The AUGI Wish List: Influence Autodesk’s Tomorrow
“Wouldn’t it be nice if…”
“Here’s an idea…”
Statements like those above, borne out of inspiration (or frustration), are the seeds of innovation and progress. Sometimes, we can take matters into our own hands, inspired to create or driven to find a solution of our own. Other times, we are limited to just accepting, complaining, or suggesting.
In our professional lives as Autodesk product users, how do we get from “Wouldn’t it be nice if…” to “That’s a great feature!”? Enter the AUGI Wish List, your proverbial megaphone to let Autodesk know what you want.
The Back Story
The AUGI Wish List (www.augi.com/wish-list) predates AUGI itself, having its roots in the mid-1990s, back when the organization was known as NAAUG, the North American Autodesk User Group. At that time, the Wish List served as one of the few channels through which users could make their desires known to Autodesk. It received a major overhaul back in 2011 and continues to evolve as one of AUGI’s primary member benefits.
Technology has since enabled Autodesk to shorten the distance to users, creating additional paths to engage, interact, and hear from its customer base through programs such as the Feedback Community (beta.autodesk.com), the Autodesk Product Feedback page (autodesk.com/company/contact-us/product-feedback), and various product-specific IdeaStations (forums.autodesk.com). Autodesk also connects with customers more directly via surveys, customer interviews, site visits, as well as group and one-on-one feedback sessions at Autodesk University.
Even with all these other venues, Autodesk still proudly cites the AUGI Wishes “granted” in their new product marketing. And there have been quite a few granted! According to AUGI’s Hall of Fame (augi.com/wish-list/hall-of-fame), there have been more than 800 wishes that have made their way into Autodesk products. As far as I can tell, AutoCAD 2009 has the distinction of being shipped with the most granted wishes in one release: 17!
Our Collective Voice
At each step in the Wish List process, AUGI and Autodesk rely on our members, and their customers, to move wishes through their lifecycle, from inspiration to implementation. Let’s take a deeper look at each of the steps shown in this overview diagram:
Submit – The next time you have one of those “It would be cool if…” thoughts, jump on over to augi.com/wish-list and click the “Make A Wish” link. Select the desired product (Note: the list of products you see is determined by the “Products I Use” list in your profile). Before submitting your wish, enter a search term related to your idea to see if a related wish already exists in the system, thus preventing duplicate wishes. If the search returns a wish that looks similar, you can throw your support behind it by ranking it (we’ll explain that next) or see what has been discussed about it in the related forum thread. If your wish is unique, you can proceed using the “Submit Your Idea” link. Be sure to enhance the description of your wish by using examples and adding hyperlinks. Unfortunately, it’s not possible (at this time) to add images, but you could always create a Screencast and place the link in your description if that would be helpful.
Once this initial step has been taken, it’s now time for the membership to get involved and add value to the remaining steps.
Rank – The purpose of ranking is to whittle the magnitude of wishes down to your “top 30.” Ranking is done via the sliding scale shown below:
In addition, three other options are available:
1. Engage with other members in the wish's forum thread to:
- Discuss the wish to clarify or expand on the requested feature.
- Share and brainstorm workarounds (hopefully temporary ones!) to be used while waiting for the wish to be granted.
- Share solutions that are available from other users or developers.
2. Mark wishes that may already exist in the product.
3. Flag wishes for removal from the Wish List.
I’m not gonna lie—ranking wishes is addictive! Since wishes are presented randomly, it’s fun to see what will show up next. During your next break, why not influence the productivity software of tomorrow rather than mindlessly scrolling Instagram?
Vote – The Vote page presents you with the currently ranked top 30 list and asks you to select your ten favs! Just picking the top ten, however, still doesn’t give Autodesk quite enough information because they’re not in any particular order. Yet.
Buy – It’s time to “put your money where your mouth is,” as the saying goes. Buying is the final and crucial step. Each AUGI member has $500 in “wish cash” that they can distribute among the ten wishes. The allocation of funds prioritizes the top ten into their order of importance.
Present – Autodesk product developers have year-round access to the Wish List and can, at their discretion, take action on any wish. The official hand-off, though, occurs at the AUGI General Meeting, held in conjunction with Autodesk University each year. During the AGM, an Autodesk product representative is presented with their respective Top Ten list.
Wish List Playoffs
Too many steps, you say? Frankly, I thought so too at first. Amazing what a little research (writing this article) does to changing one’s perspective. It might help if you think of these steps as rounds in a sports playoff system: quarter-finals (ranking), semi-finals (voting), and the final (buying). Unlike a playoff system, the Top Ten is dynamic; it is recalculated each week based on the “buys” of the AUGI community. So, if a few wishes you had previously put money on have been “voted off the island” so to speak, the funds you had spent on those wishes is now free to be reallocated among the new top ten. AUGI will let you know this via a “You have new wish dollars to spend…” email. Additionally, you can always reallocate your wish cash at any time.
Making the Cut
So, now that the AUGI community has done its part and handed everything over to Autodesk, what’s next? Well, there are no guarantees that your wish will make the cut, but the 800+ wishes granted is promising! Ultimately, though, Autodesk gets the last say.
Timing also plays a part in when, and which, wishes are implemented. A wish submitted later in the year, even with lots of buys, is very unlikely to appear in the very next release of a product. Autodesk is already working on future product releases, so wishes may have to wait a release cycle or two before they can appear in product.
How, then, does Autodesk decide? How are the wishes weighted? I had the privilege to speak with Autodesk’s Brad Holden, Product Manager for AutoCAD platform. He mentioned a number of factors that Autodesk takes into consideration when processing feature requests.
- Pervasiveness – What percentage of users are affected by this issue?
- Frequency – How often do users run into this issue?
- Severity – How big of a problem is this issue?
- Strategy – How does this request fit into Autodesk’s overall strategy for the product?
- Feasibility – From an engineering perspective, is it even possible?
For the most part, strategy and feasibility are outside the direct influence of the Wish List. The other three factors—pervasiveness, frequency, and severity—are much more directly linked to it. The Rank/Vote/Buy process is a very effective way for Autodesk to determine these factors. Pervasiveness is inferred by the number of members that buy each wish. And, as Holden also noted, “The ‘Buy’ feature helps Autodesk because each individual user is going to optimize how they spend their money based on the severity and frequency of the problems they face.”
The Wish List system is only as effective as the participation of the AUGI membership. The system doesn’t operate autonomously. In addition to participating in the Rank/Vote/Buy process, AUGI needs volunteers to help review and vet wishes as well. According to Wish List Manager, Rick McNeil, “We receive about 30 wishes per day, so having a handful of reliable volunteers is extremely beneficial.” Sometimes wishes that are submitted from our international members may have language translation issues to address. Additionally, a wish submitted in an industry-specific “language” may require a volunteer with experience in that industry to translate it into more general language. If you consider yourself an SME (subject matter expert) in one of the seven different product Wish Lists (AutoCAD, Civil 3D, Inventor, Revit, Revit Architecture, Revit Structure, and Revit MEP) and are willing to give back to AUGI an hour or two a week, it would be a huge help. Just send an email to email@example.com to get plugged in.
A number of AUGI’s programs are designed to provide value primarily to the members. The Wish List, however, has the unique characteristic of having value not only for our members, but also for Autodesk and their product development teams.
It is AUGI’s desire that the Wish List continues to be relevant to all parties. We are committed to doing our part by growing and improving the Wish List system. As a result, we hope it continues to be an “idea super highway,” linking the innovative ideas of the users with the development resources within Autodesk.