One Vendor's Remedy for Software Management Headaches8 Oct, 2014 By: Robert Green
Autodesk's new Application Manager utility promises to help CAD managers more easily maintain CAD software throughout its lifecycle — but what does it do, exactly?
In a previous edition of the CAD Manager's Newsletter, I wrote an open letter to CAD software companies, taking them to task over how complicated it is to maintain CAD software over the course of its installed lifecycle. I pointed to the ongoing challenges of finding updates and service packs for products and of tracking installed products, and the large amount of time the CAD manager must spend on these tasks.
I received several responses from software companies conceding the problem, but one response was unique. Erik Klein, Autodesk's product manager for Software Delivery, agreed to be interviewed about how Autodesk is addressing these issues with its Application Manager utility (which launched in limited form with the company's 2015 products). What follows is a transcript of the refreshingly frank interview I had with Mr. Klein.
Erik Klein of Autodesk
Robert Green (RG): Thank you for reaching out after my somewhat critical take on software companies.
Erik Klein (EK): You're most welcome, and I really appreciate this opportunity to provide information to your readers.
RG: As product manager for Software Delivery at Autodesk, what are your key responsibilities?
EK: My focus is on defining requirements and setting priorities for the products and components that my team builds, which are ultimately used by customers to download, install, and deploy software. I also spend a lot of time collecting and refining requirements for these components, and work extensively with customers and internal teams who build and release our desktop and online products.
RG: I'm not the only CAD manager who struggles with keeping software current, so I presume you've heard from other customers requesting that you make the software easier to install and administer.
EK: Absolutely, we've been hearing from customers for quite some time about the need to provide a better overall delivery experience, including the administration parts. This isn't just about managing the steps to get up and running, but post-install–related tasks as well.
RG: What kind of requests, specifically, have you received?
EK: Historically, there have been issues with what I call discovery, essentially the process of learning about and obtaining an asset such as a product update or upgrade. Our customers want to be current with their software, but if they have trouble discovering and understanding the value of the assets, adoption rates for product updates such as service packs is going to be a problem.
There are lots other examples, but here are some of the top suggestions that we've heard from users:
- Streamline initial installs/deployments.
- Offer better visibility into the software that the company owns and manages.
- Help keep installed software up to date, including deployments.
- Assist with managing software once it's installed, and knowing what's installed.
- Provide a useful and simple online management experience for large applications.
RG: When we first corresponded, you said the new Application Portal would begin to address my concerns. Can you briefly describe the Application Portal and also the Account Portal modules?
EK: Ultimately, our goal is to modernize and improve the customer workflow for keeping Autodesk software up to date, and to provide the best possible up-and running-experience from trials to deployments, upgrades, and updates. For the last couple of years we've been working on an initiative called the Account Portal, which is aimed at improving the customer self-service experience.
From a software delivery point of view, we are creating web-based tools for administrators, such as CAD and BIM [building information modeling] managers, who look after design apps within their managed environments.