I have covered the technology and channel programs of Autodesk, the giant design, modeling and visualization software company, for what feels like a very, very long time. In my personal opinion, this is the company that pioneered the very first value-added resellers in the PC industry — resellers that sold its flagship AutoCAD software along with hardware that had been optimized to do the application the best possible justice. That’s why I always take briefings about the Autodesk Partner Program, because their innovation is often a harbinger.
For me, there were three big takeaways from my recent conversation with Steve Blum, senior vice president of Americas sales (notice that Blum is in charge of sales, period, not channel sales). They are:
- More companies need to start organizing their technology development and product-ization (is that a word?) efforts according to solutions. It used to be that Autodesk sold products. Now it organizes its applications and related marketing efforts according to the needs of the industries that those applications serve. And their authorizations/certifications will be shifting this year in order to accommodate. In particular, Blum says the company is seeking to simplify authorizations for Architecture, Engineering and Construction; Manufacturing; and Media and Entertainment. Autodesk also centralizes sales activities for Automotive and Transportation, Education, Government and Utilities and Telecommunications.
- There’s always room for a more elite specialization: In Autodesk’s case, the case has reorganized its program around the classic precious metals sorts of tiers: Gold, Silver and Bronze. These levels are organized according to a partner’s investment in industry specialization and services. The company is developing a new level for fiscal year 2012 that will reflect, among other things, a particular partner’s Net Promoter influence. In other words, is this partner so good that its customers actively recommend it?
- Corporate sustainability initiatives and green IT are having a positive impact: This definitely won’t be true for EVERY technology company, but Autodesk is definitely benefiting from the clean-tech movement. In two ways. First, the company has developed something called the Clean Tech Partner Program, which gives out software to start-up companies that are working on some sort of clean tech technology. The clincher is that the proposals almost always involve an Autodesk reseller partner, in order to make sure that the companies who receive these software “grants” are successful in using the applications. There are more than 100 partners who have a focus on this sort of activity, Blum says. What’s more, corporate sustainability has helped Autodesk add more partners in the past year than it did in the past six years.
How’s that for progress in a down economy?