January 31, 2013

The customer isn't always right - and why that's a good thing

You hear it everywhere you go - "the customer is always right". And when you take time to put the comment into different contexts, it can be construed in a number of ways. But with the rapid evolution of 3D design and printing technology, in the context of design and engineering processes, this statement is entirely untrue.

Take food as an example. I was watching a show on the Travel Channel called "Chowdown Countdown" a couple of days ago. It featured their list of the top 100 restaurants in America, and among them was a place in Chicago called "Superdawg". Their specialty is, you guessed it - hot dogs, and their business is world renowned. But forget asking for modifications, or ketchup - the Superdawg staff will promptly tell you no. The owners are proud of their creation, and insist that any changes would ruin the Superdawg.

The world famous Superdawg, served with all the trimmings - golden mustard, tangy piccalilli, kosher dill pickle, chopped Spanish onions and a memorable hot pepper - but NO KETCHUP!

Another restaurant on the show, Grimaldi's Pizzeria (located in Brooklyn) routinely has customers lined up around the block for their authentic pies. But prominently displayed on the front door is a sign saying "NO SLICES". You get an entire pizza, or nothing.

So how do the behaviors of restaurants relate to 3D design? Customers call in asking for AutoCAD on a daily basis, and when asked to go with industry specific solutions like Inventor or Revit, insist that they know best how to get their work done. Meanwhile, their competitors leapfrog ahead of them, shortening development cycles, creating more innovative products, and most importantly, taking market share.

Our role as consultants is to stay up to date on new technology, observe the practices of "Best in Class" manufacturers, and challenge our clients to evolve their "tried and true" workflows. Encouraging clients to become early adopters of software and processes that will satisfy current design needs, but sustain their business for the rapidly changing future is a responsibility that any account manager/consultant should hold as paramount.

And along with being the differentiator between a salesperson and a business partner, it's also why I contend once again, that the customer isn't always right - and clients who "get it" will agree that, like the yummy Superdawg, it's quite a good thing.

January 13, 2013

My Top 5 Sources for Autodesk Services and Support

Or as I'm frequently asked, "just where the heck did you find that?"

In my role as an account manager, I do my level best to provide our clients with as much direct help as possible with their software, be it installation issues, error messages, or general "how-tos". After all, when it comes to the world of "been there, done that", I realize that when a designer

  • Gets the blue screen of death
  • Can't remember the system variable that controls item selection settings in AutoCAD (it's PICKADD, by the way)
  • Is tasked with doing something with the software he/she has never done

time is MONEY. And in many cases, there may be a project deadline hanging in the balance, or a Project Manager hanging over your shoulder saying "hey, you're the Inventor expert - this is what I hired you to do, so make it work!"

So in an effort to empower the legions of CAD users who are either short on time, can't get Sean Dotson or Lynn Allen on speed dial, or haven't convinced management to pay for Inventor training yet, here goes...my Top 5 Sources for Autodesk Services and Support.

  1. Project based implementation with a Platinum designated Autodesk Partner - designing in Inventor, Revit or even AutoCAD to a new user without proper assimilation of the software into a training program designed to fit your workflow is akin to giving a Gulfstream to an untrained pilot and saying, "fly me to Paris - you've got 9 hours". Platinum Partners (like Applied Software) have invested heavily in their technical teams, and have decades of industry experience. The investment will pay for itself many times over, and is often subject to tax credits, depending on the state you live in.
  2. Advanced Subscription Support from Autodesk - provided that you are already a subscription customer for your software, you can choose (for a small fee) to add unlimited toll-free phone, remote desktop and API assistance to your contract (click this link - Autodesk Advanced Support for more details). The support personnel are seasoned Autodesk technical specialists, and if you're a Suites customer, all products in your Suite are covered.
  3. Autodesk WikiHelp (http://wikihelp.autodesk.com/enu) - A Wiki site for Autodesk products you say? Oh yes, CAD geeks. Consider this a must for the "how do I?" type questions you encounter. Replete with videos, step by step instructions and shared user content (monitored by Autodesk), this site has made me look like a genius many times for my clients.
  4. YouTube (http://www.youtube.com/user/Autodesk) - This site includes "Getting Started" videos, feature specific "How To" videos, technology previews, and is a great springboard to user generated content as well.
  5. LinkedIn/Twitter - I've listed these resources as a single entry because I frequently will "retweet" good tweets on my LinkedIn site (shameless plug - click here- Trevor Fite). A number of my clients will check the LinkedIn site occasionally for updates on service packs, training classes, and new technology, using my site (and my choices) as a filter for the numerous tweets I receive. If you are a fan of Twitter, I generally tweet/retweet 10-12 times a week, occasionally 3-5 times in a day. Check out who I follow on Twitter (https://twitter.com/TFiteASTI) for a good mix of Autodesk and related technology tweets.