What happened

Software specialist Autodesk (ADSK -0.51%) trounced the market last year by gaining 23% compared to a 6% drop in the S&P 500, according to data provided by S&P Global Market Intelligence.

The move contributed to big gains for shareholders recently, with the stock having more than doubled since early 2016.

Check out the latest Autodesk earnings call transcript.

A man works on design software.

Image source: Getty Images.

So what

Autodesk gave investors plenty to celebrate last year, including a second-quarter report that saw its subscription revenue jump 115% to $1.7 billion to help revenue exceed management's forecast. Sales gains sped up in the following quarter, too, as executives hiked their full-year targets on both the top and bottom lines.

Now what

With highly stable recurring revenue now accounting for more than three-quarters of its sales base, Autodesk has a good view into its sales outlook. That has given management confidence to make increasingly bold acquisitions like its recent buyout of construction design specialist PlanGrid. For its 2018 rally to extend deep into 2019, though, it will need to demonstrate that significant earnings growth is on the way and being powered by impressive operating margins. It posted a net loss over the last nine months, but investors are predicting that stream of red ink will end soon.