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Autodesk ups ante with partner specializations, software suites

Eyeing the new Platinum tier, Autodesk VARs fear the price is too high.

Autodesk partners are bracing for anticipated channel program changes that will require them to focus even more on specializations rather than products, and that will introduce a rigorous new Platinum tier.

While some Autodesk Inc. partners generally embrace the new program elements, they also worry they will be unable to meet the revenue requirements to maintain their existing status. But they solidly back Autodesk’s focus on pulling together suites of software for different portions of the architectural and facilities design industries.

Autodesk catches suite fever
The suites thing “is something they have a lot of oomph behind,” said Kerry Corlett, president of Annex Pro, an Autodesk reseller in Vancouver, British Columbia, that focuses on the company’s offerings for media and entertainment.

“This year, there is no mistake that this is their strategy. It’s good for customers to be able to get a variety of products for not much more than a single product price. Once they are hooked, there is all sorts of opportunity.”

For Annex Pro, the bundle that means the most is the Autodesk Entertainment Creation Suite, which includes Autodesk 3ds Max or Autodesk Maya, Autodesk Softimage, Autodesk MotionBuilder and Autodesk Mudbox. The suite starts at a suggested retail price of slightly less than $5,000. But some suites more explicitly focus on the sweet spot of Autodesk’s customer base, those looking for offerings in its Plant Design, Product Design, Factory Design and Building Design Suites.

“The new suites will encourage customers to try technologies they didn’t even know existed,” said Mark Wagasky, vice president of Applied Software, an Atlanta-based Autodesk Gold solution provider that was recently named the company’s 2011 reseller of the year.

Across many sectors, building and design processes are in a state of flux, in part due to the corporate focus on environmental materials considerations, corporate sustainability and other operational efficiencies, Wagasky said.

“These processes are so terribly inefficient right now,” he said. “Manufacturing companies have been investing in technologies for years. Now they are looking for new ways to be manufacturing quicker to speed time to market.”

Not surprisingly, the suites are closely tied to the specialization approach that Autodesk is pushing.

 “I really believe that we are in the early phase of the next big stage of growth. Design has become so much an essential element in every part of the business,” said Steve Blum, senior vice president of worldwide sales and services for Autodesk.

The current partner specializations for consideration in the Autodesk partner tiers include consulting, building engineering, and process plant and factory design. Approximately 20,000 partners are working on related certifications, according to the San Rafael, Calif.-based company.

Going for Autodesk Platinum
Autodesk’s planned Platinum designation will recognize the partners that bring the “highest level of service and industry expertise” to Autodesk customers.

“The goal of this top tier is to enable our partners that have made the most investment in truly being [Autodesk] solution providers an opportunity to really differentiate themselves,” said Blum.

In early May, Blum said, the Platinum details were still being worked out. He did indicate that maybe only the top 5% of the company’s 1,900 worldwide partners are likely to attain the Platinum level. There are headcount requirements for the tier, which will emphasize Autodesk’s specialization approach. Although the role that sales volume will play was unclear, customer satisfaction will definitely be a factor in the designation, he said.

Applied Software, which is a Gold partner for manufacturing and architecture, engineering and construction, plans to explore the Platinum level. But Wagasky said he was uncertain that even his company – one of the biggest Autodesk resellers in the Southeast – can earn the new designation. “We do have some concern over the potential revenue attainment,” he said.’

Autodesk would not comment on current or future revenue requirements for its partner tiers.

Time will tell, as Platinum will become a factor in the second half of 2011.

About the expert
Heather Clancy is an award-winning business journalist in the New York area with more than 20 years experience. Her articles have appeared in Entrepreneur, Fortune Small Business, the International Herald Tribune and The New York Times. Clancy was previously editor at Computer Reseller News, a B2B trade publication covering news and trends about the high-tech channel.

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