Sunday, 19 September 2010

Disclosure is Everything – but difficult for Management to Grasp and Execute.

In my posting, CIP - The Bomb; fragments ‘CAD in the Cloud’, I suggested one of the ways in which users could judge the Trustworthiness and Integrity of CAD vendors’ management and staff was in the way they interacted with you/their customers and how Transparent they were prepared to be in dealing with customer concerns and questions.

I used Autodesk’s ‘response’ to my questions (relating to their terms and conditions) and the application of the Customer Involvement Program (CIP) as an example of how these business practices are a window into the management and staff of a software vendor; now we have another example.

I recently wrote a letter - (sent via email) to Deelip Menezes in his role as CEO of Sycode asking several questions in relations to his published software terms and conditions.

Deelip’s response was to tell me I have “lost the right to have a private correspondence with me the day you posted the contents of my private emails to you on your blog without my permission”. He is of course referring to a series of emails initiated by me contacting Deelip and then referenced in, Rabid_Dog puts CIP_Data Up For_Sale.

He also made the point; “I find it odd that you make all this noise about why users should not trust the CAD vendors with their data when you cannot be trusted to even maintain the confidentiality of a private conversation”.

Three points quickly here, I initiated the original conversation and at no time did Deelip ask for his comments to be kept confidential. I am not a CAD software vendor offering or likely to be offering ‘cloud’ solutions and therefore do not need to ask for the trust ‘cloud software vendors’ need to prove they are capable of supporting; and to which my post refers.

To paraphrase Deelip (Vektorrum): For whatever its worth, I’d like to publicly apologize to Deelip for any inconvenience this incident may have caused him. It was not my intention to deceive him, whilst passing myself off as myself, getting him to say things that I could use against him.

Yes, I did use parts of a conversation I initiated with Deelip and no (his comments) were not collected for later use. Mea culpa. My mistake for not realizing only Deelip has the right to reference me and his comments to me.

That part of the spat though is a side issue, what is of significant importance, is the questions Deelip sidestepped with his admonishment. They follow;

“The first of which is, are you prepared to negotiate your licence terms and conditions? If Yes, are there limitations you would place on negotiations and what would those limitations be?

Would you be prepared to remove your audit and insolvency clauses if asked to do so? If Yes, would it be conditional and if so what would those conditions be?”

Yes, Sycode has in its terms and conditions some interesting clauses; the Audit being one and, one of particular interest to me given it is a ‘clone’ of Autodesk’s.

In a recent stoush on another blog we witnessed a tussle in which both Deelip and Michael Gibson contributed substantially. Both these fellows, as CEO’s., of their respective companies had an ideal opportunity to get their important points about - ‘software ownership/licencing etc.’ – across to the readers, and they failed to do so. The reason they failed is, in part, because, neither choose to embrace this issue from any alternative point(s) of view.

Licencing and business/software terms and conditions are neither difficult to understand nor implement. But they do require commonsense and in the light of our current level, and future use of the ‘cloud’ they do need everybody involved to understand what is reasonable/acceptable and what is not.

Software ‘ownership’ discussions have ‘raged’ in various forms and for various reasons for some time now and, they have really shown just how deficient the management of major and minor software companies are in using the ’power’ of the internet to educate and take their customers with them. CEO’s talk big about the advantages of the WEB and the ‘Cloud’ but cannot use, effectively, the tools they have had for ‘ages’ to engage their customers. The dismal performance of Autodesk’s managements in addressing my published concerns is all the evidence you need of these failings. You may well be about to witness another!

The internet is about breaking down time and access/barriers and being able to share and engage like no other time in history; and it requires some real re-thinking about how we interact. I don’t see any evidence the current crop of software CEO’s, in our sphere, are equipped to engage their customers as is necessary and I personally would say those I have tried to communicate with do not even have the courage to engage their customers as is needed; with one possible exception – Deelip Menezes. Let’s see if Deelip is really any different and, can show the ‘big guys’ how it should be done.

Firstly, understand, I believe and accept software developers have a ‘right’ to determine the contents of their T&C’s but as I have demonstrated, to Autodesk’s discomfort and loss; the application of them in the ‘newer mediums’ cannot (always) be exactly the same as in the ‘old days’ and, customers ‘rights’ and an ability to challenge MUST be taken into consideration and be part of future computing ‘orientated’ transactions.

