Previous grievances come to light after British firms express frustration with Autodesk

Out of the Woodwork

Previous grievances come to light after British firms express frustration with Autodesk

An Autodesk building at the company's headquarters in San Rafael, California. (coolcaesar/Wikimedia Commons)

Following the publication of an open letter signed by 17 major, largely United Kingdom–based architecture firms, including Grimshaw and Zaha Hadid Architects, that presented a long and detailed list of grievances with Autodesk and the design software giant’s core BIM product, Revit, numerous other firms—now 35 in total—have joined as co-signatories. These additional companies include Atlanta-headquartered firms Cooper Carry and Portman Architects, New York and Boston–based SGA, Vancouver, B.C.–based MIZA, and Israeli firm Mochly Eldar Architects.

What’s more, Iain Godwin, the British IT consultant and industry veteran who coordinated the original open letter to Autodesk president and CEO Andrew Anagnost that has since prompted not one but two responses from Silicon Valley–based Autodesk, has noted that the July missive was preceded by other organized expressions of discontent with Revit. One earlier and not public letter was sent by a group of 12 leading Australia- and New Zealand–based architecture firms to the sales director of Autodesk’s Asia Pacific arm in 2014.

Like last month’s open letter, the 2014 letter decried the sharply increasing costs of software subscriptions paired with sluggish product development, complex and ever-changing licensing models, and a perceived overall disconnect with the everyday users within the AEC industry that Autodesk’s products and services are tailored for.

Reads the opening of the letter, which was recently published on Linkedin by Revit consultant Tim Waldock:

 As architectural users of Autodesk Revit for a number of years, we feel that the value for the money that we have been spending on the software subscriptions has been diminishing steadily, most noticeably in the last 2 or 3 years. We also feel that the annual enhancements to the software are not being sufficiently driven by existing user requirements – it appears that marketing driven changes are much more dominant. Although we understand that Autodesk have good reasons for pursuing new market AEC segments (such as building contractors), this should be done in addition to, not at the expense of further development to the Revit Architecture tool that we are paying an annual fee for upgrades to.

In a preface on LinkedIn, Waldock made clear that the 2014 letter was directed squarely at Autodesk and not the company’s Revit product management and development teams, which Waldock said are “trying to deliver software improvements to their customers with an apparently decreasing budget.” He added: “We know that must be a big challenge within a company that appears to be largely driven by marketing management and share-holder returns.”

In addition to listing changes good and bad (primarily the latter) that have occurred in the six years since the letter was since written, Waldock also noted that the response to the 2014 letter written by the group of antipodean firms was greeted by crickets, much unlike the formal response—“Engaging, listening to and addressing the concerns of our customers is a top priority for Autodesk …”— issued in response to last month’s open letter. Waldock elaborated that the 2014 letter, although apparently widely circulated throughout Autodesk, generated “no letter, no email, no phone call. Nothing!”

In addition to the 2014 letter to Autodesk that’s now just come to light, Godwin also pointed out via email that just several weeks before last month’s letter came together in the U.K., a group of South African architecture firms banded together with hopes to express similar displeasure with the company over rising costs and declining value. This effort, as noted by Godwin, generated a flurry of Zoom calls and emails and ultimately concluded with a call to Autodesk executives based in Barcelona. The end result, however, was, according to Godwin, an unsatisfactory one with one South African IT director involved claiming that the response from the company was nothing more than a “political response.”