While I was on vacation in New Orleans, an article about Autodesk Labs appeared on Engineering.com:
Basically, the Autodesk Labs process is:
One of our divisions has a technology that they would like to preview. They work with their Legal partner to create an end user licence agreement and an installer that has a built-in time bomb (on a date where they wish to end the preview). For web services, they create a website instead of an installer. They supply that to me.
I create a presence for the technology preview on the Feedback Community site. The Feedback Community site hosts Autodesk Labs and our Beta programs. I create the artwork to be consistent with other technology previews, create HTML pages that describe the technology, and create feedback mechanisms like email distribution lists, discussion forums, and surveys. If the technology has an installer, I make it available on our download servers located in almost all parts of the world. This makes the download faster for customers who participate in a technology preview.
I blog about the technology preview to generate awareness and encourage customers to participate. I also use social media like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google+, and LinkedIn to spread the word. If there are videos associated with the technology, I place them on the Autodesk YouTube channel.
I read each piece of feedback as it rolls in, For an inquiry where I know the answer, I respond. When I don't, I monitor the feedback to make sure a team member does. I don't want feedback to a technology preview to accidentally drop into an Autodesk black hole.
At the end of each month, I tally the volume of feedback as well as the number of technology preview participants. I use tools like Google Analytics to gain additional insight.
At the end of each quarter, I write a Technology Preview Strategy (TPS) Report. Prior to the analysis, the proper cover sheet looks like this:
The report includes an analysis of feedback based on sentiment and volume for each technology preview. I recommend actions to take. This report is sent to the divisions who are conducting technology previews. They get to see the data for all of the technology previews so they can compare their technology preview to the others. There are about 15 to 30 technology previews active at any given time. I keep a running list of what's new and what's come and gone on my blog for historical purposes.
At the end of each technology preview, I write up a recap that captures what was learned from the technology preview. I also graduate it or retire it from Autodesk Labs based on the team's plans.
Their plans are formed based on the feedback and TPS Reports received during the technology preview. When we say "your experience shapes the future of our technology," we're not kidding.
Thanks to Roopinder Tara of Engineering.com for helping to spread the word. Roopinder is correct that the budget for Autodesk Labs is a headcount of one, but the technologies originate and are developed by the various divisions of Autodesk. It's a team effort.
Documenting the process is alive in the lab.