As an example Deelip announced to the world Raytheon had become a customer. Evan Yares made the point, Deelip may have breached Raytheon’s terms of purchase. Now I don’t know (the complete or) what the order of events was but my take is easy; if an order was placed on Deelip and he did not re-negotiate the clause preventing him using Raytheon’s name, he possibly was in breach. However if Deelip’s product was purchased on-line with no correspondence to ‘enforce’ the purchasers T&C’s then Deelip was not in breach as such; he may just be guilty of not thinking very carefully. Wisdom comes with age and by way of lessons learned from ones mistakes.

The reason I raise the Raytheon issue is because it highlights one problem ‘unique’ to online business trading. I still issue purchase orders for my software and that has become a problem for dealers because my terms and conditions have equal standing to their own; and this goes for/against Autodesk as well. The one thing business software users cannot afford to loose is their ability to apply purchasing terms and conditions or to loose the ability to negotiate. The latter is already a casualty in need of serious surgery.

In considering why I am interested in Deelip’s response to his ‘Audit’ clause; it would be wise to remember Deelip once made this very public (and for me, a very useful) comment.

“I develop CAD software. If I want I can make my software send me all kinds of data belonging to my customers. The moment someone runs my EXE on their computer and tells their firewall that its OK for that EXE to connect to the internet, I can do just about what I want on that computer, just like a virus. But I don’t because that is not my freaking business. And that is why people buy my software.” But…..?

Deelip has the capability and he appears to believe he needs to ensure his customers have provided him a pathway to use the capability, why? What is worse though, he has sown a seed of distrust, and defined a security issue! I wonder how Raytheon would view finding out ‘they have accepted’ a condition requiring them to (potentially) allow an audit of their facilities by Deelip or his representative?

Using the WEB more widely and in particular using ‘CAD in the Cloud’ requires those in CAD vendor management being very closely ‘linked’ to their customers and, it requires their ABSUOLUTE Integrity and Transparency and that of their staff and affiliates as well.

Now, I ask Deelip the questions again: hoping to see Deelip is the CEO of the future. One who can convince the wider skeptical public CAD CEO’s can be trusted, by engaging in a full and frank discussion about his T&Cs, why they are important to him and will stay and, his reasons for (enforcing) them; starting with the following questions;

“The first of which is, are you prepared to negotiate your licence terms and conditions? If Yes, are there limitations you would place on negotiations and what would those limitations be?

Would you be prepared to remove your audit and insolvency clauses if asked to do so? If Yes, would it be conditional and if so what would those conditions be?”

Over ;-)

Monday, 13 September 2010

CIP - The Bomb; fragments ‘CAD in the Cloud’.

A Summary:

This initial page is for those who don’t want to read the following looong post about why I do not, and would not, Trust my existing CAD vendor (specifically, the management and staff) to be my ‘CAD in the Cloud’ vendor of choice.

In my opinion, for ‘CAD in the Cloud’ to be a successful business tool it requires a customer to grant a level of Trust in their vendor few are prepared for, or fully understand. Importantly, using ‘CAD in the Cloud’, as it is being ‘offered’, requires customers to understand it is the management and staff of their CAD vendor who is going to be the custodians of, not only their business data and IP but, also their businesses continuing growth, fortune, profitability and reputation. You need to be able to Trust ALL of the vendors’ management, staff and affiliated businesses!

In short, switching to ‘CAD in the Cloud’ is giving a whole raft of other individuals’ considerable control of your business. If their Honesty and Integrity is not known, cannot be checked, tested and maintained, and their business activities and decisions are not completely Transparent; you have cause to be concerned and the only reason necessary, not to get involved, or use their ‘Cloud’ solutions.

If when checked or questioned, the vendors’ stated responsibility extends to being the equivalent of ‘all care and no responsibility’, with no provision for recourse or compensation; you have another good business reason, not to get in involved with their ‘Cloud’ solution.

Trust, and the enormous, unprecedented, level of Trust you must place in the hands of your CAD vendors’ management and staff is the single most important consideration in choosing a ‘CAD in the Cloud’ vendor. If you cannot convince yourself, every employee in your vendor has a 100% interest/commitment in protecting your business, has the same business values, and the same aspiration you have for your business then you have several very good reasons not to commit or make use of their ‘CAD in the Cloud’ solution.

