A shiver went through the contractor world in mid-May after the product manager for Autodesk’s Constructware, a heavily used, hosted construction-project management tool, was quoted in an interview saying new feature development was being halted in a cost-cutting move, although the product would be maintained and supported.
The statement, at first confirmed by Timothy Douglas, the company’s construction solutions manager—then reversed by Jay Bhatt, senior vice president of Autodesk’s AEC Industry Group—set off alarms across the industry. Some contractors and owners for whom Constructware is mission-critical for running big, multiyear projects, interpreted the comments as an indication San Raphael-based Autodesk’s commitment to Constructware, purchased in 2006 for $46 million, was dying. The comment apparently set off alarms at Autodesk too, as explanations began to pile up and a flurry of personal reassurances to key customers went out.
Bhatt offered reassurance in a May 18 e-mail blast to all Constructware customers, and took an apologetic tone: “We recognize that we have not been completely clear about our intentions with Constructware,” Bhatt wrote. “The purpose of this e-mail is to tell you we are, in fact, investing in the development of Constructware and moving the product forward.”
Acknowledging that many customers have made extensive investments in and commitments to the product, Bhatt added, “So there is no further confusion about our plans…Constructware will continue to progress as part of our collaboration solution.”
Larry Adams, director of school bond projects in the Santa Clara (Calif.) Unified School District, which is halfway through a $450-million, five-year construction program managed on Constructware, says Bhatt’s announcement was the written assurance he was looking for, after spending several days feeling “some concern.” He adds that he “understands” current economic conditions may require scaling back some major development efforts.
David Goldin, senior vice president and CIO at Clark Construction Group LLC, Bethesda, Md., says Bhatt’s letter is “important” because “for the first time there is a formal affirmation of a road map that had not been there before.” But he says the proof of Autodesk’s commitment will be in its incorporation of building information modeling as well as addressing some of its outstanding development plans with users. “This would be an interesting dialogue to have about six months from now,” he says.