Autodesk Share Holders You Are Being Lied To!

So last week I posted an article about how “I wanted to break up with Autodesk” over their recent proposed licensing and software delivery changes.

Since then I have been trying to work out the reality of what this change means for my business, my business model, how I am going to handle that change and what that ultimately means to my clients. (do I hand the cost of this change over to them?)

There are quite a few things that have been bugging me though and tonight while trying to write another article about this change and reading more about it, it finally hit me, the biggest thing that has been bothering me that I just couldn’t put my finger on.

Autodesk are not only lying to their users about the real cost of the changes, they are lying to their shareholders about the reaction they are getting from us, the users.

So in my travels this week I came across the Autodesk’s (ADSK) CEO Carl Bass on Q3 2017 Results – Earnings Call Transcript 

In it the then acting CEO Carl Bass talks about how they are moving to their subscription business model and how it offers so much great value to their customers that everyone seems happy to be moving across to the new model because of this great value.

Carl Bass (on Collections)

“But we know it is one of the things that customers really want.”

Carl Bass (on Moving to the Cloud)

“I have talked in the past about being a place for collaboration as well as giving access to virtually unlimited amounts of compute power which is something our uses demand and so it’s just a natural fit.”

Stan Zlotsky (from Morgan Stanley.)

“Are you driving pricing increases to entice people to move over from maintenance or are they doing it voluntarily through seeing a greater value proposition of those products or is there a third option [multiple speakers] thinking about?”

Carl Bass

“I think both on right now, and an ongoing basis it’s going to be a combo of the two. We’ve some incentives to move people forward we choose to go early. But a lot of it is a value in the new offering, which is the latest and includes large aspects of the cloud in it and gives you those additional flexibilities.”

All of this is absolute nonsense. Not one person I have spoken to in my travels thinks moving to the cloud in the form of the current offerings from Autodesk is a good idea. Every single person I have spoken to has said that they know that the subscription model is a rip off, over priced and only good for Autodesk. I know a lot of people have said they are looking for alternatives and I even know a few that have already moved to alternative software offerings. And to be clear, I am not talking about 2 or 3 people at the pub on a Friday afternoon, this has been from multiple industry networking events, clients, colleagues and friends that all use the software. I would conservatively estimate I have spoken to at least 100 individuals about this and not one of them has had anything good to say about it.

While digging a little deeper I found the recording of the Autodesk (ADSK) Q4 2017 Results – Earnings Call (Now in transcript form) and the 2 new CEOs seem to take the lie even further with comments like;

Heather Bellini (from Goldman Sachs.)

“I imagine you kind of tested the waters on this of before you did it. What type of feedback did you get from customers or from channel partners about the strategy to basically main thence customers paying that increase in price and the move to subscription, basically trading they your license to move to subscription, what type of feedback did you hear if you ran that by any of your larger customers before you did this in?”

Andrew Anagnost

“our partners are very, very positive about this program mostly because they really – they see an opportunity for them to go in and have a conversation with the customer.”

Your Partners would have to be complete and utter idiots to like this change. You will be effectively eliminating the need for them in the near future by going to online stores and “schedule a call back” for your help desk support. Why would they be happy with this? I know in the short term they will make a little more money by converting their clients to Subscribers as you stated later on in the call, but that isn’t going to help them when everyone is buying their software online and getting support from an overseas call centre.

Andrew Anagnost

“With regards to the customer reaction, I think it’s going to take us a little bit more time to gather that reaction.”

Amarpreet Hanspal

And also at the low end we are seeing people really respond well to the sort of the lower cash outlay the subscriptions demand from them.

Really Andrew and Amarpreet? What do you call this? This forum was more or less sparked by the uproar over the latest “move or be forced to pay a fortune more” email. In this forum there is talk from multiple members that there was another forum started to discuss the changes being made back when Autodesk first came out with the end of perpetual licenses and the start of Subscriptions. That forum however is now apparently buried and can only be found via direct links. (I will update this with a link if I can find one.)

Here is the link to the “missing” forum mentioned above.  1144 posts and a quick skim seems none in support of the changes or pricing. altho a few seem to be happy with Subscriptions as an OPTION additional to the perpetual licenses.

Now to be fair, this is only a small number of the (approximately) 3.1 million legitimate users out there. But if you take into account that only a very small percentage of legitimate users would join the forums in the first place. Then consider that of those users that do join, the number of active users on the forum that are responsible for paying for their software would be fairly small. I would say that those users seem to be fairly well represented in these forums and when you extrapolate that back out, that is a hell of a lot of those 3.1 million Autodesk customers aren’t happy with this change! Especially if you have a look at the number of users that seem to have joined the forum just to add their voice to the growing number of unhappy customers. Or the number of very infrequent posters that have had their say. It is all there on your very own forums to see. If you believe the posts from the Autodesk staff these concerns are being relayed to the CEOs, yet they still seem to think the majority of users are happy.

Further into the conversation the shareholders asked some really good questions about how the users were responding to these changes, and basically they were told that everyone is happy to move across and they expect they will have 100% conversion to subscriptions in the next 3-4 years roughly (based on the numbers of conversions they were discussing towards the end).

Now don’t get me wrong, I know the only reason the shareholders are asking these questions is to work out if they are going to take a hit in the hip pocket and has nothing to do with any kind of concern about the users and how they feel about all of this. I also understand that it is Autodesk’s job to try and calm their shareholder’s nerves. But I feel that after all the reading I have been doing in the last week or so that Autodesk are out right lying to their shareholders. They have been doing it to their users for years, so i guess it only makes sense they  would have the same contempt for their share holders.

The simple fact of the matter is that all evidence points toward the opposite of what the CEOs are telling the investors! A couple of minutes on google turns up multiple threads on multiple forums about unhappy customers. There are dozens of blog posts and videos out there about it. While this may be the minority that are happy to make a fuss, the ratio of people not willing to make a noise to those that are seems to be 100:1 or more.

If for every person that seems to be making a noise about this and leaves Autodesk software offerings for something else, there is 100+ others that just do it and don’t say anything, I think Autodesk shareholders are in for a very rough ride over the next year or two. Maybe they need to have a look at what happened to Adobe stocks and earnings after they went to subscription.

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