Other than a mention, there is nothing to do with cost, access, security, technical issues or anything similar in the following post. Trumping all other issues, for me, ‘CAD in the Cloud’ is about TRUST; and I really don’t believe there is any evidence (from any existing CAD vendors management) to show they (the individuals who make a vendor a business entity) have what it takes to be Trusted ‘Cloud’ business partners. If you do, great. Caveat emptor.


Warning, Warning, Warning

For those who want to see some of the details behind my mistrust of software vendors’ management and staff you are welcome to read further; but don’t complain, to me (or any body else), about what you read or how long it takes.

I will take on any arguments or criticism the post will attract, with the hope they will be of substance and ignore the fact I am a lunatic, have two heads both with pointy hats and live on another planet etc. etc. etc; comments which have absolutely no bearing on the topic.

I have not set out to offend any particular company or individual but this post goes to the very heart of the ‘conflict’ between one CAD vendor and me. It draws on much of what is already known publicly. However, on this occasion I reveal how what has happened will influence me and others in our future dealing(s) with ALL software vendors. The lessons learned, particularly over the past five years, will be widely applied and used by me and others.

Understand, to read further, you do so at your own risk and you do accept complete responsibility for any offense which may occur. If there is a possibility you, or those you represent, may be offended, in any way or form, DO NOT read further. If you do and/they are then you must accept you were not forced to do so and were suitable warned!


Having read and accepted the Warning, I repeat, reading further is your responsibility.


As I detail deeper in this post, who would have thought Autodesk’s CIP (Customer Involvement Program) could be the subject of a post like this one. But CIP has provided us all a unique view into Autodesk’s management. CIP has also given us a real gauge, against which to measure, the amount of Trust a customer can place in a CAD vendor, its management, staff and those of affiliated companies.

Innocuous as CIP appears to be to some, to me, it always had other faces and for some time I have kept to myself what I really saw when I looked closely into and at CIP.

CIP, and similar systems or software are windows into the management of a software vendor; and challenge the Integrity of all involved.

The Mother Load:

With the following lengthy post I am going to bring together several apparently unrelated ‘things’; Autodesk’s software and subscription terms and conditions of use, Autodesk’s CIP, ‘CAD in the Cloud’ and Trust.

Some may struggle to understand how my issues with Autodesk, ‘CAD in the Cloud’ and Trust are connected; but it should come as no surprise. In reality, for me, it is a logical combination of issues. For ‘Cloud’ computing, specifically ‘CAD in the Cloud’, to truly succeed, business users of these system are going to need to place (and have) an enormous amount of Trust in the hands of their CAD vendors. More specifically, the customers Trust is in the Honesty, Integrity and Transparency of the vendors’ management, their staff and affiliated companies.

Business customers are going to need to assess and decide; do their CAD vendors’ management and staff qualify as people a customer is prepared to entrust with their businesses data and, by extension, their businesses continued success and prosperity? Is Trusting your vendors’ personnel important? Yes it is, it’s paramount. When I watch (and listen to) the arguments, and comments, on the WEB (etc.) about software bugs, performance, the ‘Cloud’ and software usability; there is much customer dissatisfaction. Software ‘companies’ are not responsible for that dissatisfaction; it is entirely the fault of the management and staff within those business entities. We have our businesses to run and grow and it is about time CAD vendors’ management understood, how untrustworthy they are perceived and, how difficult they are making business for many, many small businesses.

Is Trusting your vendors’ management important?

Well, for me, Autodesk is a business entity and like most businesses, no management and staff, no business. In many consumable/business sales organizations Trust (in the staff) is important, but it need not be the most important attribute. For ‘CAD in the Cloud’, Trust in the vendors’ management and staff is THE most important attribute. If using software was likened to jumping using a parachute packed by somebody else; using ‘CAD in the Cloud’ is the base jumping equivalent. Few engaged in base jumping use canopies packed by others.

‘CAD in the Cloud’, as it is being ‘offered’, as inevitable by CAD vendors, by definition requires companies to entrust their business data and intellectual property to the individuals within the vendor/providers. Whilst this is a repeat of what has been done in the past, on this pass the commitment is going to be far more significant and thwart with dangers many (who will be sucked up into the ‘Cloud’ by vendors) simply do not fully understand. Before we explore some of the problems and, the issue I believe to be the most important, let’s ask why ‘Cloud’ solutions at all and, for whom is ‘CAD in Cloud’ of the most benefit?

