The recent flurry of claims and rebuttals about the future of Constructware (see Constructware’s future questioned) has not convinced everybody that Autodesk remains committed to developing its Software-as-a-Service construction collaboration application Constructware.
The atmosphere of uncertainty is also not helped by last week’s news (and here) that Autodesk is to lay off a further 430 people, on top of the 750 redundancies announced earlier this year. No details were given about where the axe was going to fall, but nervous Constructware custumers might need some further Autodesk reassurance that the application their projects rely upon is not going to be allowed to wither on the vine.
The software industry is littered with products whose continued development amounts to little more than patch releases and the completion of long-planned updates. As existing competitors add new functionality or expand existing features, and as new alternative products are launched targeting the same market sector, Constructware customers will want to know that their application remains at the forefront of technology. Managing projects using what are perceived as ‘old’ applications is not going to give a contractor or project manager a competitive edge. And clients will be reluctant to entrust management of their business-critical asset to a toolset that might soon be overtaken by more functional alternatives.
The uncertainty has also allowed SaaS sceptics to point out the supposed folly of online systems. For example, while acknowledging the efforts of Autodesk’s Jay Bhatt to assure customers that Autodesk is “investing in the development of Constructware and moving the product forward”, WorldCAD Access’s Ralph Grabowski opines:
“Again we see the danger in entrusting data to the cloud — in this case, limited to a few days of worry. The only solution we can trust, however, consists of perpetual licenses for software running on our own servers — aided by backups to an external site.”
Sadly, I am not yet convinced that the Constructware conundrum has been “limited to a few days of worry”. Despite the Q1 loss announced last week, Autodesk’s announcement of job cuts seemed to boost the company’s share price. If that’s what it takes to keep shareholders happy, then perhaps Autodesk might offload or trim products that don’t sit comfortably with its core strengths in on-premise licensed software.
(Update: 15:30 BST, 26 May 2009: I have just read Engineering News Record‘s short account [registration/fee required] of the “shiver that went through the contractor world”. One customer appears placated by Autodesk’s written assurance, but another is waiting for proof of Autodesk’s commitment, including incorporation of building information modelling. “This would be an interesting dialogue to have about six months from now,” says David Goldin, senior vice president and CIO at Maryland-based Clark Construction Group LLC.)