The user group returns

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John Marchant attended the inaugural UK AUGI (Autodesk User Group International) Design Academy, but despite innovative workshops spread over two days, attendance figures fell short of expectations.

Over the years, there have been a number of groups in the UK catering for the interests of users of Autodesk products, though in recent years, they seem to have faded away. However, the user group is back, big time, under the umbrella of AUGI, the Autodesk User Group International. The UK chapter (chapter: US; an organisational division of a society or fraternity) of AUGI UK was established in June 2007 and is billed as Ùan independent forum for users of Autodesk products to network, learn and share to become better and more productive usersÝ.

Sense of belonging

Philip Madeley is AUGI UK Chairman of the Board of Directors. He says, ýWeÝd found that users felt no sense of belonging. In large companies, the product may well be bought by the IT people and the actual users may not therefore be known. The users, though, want to learn and get better at using the products. To this end, we set up AUGI UK to bring together the disparate UK user groups and to get the benefit of being part of a worldwide community of users.¯

Free membership

With over 100,000 worldwide members, AUGI is officially recognized by Autodesk as representing the Autodesk user community, membership is free, you donÝt have to have an Autodesk product and you donÝt need any serial numbers. You just visit the AUGI website and provide some simple data like your locality, and that is it. Somewhat more inclusive than some other vendors user groups!

Autodesk sponsorship

Autodesk is clearly happy to see AUGI operating in the UK at last. Autodesk sponsors the organisation and events, supplying financial and logistical support and keynote speakers, flying them in from the US if necessary. AUGI assure members that their details are held in accordance with data protection legislation and are not passed on to any third party, especially not Autodesk.

AUGI Design Academy

AUGI UKÝs inaugural event was the Design Academy held on the 13th & 14th November at the Hilton Birmingham Metropole Hotel. Modelled on the Autodesk University, the Design Academy offered users 60 workshops spread over two days. Content ranged from Tips and Tricks to Help You Get the Most from Autodesk Inventor, to Managing Ordnance Survey MasterMap Data, so it wasnÝt just about AutoCAD, something that AUGI is keen to emphasise. Keynote speakers included AutodeskÝs Worldwide Technical Evangelist, Lynne Allen who succeeded in motivating the usual cool and restrained UK audience. The event was supported by a small exhibition populated by various Autodesk partners, resellers and developers, though from what I saw, they had a quiet time and the organisers may wish to consider how to attract more attendees to the stands or they may lose some exhibitors (and revenue) next time.

Immediate productivity gains

Asked how learning at events like this is different to the training provided by Autodesk ATCs and resellers, Rich Uphus, Global Executive Director AUGI, replied, ýInstructor-led training at a typical ATC is full day, deep learning, often aimed at new users. The type of workshops we offer at the AUGI Design Academy are for more advanced users and are focussed on being able to provide immediate productivity gains for experienced users. We want them to be able to walk away with something they can do the next day.¯

Wish-list

AUGI also maintains a product feature wish-list and the top 40 wishes go to Autodesk as candidates for inclusion in future products. Shaun Bryant is Coordinator for the UK Country Chapter. ýThe wish-list is of enormous value to Autodesk,¯ says Bryant. ýWeÝve already had a meeting with Autodesk to update them. Its valuable too, that AUGI is independent of Autodesk so they get an independent user view.¯ He adds, ýOur aim is to grow the membership from its current level of 6,500 to 10,000 by this time next year. To do this, our challenge is to produce events that deliver real knowledge, access to networks and contact with like-minded users.¯

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A promising start

According to AUGI, there were 250 users at the first day of this inaugural event, though they say they are targeting a larger audience. Given that it cost ú375 for a two-day entry and UK operations started only a few months ago, AUGI saw this as a promising start. Knowing how difficult it can be for users in the SMEs (with the emphasis on the S!) that are AutodeskÝs typical constituency to get time and budget to attend off-site training events, 250 isnÝt bad. It is though but a small proportion of the hundreds of thousands of Autodesk users in the UK and in my view, AUGI will have their work cut out to reach anything like a reasonable number of these. I’m sure they’ll try.

www.augi.co.uk

John Marchant is Consulting Editor of AEC Magazine. He also writes case studes for the skilstream partnership, where he is a senior partner.
john.marchant@skilstream.com

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