To the question, why ‘Cloud’ solutions. There are books full of ‘good’ reasons and vendors will have no trouble using those reasons by the shovel full to woo customers. Plenty of superlatives to do with productivity, saving money and resources etc, etc, etc. will be found, packaged and delivered to customers’ eyes and ears. Much of which will be close to rubbish!

The answer to the question; for who is ‘CAD in Cloud’ of most benefit. Answer: the software vendors. Clearly the benefits of the ‘CAD in the Cloud’ are almost exclusively the vendors; short term convenience may be the only benefit SOME users may experience occasionally, not much else!

There are, of course, technical issues to be addressed. These will vary greatly and have software and hardware components and, issues relating to your location on the Globe etc. However, as is always the case, technical issues are engineering problems awaiting solutions. Those solutions will vary on a case by case basis and will, for some, define the usefulness and or the profitability of ‘CAD in the Cloud’.

An extension of the technical issues are those of access (software and data); continued and continuing availability of data and, security etc. These issues are more ‘business’ critical than straight technical issues to do with hardware, software and internet speed. In part, answers to some of those issues are embodied in the engineering solutions. But data access and security issues are going to draw more heavily on ethics. The ethical intentions, behavior and discipline of vendors’ management, staff and affiliated companies are crucial and inseparable to the success of ‘CAD in the Cloud’. In essence, as a business user, you are going to need to ask, can you Trust ALL parts of your ‘CAD in the Cloud’ vendor? It’s a big ask and an even bigger task!

There are many parts to the last questions but no matter which part you want to consider it is ALL going to come down just how much Trust and Confidence you (as a business person) can muster, and place, in the management and personnel of your software vendor. The only gauge you are going to have to determine your level of Trust (in a vendor’s management and staff etc.) is going to be how well you can assess them based on how they present their case for your business and how Transparently they respond to your specific questions, individual concerns and business requirements. You may, as I do, have some (or all) of this information already – many do!

It is into this area I am now going to venture and, I am using the experience I have gained in dealing with Autodesk (and others), to explore how the opacity of those within that company are critical to a customer’s assessment of a vendors Trustworthiness, as a business partner. That is why I say, some may already have the information they need; your past and current dealings with your CAD vendor is an indication of what the future may hold.

Trust, as I have said in earlier posts, is a grant. It can be earned, should never be expected and cannot be bought. If granted the party in which the Trust has been bestowed must maintain and service it rigorously. For the customers part, Trust in a vendor, is something which can be measured and in business must be checked and validated on a regular basis, to ensure it is being maintained and not abused as time passes and, as situations and personnel change; as they inevitably do, in business.

So let’s look at my experience in dealing with Autodesk’s management and staff, in relation to the issues surrounding their terms and conditions of use and their implementation of CIP. I am not going to dredge and re-write all I have written in the past. In preference I’ll summarize and you can draw your own conclusions on just how transparent Autodesk have been and whether or not what they have done, would cause you concern if you were to be considering entrusting your business data and IP to the care of their management and staff; or to an organization (other personnel) of their choosing and ‘control’.

Can Autodesk’s management, staff and affiliate companies be my Trustworthy ‘CAD in the Cloud’ business partners? Can I Trust these individuals with my critical business data and, by extension my entire business?

I can ask, and answer, these very pointed questions simply because I have, as an individual, probably, done more than any other individual customer in taking my issues through and directly to the top of Autodesk. Indeed, to two CEOs of Autodesk. Additionally, I have dealt directly with Autodesk at many levels, since very early 1984, dealing, supporting and using their products. However ‘real problems with Autodesk’ started when I asked a very simple question of a local Autodesk staffer (about a new clause in their T&Cs) and, has grown (over five years) to give me an insight into Autodesk’s staff I would rather have not have gained. With ‘CAD in the Cloud on the horizon’ what I have found has now become more critical. Not just to me and other potential users of ‘CAD in the Cloud’ but, more importantly, to Autodesk (and other similarly behaving vendors); it is a pointer to their inner workings, a broken business mechanism they must fix!

What is seen by some as a saga not worth considering, a whinging lunatic customer who would ‘not accept the obvious’; turns out to be of importance. What I outline also holds important warnings and lessons, applicable to ALL vendors and ALL (potential/existing) users of ‘CAD in the Cloud’ and the ‘Cloud’ for any business application. Caveat emptor could not be a more appropriately applied expression when considering your future and your ‘Business in the Cloud’.

