Expectations matter in investing. In the case of positioning technology company Trimble (TRMB -0.28%) and engineering-design software company Autodesk (ADSK 0.35%), they all haven't quite lived up to lofty expectations this year. That said, the bad news is arguably now priced in, and they are attractive stocks for growth investors. Here's why. 

1. Trimble

The company provides hardware and software that allows companies to position, model, and analyze their assets. Its traditional core-end market is geospatial mapping, so you can think of energy companies mapping fields, or roads being precisely laid out.

However, Trimble's solutions are also highly relevant in transportation (managing trucking fleets, for example), farming (precision agriculture), and construction/infrastructure projects, where Trimble's technology can help ensure projects are finished on time and with less waste. 

With the growth in data analytics enabling ever more productivity gains from using positioning technology as a part of workflows (an example would be an electric vehicle trucking fleet being managed in real time), Trimble has a bright future. 

It still does, but it's not going to meet its original guidance for $3.95 billion to $4.05 billion in revenue and adjusted eqrnings per share (EPS) of $2.75 to $2.95 in 2022. Instead, management foresees revenue of $3.66 billion to $3.72 billion and adjusted EPS of $2.61 to $2.67.

While the revenue figure was driven lower by divestitures and unfavorable foreign exchange movements, management acknowledged during the third-quarter earnings call that global market conditions have become more difficult and: "demand for hardware and associated software fell short, especially late in the quarter. We expect this will continue through the fourth quarter."

Clearly, near-term headwinds are brewing. Still, its annual recurring revenue (ARR) was up 16% to $1.5 billion in the third quarter, and management expects double-digit growth in ARR in 2023. For reference, ARR is a crucial metric for companies shifting to a recurring business model.

The strength in ARR is a sign of a fast-growing business, even if near-term pressures are reducing the revenue and earnings outlook. All told, the weakness in Trimble's share price this year is a buying opportunity in a highly attractive company. 

2. Autodesk

When management pins medium-term targets on the wall, investors price them in and expect them to be met. As such, it's hardly surprising that Autodesk's stock is down almost 29% this year after it gradually became clear that it wouldn't meet its long-standing target of $2.4 billion in free cash flow (FCF) for its financial year 2023. As a reminder, its financial year ends at the end of January, so the full-year 2023 runs to the end of January 2023. Management now expects just $1.9 billion to $1.98 billion in FCF for 2023. 

Moreover, due to a revision in its billing strategy, management expects its financial 2024 to dip from 2023. Instead of offering discounted multiyear up-front contracts (great for near-term revenue and FCF), Autodesk is shifting to contracts with annual payments and fewer discounts. While the shift is good for long-term profit and FCF generation, it will hurt up-front revenue and FCF.

Furthermore, management noted on its third-quarter earnings call that "our lower billings and free cash flow guidance primarily reflect less demand for multiyear, up-front and more demand for annual contracts than we expected."

Management hasn't done an excellent job of managing investor expectations in the last few years. Still, just as with Trimble, that doesn't mean Autodesk isn't a growth business with plenty of potential. Its billings (revenue plus the net change in deferred revenue) are expected to rise 16% to 18% in 2023. It's essential to monitor deferred revenue because it represents future revenue contractually stated in multiyear contracts that haven't been recognized yet. 

Just as with Trimble's 16% ARR growth. Autodesk's billings growth of 16% to 18% demonstrates a fast-growing business, even if its headline metrics won't show dramatic improvement until its financial 2025. For long-term investors who can look beyond these matters, these dips are buying opportunities, and Autodesk's underlying metrics are much better than its headline numbers indicate.