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Autodesk: Opening New Revenue Streams with APIs

Jan 18, 2017

Autodesk has been synonymous for decades with industry-leading 3D design software—but if the shift toward mobile devices and the cloud has shown anything, it’s that marketplace incumbency doesn’t guarantee future success.

That’s why Autodesk has committed itself to digital reinvention, not only moving its award-winning software to the cloud but also investing in APIs to enable new, data-driven revenue streams.

Autodesk’s digital strategy is “really about connecting our data that’s coming out of applications with the downstream consumers,” Autodesk director of PaaS strategy Shawn Gilmour told us recently.

These users include people who might consume, review, model, or visualize design information but aren’t actual users of Autodesk’s full applications. The company’s API platform, built on Apigee Edge, represents an opportunity to integrate these tangential users into the company’s ecosystem.

APIs facilitate this goal because they easily and securely expose Autodesk’s infrastructure, services, and data to developers. This enables both internal and external dev teams to more agilely leverage Autodesk resources for new apps. Some of these apps enrich the experience for existing users, while others extend the brand’s services into untapped markets.

Gilmour said these new apps—and the APIs that enable them—help Autodesk become central not just to design itself but also to the way people work together on design projects.

To many customers, “collaboration became critically important,” he explained. Typically, these collaborators need only partial insight into a project. Just as most of us need weather forecasts but don’t invest in meteorological equipment, these collaborators require some of the application’s data but won’t buy full software suites that cost thousands of dollars.

By charging these people less money for just the resources they need, Autodesk extends its base to include not only professional designers but also their collaborators.

“The problem was the data was created by a proprietary desktop tool that not everybody was going to spend $5,000 or $10,000 to buy,” Gilmour said. “So one of the key things we were trying to do is let anybody get access to that design data for things like design reviews, collaboration on change orders—things that might happen during the design process.

“With our API, [we] open up that ability for others to start consuming that design information,” he added, “which means for us, we now have a completely new customer.”

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