Personally, I have always initially Trusted those I deal with, Autodesk, its management and staff were no exception. However, (in business) it’s important to check and ensure your Trust is not misplaced or compromised. It was that understanding that kicked in, big time, when Autodesk reacted as they did prior too, on and after Tuesday, May 24 2005.

Checking needed to be done, and it was!

My initial concerns and the original (licencing) questions, to Autodesk, were in relation to the inclusion of an Audit clause in their Software and Subscription terms and conditions of use. The reaction to those questions was surprising, to say the least, and they remain, to this day, unanswered. As I worked forward and upward through Autodesk’s management, continuing to try and get reasonable answers; the situation I was dealing with slowly morphed and became more serious. Additionally, CIP appeared and the concerns associated with the reasons for my questions intensified and expanded. Finally, and despite, having taken my questions right to the top (of Autodesk), including the unprecedented step of requesting (from the CEO of Autodesk) affidavits and or statutory declarations, in support of their terms and conditions of use and CIP. I still have not received the requested documents and necessary answers to my questions.

Unbelievably so!

This is the type of background information I alluded too earlier. Many will have similar experiences in dealing with all type of vendors. Having trouble with your grocer, lawn mowing man or bank is bad enough, but this is (potentially) your ‘CAD in the Cloud’ vendor. Is this the level Transparency (Opacity) which would give you confidence in your CAD vendors’ management’s ability to be custodians of your businesses data and IP; your businesses profitability and your reputation as a supplier of goods and or services?

Let’s look, separately, at two (of a few) components from which my concerns arise;

The first is Autodesk’s software and subscription terms and conditions of use. It has been said (and is stated in the documents) subscription/software T&Cs define a contract between Autodesk and its customers. I have demonstrated this is not true; Autodesk’s T&Cs are conditions of use, they are not legally enforceable. However, Autodesk’s T&cS are penned by Autodesk and therefore they can add, subtract and or modify these as and when it suits. What prevents them being contractual in nature, and important to this post, is they are non-negotiable. Autodesk’s management are not prepared to discuss their T&Cs, they have and do change them without consultation or notification and they are not prepared to support (or back) their claims with either an affidavit or a statutory declaration.

Importantly though, if it is not possible to discuss or negotiate your existing CAD vendors’ subscription and software terms and conditions of use; what is the likelihood your are going to be able to negotiate the terms of conditions of use, with the same CAD vendor, when and if the CAD vendor decides it’s time (for them) to move YOUR business into THEIR ‘Cloud’?

In deciding on your CAD vendor’s management’s ability to be custodians of your business data, IP and your businesses fortune and reputation; does my experience with Autodesk provide you with the confidence you would be making the right decision?

Second, now the ‘terms and conditions of use’ have set the scene. Revealing and certainly relevant, let’s now look at Autodesk’s Customer Involvement Program (CIP).

The first thing to take onboard here is that CIP data is data collected on a customers business computers by the customers CAD vendor (in my case Autodesk). Point two: CIP data is generated by a piece of Trojan software Autodesk have engineered onto another’s businesses system(s) in a surreptitious manner without authorization or permission. A third point: when your business data is suitably compiled it is transmitted to the vendors (Autodesk) business computers, again without your permission and, (point 4) without the customer (YOU) knowing what data (of YOURS) is within those files. The fifth, a VERY IMPORTANT point: CIP data is YOUR data; and as I have proven, Autodesk are not going to allow YOU to see that data! Booooom! I repeat, CIP data is YOUR data and Autodesk are NOT letting you see what CIP files truly contain! What makes control of YOUR CIP data any different to your other business data? Can anybody else see something not quite right here?

CIP was – was initially - of less concern to me than the issues embodied in Autodesk’s T&Cs , and yet, as it turns out, CIP has and does provide us all a unique window into Autodesk’s management. It has also provided considerable insight into what lengths Autodesk’s management is prepared to go in abusing the privileged access and Trust customers have put in Autodesk’s hands and, how they already do and, intend to block yours and my access to our own data!

Isn’t it interesting how something as seemly innocuous as CIP could be such a clear indication of just why we need to think very carefully about WHO will be in control our business data in the ‘CAD Cloud’. What is Autodesk’s management hiding?

