Thursday, April 10, 2008
Are software vendors aware that developing software in India causes customer dissatisfaction?
Imagine a scenario where I am developing an enterprise application where I need to combine a BPM engine such as Pega with an ECM system such as Documentum in order to handle a complex business process. Of course, a wise and humble Chief Security Architect advises me that I should figure out how to reconsile disparate authorization models between these two platforms. Ideally, he believes that these two vendors should work together to come up with the common solution but of course will fall back to a position of writing this type of integration in-house in order to be truly secure as many software vendors aren't doing the right things when it comes to security.
I decide to attend an industry conference such as AIIM, RSA or others in hopes of running across others that may have ran into the same challenge as I. I find hundreds of folks who have the same problem and on the surface all of our problems sound different but in reality we are all struggling with the same problem. In past conferences, I used to get the opportunity to not only network with other attendees and the occasional speaker or two, but actually got to have face-to-face interactions with the folks who wrote the product. We would agree to exchange business cards and I had another channel that I could leverage when I struggled with level three support or even just needed someone to exchange ideas with.
Long gone are the days of a customer being able to interact with a developer. It has been replaced with non-technical sales executives who function as condoms to protect us from them. Sales executives fear the disease of the customer being able to hear unadulterated words that haven't been finely sanitized by media relations where only a handful can actually talk to us.
I remember the days where I would run across interesting folks in airports, at conferences and even on vacation but those days are long gone. I guess if I happen to be strolling down a street in Bangalore, I might be able to bring back the experiences of the past that worked so well. Today, I am now forced to deliver less because we get less technical support than we did in the past.
Do software vendors understand the power of community? The enterprise has never said that we didn't want to pay for interactions. In fact, every signal says that we are willing to pay even more for such cherised conversations. Do sales people realize that they need to enable conversations between customers and those who write software? It is not really about efficiency and management as much as it should be about delighting us customers.
I remember a visit to the Microsoft campus in the 90s where I had the opportunity to interact with the Exchange Product Managers. I got the opportunity to sit at one of their desks, eat lots of pizza, check out how they test software and even took pictures (against Microsoft policy) of them having five computers on their desk that I proudly showed to others. Is it too much to ask sales folks to help me have a meaningful experience?
When you outsource to India, you aren't really saving money as us customers don't just appreciate interaction, in many cases we require it. The open source movement in some ways is the solution to our burning desires where we can actually have a conversation. Imagine if Oracle arranged for a way for the guys that actually write the Oracle DB kernel to come and talk to us or Microsoft were to send Kim Cameron. Do you think many folks would appreciate this? I bet you know already we would tell others and do something more profound than your own marketing department could ever hope to pull off.
Software vendors, you need to seriously reconsider isolating software developers in your own shops as well. I know that their own personal satisfaction would also improve if they could have conversations with us. Everyone takes pride in their work and nothing is more personally motivating than understanding how someone else uses the fruits of one's labor...
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