Writing this letter has not been either easy or pleasant. Researching these issues has forced me to question many of the comfortable assumptions I've lived with for many years, some dating before the formation of Autodesk. I'm aware that many may read these words as an attack on the company, or on the managers to whom we have entrusted it. That is not my intent. When I was personally involved in running the company, I was just as blind to trends outside the company, just as loath to act, and just as happy to retreat into the details of daily crises or the minutiæ of product design to escape the larger issues facing the company. This is only human, and only natural since we are human first and managers second.
Only rarely does one both have the time and the opportunity to step back far enough from the details to see the larger picture. When that picture appears hostile to the continued existence of the way you've become accustomed to doing business, it's a shock. It takes a while to sink in, and even after it does it's hard to resist the temptation to pick at little pieces of the arguments I've presented here and justify remaining on the current course, believing that it remains the prudent, low-risk path. Being prone to such argumentation myself, I expect that many people will greet what I say here in much the same way. I urge you to weigh their words against the fundamental questions I've put on the agenda.
They will dispute this or that assertion I make in this paper. I am sure I could question just as many facts and premises in a document presenting Autodesk's current strategy, were there a strategy to document, a document expressing it, or a willingness by management to share their vision of the company's future with the individuals who ultimately must turn it into reality.
They will claim their actions are moving the company in the same directions I urge, but in a ``prudent, low-risk, evolutionary manner.'' They will paint the course I recommend as fraught with immediate peril.
After you have heard their response, ask yourself the following questions.
Is Autodesk on the right course?
Is AutoCAD as excellent a product as it could be, given the human and financial resources of Autodesk?
Is AutoCAD receiving the marketing and promotional support that befits the principal product of a top-five software company?
Is Autodesk investing adequate resources, human and financial, to maintain AutoCAD's lead in value for the dollar?
Is Autodesk acting like a leader of an industry, seeking to create new markets and broaden the use of its products?
Are Autodesk's pricing, channels of distribution, and focus on market segments consistent with the emerging trends in the software marketplace?
Is Autodesk today what I had hoped to create in 1982--a company that can turn a great piece of software into a great success in the marketplace?
Are Autodesk's plans for new business development likely to succeed?
Is Autodesk acting in keeping with the opportunities before it, as a highly profitable multinational company with a strong position in a revolutionary industry, two hundred million dollars a year in turnover, and more than one hundred forty million dollars in the bank?
Were Autodesk to be faced with a well-funded, accurately targeted assault on the heart of its market, could the company react quickly enough to fend it off?
Editor: John Walker