Autodesk’s Corporate Strategy & Engagement team, of which Autodesk Labs is a part, publishes an internal newsletter monthly to discuss the big ideas that are important to us and our customers. Jon Pittman is the VP of Corporate Strategy, so it should come as no surprise that Jon routinely makes submissions to this newsletter. Jon has also been a Lecturer at the Haas School of Business of the University of California at Berkeley. Jon contributed this article to a recent issue, and it was popular among employees.
The greatest potential for Autodesk to serve its customers exists at the intersection of three convergences:
- Designing, Making, and Using
- Infinite Computing, Digital Manufacturing, and The Internet of Things
- Creating Places, Things, and Media
The future of the future of making things — and Autodesk's future — exists at the nexus of these three convergences. Our fundamental opportunity to best serve our customers lies in connecting designing, making, and using. We can do this by leveraging three technological disruptions — infinite computing, digital manufacturing, and the internet of things. And finally — and unique to Autodesk — we can bring together the creation of places, things, and media. Our opportunity to provide the most for our customers does not lie in any one of these things but, rather, in the confluence of all of them.
The fundamental challenge in addressing these convergences is that the real opportunity is in connection and continuity. Think about the simple example of creating a stronger connection between designing and making a thing. Ultimately, we want that to be a seamless workflow where the digital representation of the thing accurately depicts its eventual physical instantiation, and, of course, the making of the thing flows directly from the digital model of that thing. Yet today when we try to create the capability to address that workflow, our customers must apply a classic decomposition of their workflow into applications (or products), and then further decompose the applications into features. Would it not be better to look at the workflow and capability holistically? After all, the person trying to design and make the thing looks at it as a continuous process and not necessarily a set of discrete tasks.
We are making progress in this area. For example, with Forge, we are creating a single common underlying platform for all of our capabilities. That will create a new level of shared services and infrastructure — and therefore, a greater level of coherence across customer workflows. We have made a huge start in the right direction by reorganizing product development into one organization. That lets us set up things like platform infrastructure, common engineering practices, and common user experience. It also helps create a culture with a common viewpoint and purpose. Another aspect of our approach is that we are using Forge as a development platform to attract third-party developers to extend and enhance capabilities that serve our customers.
There are perhaps other things we can do as well. Consider one of the key roles in that organization — the product manager. By its very nature, this role focuses on a product, or an application. It reinforces the central idea of a "product," rather than a customer workflow. So why couldn't we redefine that role as someone who looks at the entire customer workflow, and is also an unabashed advocate for the customer? They could cut across the silos containing different "products" to focus on the actual work the customer is trying to accomplish.
We are making the right moves to reorient our thinking, practice, culture, and technical infrastructure around user workflows and capabilities. The theme of this year's Technical Summit — recently held in Montreal — was "radical collaboration." There are two reasons for radical collaboration: the first one is cost, because by sharing technology across groups we gain efficiency. That is important but the second, and more important reason, is that it can help us create coherence in the capabilities we offer to our customers. By breaking out of our boxes and collaborating, we have a chance of addressing workflow, rather than discrete tasks.
We need radical collaboration if we are to truly address the nexus of design, make, use; infinite computing, digital manufacturing, and internet of things; and places, things, and media. We are taking the right steps. The question is — are we being radical enough?
You can find more of Jon's thoughts on the Medium blog:
- The Tyranny of the Minimum Viable Product
- Don’t Waste My Time With Your Minimally Viable Product
- Recapturing The Soul of Design
- A Year in the Life of the Internet of Things
Collaboration is alive in the lab.