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January 19, 2010


I am not a fan of annual upgrades for two reasons: (1) as a consultant I lose considerable time and money having to keep up with new software, and (2) my clients don't have time to waste upgrading and learning new features, many of which in a mature product they don't need. I also agree with you that it is difficult, at best, for a development team to make meaningful changes to an application in that short of a period of time. That being said, I find your analysis of this and other similar situations often avoids the obvious - if the companies don't do this, how do they stay in business? For example, it is quite easy for you to tell Amicus they should have waited 12 months to upgrade, but I am guessing that as they were trying to make payroll their reality differed from your "the way it should be" world. None of the companies you discuss are or were (prior to acquisition) sitting around living the high life, rolling in the money. If they ignore the financial realities of their business to do what is right in your mind, they will go out of business and their end users will suffer even more.

So, taking the reality of running a business, meeting a payroll, providing technical support to tens of thousands of users, keeping up with the rapid change of technology, etc., let's see your blog article on how exactly you think these companies should operate today and going forward. You've amply proven you can criticize all these companies, now tell us what they should be doing.

For conventionally marketed desktop software, a good frame of reference for the product development life-cycle is 24-30 months.

Anything other than this is most likely not focused on the product or customer satisfaction. With the appropriate vision and financial stability most software companies can attain this objective.

Obviously, the SaaS and hosted software business model presents a much different opportunity.

You will start to see a lot of CRMs claiming to be a PMS. These firms are moving their products to the legal vertical market because

1) the legal industry is doing better than most in this economy
2) they can't compete with the $5 a month fee HighRise is charging for basically the same features.

If you can live with minimal features you can use Google Apps as well but I wouldn't call either a TRUE PMS of any sort.

I agree. I have a positive suggestion for LN.
When minor changes, i think Timematters 10 could be a debt collection software system.
LN might have to beef up its calculated fields to calculate contingency fee rates.
As an added bonus, LN could link to its skip tracing product - Accurint and allow for downloading and importing new debtor phone numbers for example.
I would also recommend the ability to partially mask Social Security numbers for privacy. Privacy features might give LN a year or two jump on competition in this increasing important field.
I think a jury would agree with Stephen's comment about defective software. It violates contract and deceptive trade practice act laws when it does not work. True bugs (defects) should be fixed for free even if they become evident after the software is bought. Good software should not need a maintenance plan. True upgrades should be fairly priced.

Yearly upgrades are asinine. We're not stupid. You're just cramming it down our throats. And as you allude to, thanks for disguising a "bug fix" as an upgrade. A bug fix isn't an upgrade. It's a bug fix. You pay for it, not me. I already bought the software once. Why buy it again? And, thanks again for mentioning the maintenance agreement. Yes that same maintenance agreement that is supposed to be for upgrades and bug patches like the yearly upgrade or new version that's pretty much the same as the old version. Thanks but no thanks. I haven't been happier since I dumped the whole idea that I should be paying for software. Since I moved to linux (http://www.ubuntu.com/)... which btw came packed with plenty of lawyerly word processing goodies, dropped my old case management system for SaaS (http://gomatters.com) and started storing my docs online (http://www.netdocuments.com/) I haven't paid for an upgrade, bug patch, back scratch or whatever you want to call it.

Amen. Been in IT for a while and see this everywhere. I worked for a financial company that hired a new CTO with a dev background. So he came in hired a bunch of developers...fired ummm laid off the entire Q/A team (quality assurance). And then ramped up the development cycle to quarterly releases, with weekly bug fix releases. And as you can imagine the customers (our users) weren't happy with the quality.

So even in cases where money isn't an issue developers/product managers a lot of time will put 'enhancements' ahead of quality work.

I'm currently fighting that battle with a Law software company. We alerted them to several problems with their accounting portion of their software last year and we come around this year to finish it out...imagine my surprise things still aren't fixed. But if i buy the new version the fix is in there. When I asked how long they are supporting the version I'm using they said a couple more years....then why can't I get my version fixed?

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