Cloud vs. Box: It’s Time to Move

C-Suite with Jeffrey Hayzlett recently took us inside Autodesk, a $2 billion 3D design software company that is at the forefront of innovation. Their software helps create enormous architectural projects, like the Shanghai Tower, to box-office hits such as Avatar and Lord of the Rings.

Bloomberg TelevisionTo continue their innovation in front of the technology curve, Autodesk decided to move from boxed software to cloud-based computing. It would allow their customers to access Autodesk software on different devices and store their work on Autodesk servers, yet still allowing the consumer the choice of their box versus cloud technology.

The initial transition was a nightmare.  Their CEO even claimed the launch was an unmitigated disaster. Cloud versus box is a whole new way of product delivery. Changing the mindset of a customer that doesn’t like change.  The sales force went from a geo-based to industry-based sales strategy. Autodesk eventually needed to restructure the team causing a layoff of around 500 employees and eventually re-hiring a younger cloud based and mobile oriented workforce.

How does a $2 billion company considered an industry standard in architecture, manufacturing and entertainment recover and move on from such a stumble, and what can other companies learn from their experience?

Technology Bloomberg TelevisionProjects this big take time. It takes a great deal of patience and persistence to transition a company like Autodesk from boxed software to the cloud. While their clients are in the middle of projects that take years to complete, it was impossible for Autodesk to ask them to quit midstream. They provided the support necessary to not only new clients using their software online but also transitioning current clients to the cloud.

It’s an overhaul of the company and the mindset. A big challenge that Autodesk faced was winning the hearts and minds of their clients who were used to using boxed software. It took complete transparency and honesty from Autodesk to convince new and old customers alike that it really is best for their business to use cloud-based software.

Autodesk has one eye on the future at all times. While they are in the middle of change, Autodesk is paying attention to how every move might affect their future. Their c-suite realizes that companies who stand still and become complacent are the ones who become obsolete. They believe this transition to the cloud will not only attract a new type of client, but will set the standard in their industry. As their CEO Carl Bass said: “This is what keeps me up at night. That we’re going to wake up three years from now and most of the worlds product design, manufacturing and construction will be running on our servers.”

Autodesk knows where they are going and the steps necessary to get there. But a transition this massive takes time, patience, and understanding from customers and employees. To learn more about Autodesk, visit their website or watch the full episode.


Jeffrey Hayzlett thumbnail headshotJeffrey Hayzlett is a global business celebrity and speaker, bestselling author, Contributing Editor and Host of C-Suite with Jeffrey Hayzlett on Bloomberg Television. He is the CEO of The Hayzlett Group, an international strategic business consulting company focused on leading change and developing high growth companies. Connect with Hayzlett on TwitterFacebookLinkedIn or email.

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