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The invitation pool for the event is drawn mainly from the Revit beta-testing program established by Autodesk, which allows ongoing testing of Revit’s pre-release features. Of the roughly 1000 invitations sent out to apply to the event, I was one of 16 selected to attend. ITF is primarily concerned with the trialling of potential new Revit features that have been prepped for testing and evaluating if there were any bugs or usability issues, but we were also engaged in brainstorming proposals for future expansions to the program.

The four consecutive days of testing and discussion were quite intense – especially when mixed with jetlag. After a few hours of testing in the morning, lunch included a variety of talks from differing Autodesk personnel concerning topics such as their work-in-progress projects and their internal development processes. These were followed by further testing in the afternoon and break out, interaction-focused sessions, which included holding debates and other creative-style workshops. These sessions were very theoretical, and encouraged the sharing of workflows, ideas and techniques with other users, with the focus throughout always being to extract individual opinions and responses. Autodesk was interested in how the group would tackle particular tasks, as we discussed how we would theoretically proceed. Autodesk essentially wanted us to document the holes in their products, enabling them to identify solutions and ultimately develop better products.

The event is a unique opportunity to unite the decision makers, coding team and Autodesk customers. The group of 16 was made up of multiple disciplinary customers from a notable spread of countries and backgrounds. The team bonded well and there was a genuine feeling of usefully bettering the design experience for all the Revit users round the world.

Autodesk balanced out the intense days with evening social activities. Mid-week we ventured into the business district in Shanghai and were invited to the observation deck of the Shanghai Tower -the second tallest building in the world (632m) – containing the second fastest elevator in the world (18m/s) – which was a fantastic experience.

Overall, attending Inside the Factory allowed me to make direct contacts within Autodesk that go beyond the usual sales or marketing level relationships that customers are usually limited to. The product managers expressed interest in visiting us in London to talk about future proposals and develop future tools. In providing Autodesk with invaluable user insight, I also learned how and why certain products are prioritised and developed. The whole event was very well-organised and had clearly been designed to create a productive and efficient environment. Not only would I jump at the opportunity to attend this event again, I absolutely recommend others attend if they get the chance.