Autodesk Boosts Channel Support

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Armed with a new release of its flagship AutoCAD product, Autodesk is recasting its major accounts program and reinforcing its ties with the channel.

Over the past two months, Autodesk has cut the number of accounts it targets directly to fewer than 180, down from 1,200 in the previous year, said Ken Bado, vice president of worldwide sales for the Autodesk Design Solutions Group. In addition, the San Rafael-based company is driving training and support for solution providers in key vertical areas including manufacturing, construction and geographic information systems, Bado said. The government market also remains a key agenda. "The channel partners can reach places we can't even go," he said.

Paul Mailhot, senior director of U.S. channel sales at Autodesk, said channel partners are also involved in accounts that Autodesk touches directly. "If there is a partner, we'll leverage them and pay them a commission on the business we drive in that account," Mailhot said.

Another recent change: Autodesk scrapped an experiment it tried in the second half of 2002, under which it paid out monthly incentives to solution providers that made progress toward reaching their quarterly quotas. "We found that it didn't drive all that much different behavior, but it increased the administration gyrations that they had to go through," Mailhot said. "Both sides questioned whether it was worth the effort."

Debra Keith, senior vice president of sales and marketing at Avatech Solutions, an Autodesk solution provider in Owings Mills, Md., said Autodesk has raised the bar when it comes to communicating with both its partners and its customers. "We love the direction they're taking. They're focused on the customers and driving solutions to the customer. This creates a lot of synergy with the channel," she said.

Avatech,one of Autodesk's largest partners, with revenue of $12.3 million for the six months ended Dec. 31,recently embarked on a 19-city seminar series designed to educate existing and prospective customers about the recent AutoCAD 2004 release, an upgrade that Keith said contains myriad speed and productivity enhancements.

Eric Stover, AutoCAD product manager, said Autodesk used feedback from more than 400 customers to craft the new edition. Among key changes are the speed with which files can be opened and saved, and new network licensing parameters, he said. Changes have also been made to the user interface, Stover said.

In addition, AutoCAD 2004 makes it easier for designers to collaborate, providing a better mechanism for updating all documents and files associated with a particular project and allowing designers to create electronic snapshots of working files that can be sent via e-mail for preview.

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