If I were tasked with the future of Trimble's SketchUp

So, recently in another post I mentioned I was approached by a 3D company for help in marketing-- and Colin asked, “was it us?”

No, it wasn’t. But, if Trimble did approach me to ask my thoughts on what to do about SU, I would apply some Design Thinking principles to the problem.

First off, I would have a number of questions, the first would be:

What is your overall goal for SketchUp?

In particular, do you want to maximize revenue? Focus on a vertical (or multiple verticals)? Become the most used 3D software in the world? Keep your existing customers or attract a new and different breed of customer? How does it fit in with your future plans with your existing products? Is there a road map and if so, let’s see it.

And of course with that question, I’d like to know:

Who are your target customers?

Are they the existing bunch of hobbyists, designers, teachers, woodworkers, and architects, or a subset?

I’d next want to know:

What is your committment, resource-wise, to your goals?

How much revenue do you generate vs how much does it cost to keep SketchUp updated, supported, marketed, and developed? What is your budget for SketchUp?

I would also want to know:

How does the web product fit in with these goals?

In particular, how does creating 2 different and potential competing platforms fit in with your stated strategy? How much is the resource cost for keeping both PRO and Web both in a state of continuous build?

Then I’d ask some hard questions about the state of the SU engines:

What are the performance limits of the current desktop 3D engine, and what are the obstacles to bringing it in line with current 3D app expectations?

I would want to know about the hard or “wicked” problems facing developers as they move forward with development of the 3D engine. I know that SU has a unique realtime renderer which does some smart boolean effects and outlines. I’d like to know if it’s even possible to get it to work in the multi-million poly levels seen in other engines.

And I’d like to know the same about Layout:

Are there any hard problems with regard to fixing performance issues in Layout?

There are certainly enough people pointing to problems there. Are these issues not fixed because of a lack of focus, resources or are they “wicked” problems as well?

Based on these answers, I would then put together a survey to better understand what the targeted customers wanted:

Get customer feedback.

I would like to best understand what are the issues and features and fixes the target group of customers are looking for. (as provided in the second answer).

And I would certainly do an exhaustive search of competing products:

Current SketchUp and Competitive Audit

Who are the biggest competitors for each of the target markets as described in #2? What features do they have that we don’t? What are the necessary plugins needed by most our target users? Can we purchase them from the developers?

Then I would plot out a customer journey:

Create the Customer Journey

Understand how customers and purchasers first hear about your product. How they find out more about your products. How they make a decision to buy your product. What is their first experience like using your product versus everyday use. How to receive support, and how to get folks recommending your product to others. These are all important steps to get right and always provide valuable design insights for a product like SketchUp.

Then, I would engage a few stakeholders, including people from industry and the SU team to draw up a short business plan with:


End up with a simple document:

  1. WHAT is our product? Short declarative sentences…not more than 3 or 4. Needs to be CLEAR.
  2. WHO is our target market and specifically WHO are they not?
  3. WHY are we creating this product? We should use empirical evidence rather than intuitive feelings. We would identify markets and opportunities using graphs, infographics and industry reports.
  4. HOW are we going to accomplish this? PERT charts can help explain. Understand our tasks, workflows, pipelines and be able to communicate them easily.
  5. WHEN will this be completed and available? Set milestones and match them to dates.
  6. Preliminary pricing, budget and revenue models will also be part of this document.

After thorough review with management and stakeholders, This document would be used to create a Road Map for SketchUp.

Road Map

Delve deeper into the product and map out the features and improvements-- the segmentation issues, the sales and marketing strategies and especially the pricing.

Be upfront as possible. Share much of this road map with users. Why? To set expectations. If it was agreed the target audience was to be architecture only, then I’d share that too. I’d explain our business strategy for keeping or closing down the web version.

I’d make sure our plans were in alignment with our customers expectations.

For instance, there possibly could be several products including a SketchUp Lite (no Layout), SketchUp Pro and SketchUp EDU if they were aligned with the business goals. It is important to be as transparent as possible about upcoming plans and features and limitations.

I believe, if Trimble took this approach, they would have a much stronger user base who’s expectations would be more in align with what Trimble is offering. And this would lead to Trimble finding an even higher degree of success with the product.

One way this wouldn’t work is if Trimble wasn’t serious about customer satisfaction or growing the SketchUp businesses-- and instead was focused only on short term gains. But, I don’t think they would’ve gone to the trouble of creating something like the Web offering if that were the case.


Can you propose them to sell SketchUp development to another company ?