An Open Letter to CAD Software Companies, Part 2: An Overwhelming Response12 Mar, 2014 By: Robert Green
Readers and CAD companies agree and offer further insight. So, what's next?
In the last edition of the CAD Manager's Newsletter, I presented an open letter to CAD software developers written from the viewpoint of frustrated CAD managers. I expected to receive feedback and agreement from CAD managers everywhere, but the response I've received has been beyond anything I could have imagined.
In this edition of the CAD Manager's Newsletter, I'll pass along some of the responses I've received and make some recommendations for how CAD managers can become more involved in the discussion concerning improving the CAD products we all use and manage. Here goes.
Here's who replied:
- four vice-presidents at one small and three major software companies;
- one director of workstation development at a major hardware company;
- four software resellers from the United States and one from India;
- two publishers (one from India and one from Russia) requesting permission to republish the letter translated for their domestic audiences;
- six people from the software industry who asked not to be quoted;
- 47 CAD managers (from the United States, Canada, New Zealand, Switzerland, United Kingdom, and South Africa) at last count; and
- countless social media posts on Twitter, the CAD Manager's Unite! page on Facebook, LinkedIn and more.
Understand that it is unusual for me to receive more than 15 e-mails on any given topic, so receiving quadruple that volume tells me this was indeed a hot topic. The fact that I received responses from as many senior executives as I did is not only HIGHLY unusual but also shows they understand there is a problem.
Perhaps the most interesting thing about the responses is that there was 100% agreement that there is a disconnect between what CAD users need and what software companies provide. Even the software-company executives said that they need to listen better, and three of them said they'd forwarded the letter to all members of their project teams.
Following are several responses I received that represent the overall reaction to the piece:
>> Bravo sir! Bravo!
>> Well said, but excessive cost of software would have been another topic to touch on.
>> Stop telling us the cloud is where we should be just because that is where your profits are.
>> They should remember that everybody does not have the latest and greatest computer and Internet connection. You don't want to be cloud-based when you can't always get there.
>> I agree with the buzzword part. I'm amazed at how many words they can use, and not say anything.
>> Just the right words!
>> I liked it better when CAD companies had to make a product WORTH upgrading to, versus "here's your automatic update, (we add a few new features, and didn't fix any bugs)" for my yearly fee.
>> Couldn't have said it any better myself!
>> Great letter. You could have said the same thing for CAM software.
>> I wish they would sit in on some of my user classes when I have to explain some convoluted process and see the looks on their faces.
>> I agree. As CAD manager, the thing I crave from our CAD system (hardware, software, and users combined) is stability, stability, stability. Actually, I don't care about new features. It doesn't matter how the software works — as long as it is predictable, I can optimize around the workflow and improve productivity. The CAD vendors feel that they should continue to add new features to justify the cost of subscription/upgrades, but I would pay good money to have a CAD system that NEVER CRASHES!
>> I'd actually like a release where all they did was fix bugs.
>> I loved your letter. Is there a petition for this letter that we the CAD managers/users could sign?
A Few Conclusions
First: I've never received feedback on a topic that is so universally in agreement. I have to conclude that many of you feel exactly as I do.
Second: A strong anti-cloud current surfaced in many of the responses. In fact, comments about the software developers' aggressively pushing cloud based solutions was the number one complaint, with software instability being second.
Third: A palpable frustration was present throughout the responses. Whether in regard to stability, pricing, or subscription policy, users were venting more than anything else.
A Call to Action
So, now that we know we all agree and have the CAD companies' attention — if even for just a brief moment — how can we act and be part of the solution? Let me offer a few suggestions based on my experience in the industry and good, old-fashioned customer service metrics:
Tell your boss. Your boss probably doesn't understand the frustrations you experience around your CAD software, but your boss is the person who approves your CAD software budget. If your boss understood your software frustrations they'd understand how hard you work to make everything work and maybe even help you negotiate for additional reseller services when subscription renewals come up.
Use social media. I once had a CAD software problem I'd been trying to fix for two days and was getting nowhere. I vented my frustration in a Facebook group, and in less than an hour received the solution from a member of the software company's technical support team. Moral of the story? When you put your problem on public display, you're more likely to get a response.
Tell the organizations. You can write to me complaining about X, Y, or Z, but I don't run the CAD companies. You should tell everybody associated with your CAD product's chain of sales so they know your frustration. This means telling your boss as outlined above, your reseller (who wants to make you happy), and anyone who you can reach directly at your CAD software company.
Use your leverage. You are not just one CAD manager complaining. You are one CAD manager that represents a company with 45 seats of software complaining. Make sure you state this so everyone involved realizes how much money you represent.
Realize it all takes time. Does it take time to have conversations with all these people? Yes. Do you have to spend time on social media outlets? Yes. Will it be a pain to do all this? Yes. Will anything change if you don't invest some time in this effort? No.
Get active with support groups. Most software has associated public forums, user groups, or other technical-support resources at your disposal. Join in and speak up about your concerns.
Do not suffer in silence. If we all take the attitude of, "Why say anything? It'll never change anyway," then we're simply saying we accept how things are. As with all goods and services we purchase, it is up to us to provide honest feedback to the companies we do business with. Right?
CAD software developers may or may not listen to me, but they have every reason to listen to you — their paying customers. It is simply my hope that I can facilitate the communication process between the CAD companies and CAD managers.
Now I leave it to you to start your communication process and ask you this: How can I help you in this effort? Feel free to e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Until next time.
Autodesk Technical Evangelist Lynn Allen guides you through a different AutoCAD feature in every edition of her popular "Circles and Lines" tutorial series. For even more AutoCAD how-to, check out Lynn's quick tips in the Cadalyst Video Gallery. Subscribe to Cadalyst's free Tips & Tools Weekly e-newsletter and we'll notify you every time a new video tip is published. All exclusively from Cadalyst!