A number of issues could be considered as a result of what I am saying, but let’s test just one point. If you as an Autodesk customer think you have ‘nothing to hide or of value’ and would be willing to allow any person any level of access to your business computer(s) with absolutely no control; ‘Cloud’ computing and ‘CAD in the Cloud’ may well be in your future. However if you are a customer that is somewhat more cautious about the access to your business data and business systems; a different set of principals and procedures need to be followed.

If we take those two customers, both using Autodesk’s products for their design work. The first guy will install, and with no concern, allow ‘Autodesk’s staff and others’ full access to his system; CIP (and anything else) makes its entrance and all is fine with his ‘world’ – but maybe not his customers.

The second guy, though, is much more concerned and in loading software is aware of the important and privileged access he has just provided his vendor; but what has the vendor just done to this guy in return. The vendor has loaded their own business software on their customer’s business machine. They didn’t give him the choice (not to load CIP) as they do for other parts of their software. The vendor did not warn or ask if they could use the customer’s business computers for their own business purposes but, their intentions are obvious. Importantly, the vendors’ Integrity has now been compromised and the customers Trust usurped.

The vendor’s defense: if CIP is turned OFF what’s the concern. Well firstly CIP can be ‘remotely’ activated, it does not need the operators (of a particular computer) to set it to work. Secondly, even if those loading the software (know of CIPs existence), it is very obvious they will not necessarily know the different ways CIP could be activated; a warning in itself. If activation does occur, by other means, the operator will NOT be warned and Autodesk’s CIP could go about transmitting data for quite a long period before detection, if it was detected at all!

Putting aside for the moment, my (founded) concerns about the data contained in a CIP file. What cannot be ignored here is one business entity (the software vendor) has inserted a piece of Trojan business software, which they intend to use for their own business purposes, onto their customers business computer(s). The vendor’s intention is to use its customer’s business tools (data, computers and communication tools) for its own purposes? Spot a problem, two or more here anyone? Hey’ free rent, plus some?

Importantly it is the management in Autodesk and their staff who have decided to use (abuse) their customers’ business system(s) in this way; and when asked to reveal the data, it is Autodesk’s management and staff who have chosen not too! Ask: what is Autodesk’s management hiding? CIP = Booooom. Go figure, who in their right mind thought a breach of Trust, of this magnitude, was a good idea? Answer – Autodesk’s management and staff!

So, yet again, in deciding on a company’s management’s ability to be custodians of your business data and IP and your businesses fortune and reputations; does the management of CIP give you a clear enough warning of what can happen to your business systems and your data? Is this the type of management you want in charge of your companies’ business data, IP and your businesses fortune, profitability and reputation?

Now, hopefully people will see why I consider Trust as being so important to the success of ‘Cloud’ computing, ‘CAD in the Cloud’ in particular. Software bugs, hardware problems, communication speed, cost and to some degree security all disappear into un-importance if, the Integrity, Honestly and Transparency of your chosen vendors’ management and staff, is not of the highest levels; completely Transparent and out in the open at all times and available for testing and validation on a micro-minute time scale. It is a significant ask and an onerous responsibly to place onto another’s shoulders but, if a ‘vendor’ is not prepared to be completely Transparent in their dealings and manage their staff to previously un-heard of levels (in business) of Integrity, then ‘CAD in the CLOUD’ is, for a business user, at best, a huge gamble.

None of what I have outlined (above) about Autodesk reactions to my questions are new* revelations to my customers (Autodesk product users) or those who have followed my activities personally and or through Caveat emptor. Though this is the first time I have chosen to, in writing, link the issues of how and why we should measure the Integrity of vendor’s management; at least those who want us to move their customers to an expanded use of ‘CAD in the Cloud’.

Caveat emptor could not be a more appropriately used phrase. But there is more to consider, and some of this will be new* and a surprise to a few!

* I quote, “Autodesk’s licensing policies are open to all to read. These are also readily available on the web at www.autodesk,” In fact (at the time) Autodesk’s terms and conditions of use were not to be found at the quoted web address. Indeed only an FAQ document with a statement within which referred to a non-existent card detailing licencing conditions to be found in the software packaging, was to be seen.

Autodesk continued; “There is no legal requirement and it is not a practice of any software company to mandate that its channel partners go through the T&Cs with each and every customer”; Booooom! There, you have it! That one comment was, for me, the additional catalyst which accelerated my reaction to, Autodesk’s response to my original licence questions and, precipitated my ongoing scrutiny of the issues and ultimately the obvious link to the decisions of Autodesk’s management.

