I know we have only been in a direct committed relationship for the last 4 years, so it probably doesn’t mean much to you. However I was working for other companies that were in committed relationships with you for about 6 or 7 years prior to that. So really we have been in the same circle of friends for at least 10 years. Even when working on a site for a client where we had to predominantly use your competitors software, you were never far from my thoughts and I couldn’t wait to get back to using you full time again and was elated when I could.
For me, I can still remember as far back as the late 90’s when I caught a glimpse of your software and being blown away by it. I also remember seeing some pretty full on drawings done in AutoCAD when doing my apprenticeship around the turn of the millennium. It was the latter that made me realise I wanted to be a drafter and not a tradie. I still remember thinking that day nearly 20 years ago that I would one day learn how to use this magical AutoCAD software.
When the time came and I had the opportunity to be taught by what is now a very close friend, how to use AutoCAD I jumped at the chance. Even at great personal sacrifice to me in time, travel expenses and lack of sleep in order to go to his workshop to learn. I still remember my first lesson and I remember on my trip back home thinking one day I will own a license of my own.
It was a really big deal to me the day I handed over my $10,000 to get the Product Design Suite Ultimate license. (Which I did while working for the afore mentioned site mind you.) It marked the true beginning of my own small business. A business I had hoped to grow into a very large one with your help and lots of your licenses. Something I made clear to my reseller before I signed up. That day also marked the achievement of a pretty big goal for me. A goal I set for myself from the day I was first taught to draw a line in AutoCAD.
Over the last 4 years I have made business decisions and plans around using your excellent software products to offer my clients the highest possible standards of deliverables. I firmly believe that you really do offer some of the best software on the market and have always happily spruiked this to both my clients and colleagues. Even to the point of doing trials of other software, so that I could always confidently tell others that your products were the best at what they could do and actually list the reasons why.
Sure it hasn’t been smooth sailing over the years. There have been bugs, crashes and at times it has been difficult to afford to pay to stay in this relationship (you can be high maintenance and you know it). However the pros have always out weighed the cons. For me, to get to where I am today has been nearly a 20 year journey, it’s not just a job with a bit of software. It’s been a career long goal with plenty of ups and downs along the way.
Your latest move has stepped too far over the line. Now you are spitting in the face of that career long goal by insulting me with a change in the way you want to do business! Don’t get me wrong, I understand that things change and I have to roll with that. But what you are doing now is pissing on me and trying to tell me it is much needed rain!
You have never been cheap, and that is just part of working with the best and the price you have to pay for it. Your prices have always gone up each year, which is to be expected, but not normally by huge amounts, so these costs could be absorbed or easily handed to the client in the way of a marginal increase in charge out rates. Even your move to offering subscription licenses was in a way predicable and understandable. But being forced onto them is a whole other thing.
As a small business owner, I have to say not only does this mean a likely end to our relationship, it means that if (when) I find an alternative, I will likely never return to using Autodesk products and I will go out of my way to point out to anyone who asks for my opinion on what software they should use the many detriments that are involved with getting into a relationship with you. As a consultant, (and an avid CAD enthusiast) that is a LOT of my clients, colleagues and friends.
You see, while I can understand the desire for your company to move to subscription based customers and the advantages that brings to your company and ultimately share holders, it means absolute dire consequences for me and mine. (and if what I am reading online a hell of a lot like me.)
Here’s something you won’t know about me, as I went to a great deal of effort to hide it from everyone I knew, not just you. 2016 nearly saw me not just go out of business, but also lose everything I had worked the last 18 years to build. That’s not even a remote exaggeration either. I was literally days away from foreclosing on my house and business loans.
You see 2016 was a bad year for everyone here in Australia. This meant that not only was there not a lot of work around, but the work that was coming in wasn’t typically being paid in full or on time, due to the fact that everyone was hurting. Add to that a poorly timed decision to get a business loan and I had painted myself into a corner and it looked very much like I was going to (almost literally) starve to death before the paint dried and I could get out.
You know what kept me going though? You know the one thing I was able to do while I had no major contracts or regular work? I was able to continue to do small jobs and continue to hone my skills and deliverables using your perpetual licenses. I was able to polish the current deliverables. Iron out bugs or problems in workflows. Create and document standards and workflows. Create advertising materials. Create YouTube tutorials to help others with your software. I could sit down every day and open one of your products and learn some new things that would eventually allow me to offer new services for my business. None of these things i could change any money for on their own, but would ultimately end up breathing new life into my business and see me go from being a nervous wreck on the brink of losing it all, into being so busy that I have had to take on the services of another senior drafter and start training a new drafter to help with my workload.
