Interview with Teresa Anania – Part 1

Teresa Anania is the Director of Industry Management at Autodesk. Previously, Teresa was Vice President of Operations at ALGOR and joined Autodesk when the company acquired ALGOR last year. One of my vendor appointments at COFES 2010 was with Autodesk where I got a chance to interview her. I will be splitting up the interview into parts. Here is the first one.

Deelip: In one of the Technology Suite Briefings that I attended in COFES 2008 Buzz Kross announced that for the next ten years Autodesk would be acquiring companies that could help in the growth of Digital Prototyping. I guess the recession has kind of put brakes on the process, right?

Teresa: I wouldn’t use the word brakes. I would say that we slowed down a little bit with respect to acquisitions. But still Autodesk is extremely active in looking for technologies and seeing what might fit. I think we ended up with siginifcant technologies during the acquisition spree that we were on – ALGOR, PlassoTech, MoldFlow, to name a few. However, integrating all those technologies into our product line takes time. From now you are going to start seeing a lot of that interoperability that we had been promising.

Deelip: When I first started playing around with the Direct Manipulation functionality of Inventor 2011, one of the first things I asked Kevin Schineder was how could I turn it off. He replied by asking me why would someone want to turn it off. I reminded him about how users are often resistant to change, especially if it is forced down on them. For example, I know of people who still do not use the Instant3D functionality of SolidWorks because they feel that they need to be in complete control of what they are modeling and not push/pull geometry around the place in order to change parameters. SolidWorks accomodated them by giving them the option of turning off Instant3D. Later Kevin got back to me with a way to turn Direct Manipulation off by reverting to the old style Classic UI. But by doing so you turn off far more than just the Direct Manipulation functionality. So I am currious to know why Autodesk didn’t give this a thought.

Teresa: Well, actually we thought about this long and hard. But then at some point, with customer feedback being our driving force, it became something that they preferred. It took time. But we do have the option to turn it on and off.

Deelip: Not exactly. I mean in Inventor 2009 you had the old style menu UI. You changed that to the ribbon UI in 2010 and got people used to that. So now if someone wants to turn Direct Manipulation off, he has to revert back to the classic UI. He loses the ribbon and goes back to the menu and all the other stuff that came with it. So I don’t think you really call this a switch to flip Direct Manipulation functionality on or off, right? I mean, when a user moves to 2011 he may want to take his time to get accustomed to this new UI. Actually I think Direct Manipulation can be pretty scary for someone who has been using Inventor for a long time. He is used to seeing a clean graphics window and now all of a sudden all kinds of buttons, drop downs, edit boxes and gizmos start popping up. Don’t get me wrong. I think Direct Manipulation is fantastic and I use it all the time. I am just curious to know whether you received feedback from customers saying “Hell, no. We absolutely do not want to turn this off”.

Teresa: I think we had feedback that said a 100% no. Do we follow the 80-20 percent rule? Probably. We listenned to our customers. We probably had data that suggested that it was a go. Sometimes customers have complaints that having two paths is confusing as well. They say that if you are sure of it, if you have done your research that suggests that this is the best way to develop a UI or create a feature, then why give me the option to do it the “bad” way. So you have both schools of thought. Back then, when I was not even part of the company, we had data that suggested that the new ribbon UI was well received and would be absolutely all that customers needed. But I think now, as we provide similar ribbon UI experiences with MoldFlow, ALGOR, there is this option to switch back and forth. And now since we have the CIP data that shows us how our customers are using the software, we can analyze this before we permanently turn anything off. But yes, we do recognise what you are saying.

Part 2 >>