Those statements are copied from a document prepared by ‘Autodesk Australia’, and sent to Autodesk dealers prior to the publication of an article written by me in a Sydney daily newspaper. Autodesk knew what was to be published and whilst refusing to discuss the situation with me; they did go to the trouble of preparing a document and distribute it through the dealer channel to counter the article. Do you put fires out with petrol?

When Autodesk found out I was about to ‘spill the beans’ publicly, that was their response; pour fuel on the fire! Had Autodesk chosen to discuss and resolve my issues no article would have been written and none of the last five years of management scrutiny would have followed! Hindsight is a wonderful thing but Autodesk has always held the key to addressing my issues through discussion, they chose not too; instead they decided to spend effort, aimed in other directions, to counter what they could have stopped with a phone call/e-mail. Why? Were they just shortsighted or were individuals within, on a mission – I believe I know the answer(s) - you can draw your own conclusions. But never forget these were all management decisions made within a company who already holds significant control of your data and, may one day be in total control of your business data and IP. The management within this company, potentially, if you move to ‘CAD in the Cloud’ with Autodesk, will then be the people with enormous control of your business data, your businesses fortune, profitability and reputation. Does this experience of mine give you the confidence using their ‘CAD in the Cloud’ would be a good idea and a responsibly safe business decision?

Getting the best out of ‘CAD in the Cloud’, this time around, requires customers to bestow an entirely new level of Trust in software vendors. For their part vendors are going to need to be far more Transparent in all their business and ‘Cloud’ activities and are going to have to ensure, maintain, and expect to get from their management and staff absolute levels of Honesty and Integrity. How “CAD in the Cloud’ vendors’ management interact with customers is now far more critical than before. Their initial key of choice has to be Transparency but as my five years of experiences shows this is not something individuals, within the software vendors, are very good at! These guys want us to use their ‘Cloud’ (to improve their lot) and to Trust them; but they have failed to show us why and how they can be relied on to manage that which is important to our businesses future, not just theirs.

What has happened is all I need to decide whether I would give a ‘CAD in the Cloud’ software companies’ management my business data, IP, reputation and profitability. If you think your business can work within, grow and profit, with a business partner, with the lack of Transparency and Integrity I have highlighted – good luck, Caveat emptor.

My personal views, [lack of ;-)] knowledge and experiences are one thing. More important to me is for others to apply the same level of scrutiny of their vendors I have; probe and question your vendors without mercy to ensure you truly know just how Transparent they are, or are prepared to be, in relation to the promotion of their general business activities, their use of the ‘Cloud’ and the Reliability and Integrity of their management and staff. If you don’t do this properly you are taking a very large gamble with your IP and on your companies’ future.

There is much to be gained using a flexible ‘Cloud’ but ONLY if it is going to work effectively for ALL participants. As we expand our ability to throw data around (the globe) with gay abandon the ONLY tools that will keep it all in check is individuals Honesty, Integrity and Transparency. Most would believe those traits are the traits we all apply, now, in business, but the truth is considerably different and my experience of the last five years should be a salient warning to all.

I am not known for my holding back in this area, and in this posting I have not, but to be fair (or equitable) it is a requirement I point out, whilst (my blog) Caveat emptor has a particular focus; it is correct to highlight Autodesk is not alone in participating in the business activity I have exposed and challenge. When I first embarked on this quest with Autodesk forcing me to take a closer look at their activity; I was only able to find one other company’s terms and conditions that gave me any cause to look at it twice. As it turned out it was no where near as invasive as Autodesk’s. Even Microsoft’s T&Cs proved to be of little concern despite what many said they ‘thought’ they would be.

I foretold this situation would change, and more problems would appear, if people did not react quickly and succinctly and sadly that has all come true and customers have only themselves to blame. That is the problem of having the misapprehension ‘market forces’ will ‘control’ the behavior of individuals within vendors and or of sitting on a fence and your hands when you should have taken notice and action.

As another example; a company, whose product we were testing (some time ago, for use by our customers) was found to be taking data off our system. Within the data were details we would never have willingly given a third party. The discovery resulted in a conversation with the vendor who admitted they were taking the data and actually said (despite the data found) they did not think users would be concerned (extreme naivety). They also believed they had a ‘right’ to do what they had done (extreme stupidity)! Their software was immediately removed and none of our customers have looked at it further.

