without requiring large upfront investments. There are also positive business drivers that will naturally increase customers’ costs over time – such as adding more subscriptions as their company grows, moving to BIM, and upgrading to industry collections to advance the skills of their employees. We’ve done our best to balance licensing changes with a more valuable experience and trade-in offers that give longtime customers a path to experience these benefits at a cost consistent with what they pay today. For example, we introduced product usage reporting so customers can ensure they’re getting the most from their investment and accurately forecast future spend.
Importantly, Autodesk is also reopening its annual global satisfaction survey and giving architects the chance to weigh in again here.