You see, if I had been on this new subscription plan of yours, I would have been dead in the water about March/April 2016, because I barely had enough money to feed myself let-a-lone pay your high priced subscription fees. It was a struggle just to pay the maintenance fee, but I knew if I didn’t I would have been sunk. I am not out of the woods yet, but I am at least on the road to recovery and I have your perpetual licenses to thank for that.
So why do I choose to write this letter to you now?
To be honest, I have been stewing on this since you made the big announcement about offering subscriptions. You see, I got a phone call from my re-seller way back then about it and even then it didn’t make any sense to move off my perpetual license. Pay MORE each year to get the same or less service than I am getting now? Where is the up side for me? Why would I do that? Despite the re-seller’s best efforts to convince me otherwise and even with my head in another job at the time, my basic maths in my head during that phone call told me it wasn’t a cheaper way to go.
At the time thought it wasn’t an issue as I wasn’t being forced onto it. It just seemed like a friendly enough call from my re-seller informing me of the benefits of the new service. That said it did leave me with an uncomfortable feeling that it might not stay that way for long; and on Friday the 3rd of March 2017, you confirmed that feeling for me with what was quite frankly an insulting email.
If I am forced onto a subscription as you are suggesting in your email, what happens when I hit another quiet patch? I will potentially be out of business is what will happen. Your suggestion to get around this is buy a 3 yr subscription, but what happens if my quiet patch hits at the same time I am due to buy my next subscription? Neither of us can predict that, but it would make little to no difference if I had a perpetual license. It might mean I need to skip a year or two of updates, but I would certainly pick up the subscription when I could. It doesn’t make sense to me to not support the software company that is helping support my business. That is why I have always been happy to pay my maintenance fee even though I only use your support services maybe 3 or 4 times a year.
I get that you might feel like you have been taken advantage of by people only updating their software every few years or so. Or by those that brought a license in 2000 and have never upgraded since. If I am being honest I think that is a bit of a dick move. If someone is making money off your software for 17 years the least they can do is upgrade every few years even if they don’t “need” to.
By the same token, a lot of these folks might only use the software very seldom and not make enough money of directly using your software if any at all. So it would be hard to justify for them the great expense after the initial outlay for a license. As such, they have supported you, or thanked you for your software, but paying the ridiculously high initial buy in cost of getting at least one license in stead of just pirating it like so many others have.
You see the way I see it, as a customer and avid CAD user, the relationship between you and I is a two way street. While I have to be understanding of your needs and respect the fact that you have to increase your already high prices annually, you need to understand that I might not be able to afford to pay that EVERY year and might need to miss a year or two every now and again in order to keep our relationship going over a much longer period of time. Something that I feel strongly that you have lost sight of.
Can our relationship recover you ask?
(well, they probably aren’t, but just roll with it, it works with the flow of the article…)
Now to be totally fair to you, subscriptions are something I could see myself using. I think they would be an excellent ADDITION to your current offerings and a great choice for when times are really busy and I need an extra license or more for some short term contractors. Or if I wanted to do a one off job that required a specific bit of software. But for my core business and core employees, it makes no sense what so ever. Especially as it is so much more expensive.
At the end of the day I know I am just one small client (at the moment). In the grand scheme of your company, I don’t mean anything and you won’t notice me gone. But if what I am reading around the traps is anything to go by, I am certainly not alone in these feelings. So while you may not feel any pain from me leaving, I suspect you will feel a fair bit of pain from this decision of yours. It might not be enough to kill your company, but it will do a great deal of damage. Probably more than you expect and I really hope it isn’t more than you can handle. Not so much for the bigwigs or share holders sake, but for the people that you employ. The people that rely on your business being there to support their lives and feed their families.
I know I would happily continue our relationship with a perpetual license. I would also happily buy more perpetual licenses even. But if this is no longer going to be an option moving forward as you suggest in this latest email; then I am afraid you have left me with no other choice but to look else where for my software requirements.
OK, so for those that haven’t worked it out yet, this was meant to be a bit tongue in cheek. But honestly, this pretty much sums up how I feel and everything in this article is 100% the truth. I have been wanting to write an article on the changes happening to Autodesk subscribers for a while now and have been struggling to work out a way of getting it out. I thought this format would be a bit of a giggle and would help me get out what is rattling around my head without flying into a rage like I feel like doing every time I think about this topic. It really does have me that upset.
For those who want to know what was in the March 3rd email that has me feeling this way, either connect with or follow me on LinkedIn or check back on our website from time to time to get the next article that will go through the email and maintenance/subscription changes in a lot more detail and why I think they are so unfair.
If you would like to have your say, please feel free to leave a comment in the comments below.