That experience is only one example that shows I have looked at the issues from a wider perspective and is also a reinforcement of my warnings. I have a particular focus for reasons of business association and clarity; but I am not as ‘one eyed’ as it may appear. My comments and warnings are applicable and equally leveled at all software vendors and their customers.

Staring us all in the face is a great opportunity to share and distribute information. However at the moment - ‘CAD in the Cloud’ - as it is being promoted by the current vendors is being seen as (and is more about) a vendor’s right to control and profit. There has been absolutely NO substantial information coming from vendors demonstrating an equal opportunity to benefit and profit for customers. Couple that failing with the software industries combined, and proven, reticence to be Transparent in their business dealings with customers and one must conclude ‘CAD in the Cloud’ computing should be avoided at any cost!

I have all too often said, I would be more than happy to have proven wrong my concerns about Autodesk’s software and subscription terms and conditions and CIP. The same applies to my total lack of Trust in (and Respect for) Autodesk’s management and staff. Who can prove my concerns wrong; who, within fortress Autodesk has the facts, the guts and or the Integrity to do so?

Despite all that has happened and the incredible business pressure and abusive comments which have been directed toward me by individuals and Autodesk, I remain an optimist; and I still remain willing to discuss my issues too a sensible conclusion and, to the advantage of all parties. In relation to Autodesk and I, the solution, from day one, has always been and remains in Autodesk’s managements hands. I think it is well past time, CEO Bass, a way was found to talk my issues through – how about it, you and me (are you ‘up to it’, are you a true CEO and leader?) or a local representative?

As for the wider issue: as it stands, being old enough to remember an earlier form of ‘CAD in the Cloud’ and seen and used the alternatives. Whilst CAD vendors choose to radiate the attitude (toward customers) they currently do there is no way I would be comfortable using (or recommending) ‘Cloud’ CAD/Business applications where the software and data is not under the total control of the client so as to ensure the responsibility for data and management of that same data is also the clients. Optionally, a self hosted ‘Cloud’

What do you think? Do you have a level of Confidence in your current CAD vendor that allows you to Trust 100% of your businesses success, profitability and reputation etc. to the vendors existing and future management, staff and or affiliated companies and their management and staff?

A test of vendor’s Trust every customer can apply to any vendor wanting your ‘CAD in the Cloud’ business. Ask for written details (and commitments) on what the vendor and its management sees as their responsibility to you and your company if ‘something’ goes wrong with their ‘Cloud’ solution and or your files in their ‘care/control’. What assurances, backup, support, and or restitution (for your business loses) would they be prepared to shoulder and compensate.

If the answer is incomplete or, is all care and no responsibility (or similar), ‘CAD in the Cloud’ for you, with the ‘vendor/business partner’ asked the question, is probably a non event.

I close with the following quote (from a Fair Trading regulators published document) and questions;

It is unlawful for a business to make false claims about a product or service or operate in a misleading or deceptive way. They are required to tell the truth to their customers and not hide any relevant information.”

Does this paragraph say, a business should not make false claims, operate in a misleading or deceptive way? Yes or No. Does it also say, a business MUST tell the Truth and NOT hide relevant information? Yes or No.

How well does your CAD vendors’ management measure up to the standard set by the business regulator? More on this to come.


24th May 2007

Buyer Beware…’, was the title of a letter published in the Sydney Morning Herald on the 24th May 2005. It detailed a fundamental shift in the use of a particular EULA away from being a tool that defined the rules of use for software – reasonable - to a legally enforceable contract containing a number of questionable conditions including one granting the licensor, "the right to conduct an audit on your premises or by electronic means"; unreasonable!

The EULA moved from being a contract defining what you can and cannot do with software to a contract, if accepted unchallenged, that specifically gives the licensor access to your premises, business, design and computing systems!

Caveat emptor, the Blog, is an extension of that original letter and highlights my original, unanswered, requests relating to the addition of Audit clauses in my existing Subscription and Licence contracts. Requests for information and detail that I, as an established licence holder and customers, have every right to; and information the licensor should be compelled and obligated to provide!

If my goal is considered offensive, unjustified or unreasonable it will only be by those who believe protecting their IP is more important than that of others. To them I make no apology; if the issues raised previously had been broached correctly, and in the first instance, they would have long ago passed by.

Caveat venditor: ‘Like a dog with a bone’, I have absolutely no intention of letting go of these issues until they all are sensibly discussed and answered as I believe they should be!