Selling snake oil

29 April 2008

Something came up today with regard to the wishes of a potential customer, and I felt it important enough that I blogged about it. Plus, it's non-technical, therefore I don't have to research it and can instead just talk. Smile

The issue was this. Joe — not his real name but I need to hang a label on him — was very interested in a particular ASP.NET control we have. Very interested. So interested in fact, he was ready to invoke a money-back guarantee on a competitor's product, and use the refunded money towards our product.

There was a fly in the ointment, however. Joe wanted a couple of features that were in the competitor's product, but weren't in ours. In fact, these features were going to be instrumental in the application he was writing. Sounds simple enough, eh? Promise him we'll put 'em in, and grab his money. Mmm.

As it happens, a couple of minutes sifting through the todo list for 2008.2 showed me that at least one of those items was likely to be done but I couldn't spot anything that was similar to the other. So, even simpler now?

Heck, we have our own money-back guarantee. 60 days, no questions asked. (Well, OK, we may ask why, but we don't expect or require an answer. Knowing why just might help us make the product or our service better. It certainly doesn't affect whether you get your money back.) So Joe could just buy the product and, if we don't do what he wanted in two months, he could get the money back. Still simpler? But surely that's the situation he's in right now with the competitor's product? It would be a little ridiculous to move him into the same scenario, just two months further down the line.

I don't want to appear holier-than-thou, but I couldn't do it. In fact, we couldn't do it. There's no way we can promise features that might appear in our products in the future just so we can get the money now. I'm a firm believer in the premise that when you buy a DevExpress product, you are buying what's in there now, not what might be in there in the future.

This was one of the arguments we had about the roadmap the first time we drew one up. Not only would we be telling the world, including our competitors, what we were thinking of doing that year, but people may decide that they'd buy our product because they want feature X, knowing full well that feature X doesn't exist yet but is mentioned in the roadmap.

So I told Joe that, based on my reading of the todo list, it was likely that at least one of his requirements would be coming in the next major version, but that the other may or may not be there. I could push for it, but there was just no guarantee of when these features would appear. I therefore recommended that he keep with the product he already had.

I'm reminded of this with other things we do as well. Sometimes, we all have high hopes about what we may be able to accomplish over the short term, or our goals over the long term. We're optimists. Yes, we'll be able to complete the project on time; yes, we can paint the entire downstairs in a weekend (don't ask); yes, I'll make sure I put enough money in before-tax securities. For me, it came home to roost this week that I've failed to maintain my initial momentum to blog about using XAF, despite my promises early on. No real biggie in the larger tapestry of life, but it's a promise that wasn't kept.

So if you're looking at a DevExpress product to buy and use, my recommendation is this: Download, compare, decide. Download the current evaluation version, compare and make your decision based on the current features and only those features. If the product is what you need, but you want to be reassured that we're still developing it, read our roadmap to see if it's mentioned. Ask us about it — my email address is julanb@devexpress.com, by the way. Perhaps read up on it in the forums and on these blogs to see what we and others are saying about it. But, in the end, buy it because it does what you want to do now.

10 comment(s)
Ben Hayat

Julian, I'm glad you posted this blog. As long as I've been with DX (I'm one of their first customers), DX has been a class act in integrity and truthfulness. And sometimes, I've seen people post questions that actually question DX's integrity and line of business. And this goes all the way from Ray to all his employees...

29 April, 2008
Grant Levy

I would point out though that when you purchase a DevExpress subscription you are buying not what's in the product now but what will be in the product within the next year.

30 April, 2008
CESAR F. QüEB

First of all the ethic. Let me say that i have licenses from other suite too, but the components from DevExpress are light... and has a fast performance... for this reason I have purchased an Universal subscription.

I'm sure that DevExpress's guys are looking for some nice and useful features that are present in other suites to take the best of them and implement into DXperience.

Anyway... I love DevExpress products... and.. my suggestions list is comming soon!...

Regards

30 April, 2008
Julian Bucknall (DevExpress)

Grant.

My whole argument here is that you really shouldn't do that. Our roadmap is merely a suggestion of what might be coming. We may decide that a particular item is dispensible in favor of something else. If you are relying on us producing it, you are going to be, ever so politely, screwed. For example, after we produced the 2008 roadmap, Microsoft released the Silverlight 2 beta. Suddenly we were able to see what was going to happen with regard to SL, what we had to do with regard to the synergies between SL and WPF, etc. And guess what? The slack we thought we had was gone; priorities were changed.

My advice here is to merely view the roadmap as a set of strong possibilities of things we'll be doing, but not to make fixed assumptions that they will actually come to pass. Obviously the "earlier" items in the roadmap are extremely likely to happen, but the later ones? Check the difference between the 2007 roadmap and what actually happened in 2007 for an example.

Cheers, Julian

30 April, 2008
Grant Levy

I never said anything about your roadmap.  I think it's great that you put together a roadmap and also think you offer enough caveats explaining that the roadmap is not written in stone.

However my point was that by definition your subscriptions are most certainly about buying what will come out in the next year.  The roadmap may provide hints at what is coming, but I agree people shouldn't bank on it.  I wasn't trying to be positive or negative.  I was merely noting the irony when you essentially say buy for today when your subscriptions say buy for tomorrow.

1 May, 2008
Michael Proctor [DX-Squad]

Julian,

We became a subscriber about 18 months ago, the product then was by far in front of anything else we saw. Our goal was to find a component set that contained the same look-and-feel for all the UI. As with your components you have aimed to have many of the common use (plus common sense use) controls available, and extend them far beyond any mere mortal could even know.

Since then, the component suite has just grew and grew (and we still wonder how such much extra can be added but price stay the same). That component suite we "purchased" 18 months ago then renewed (more like payed a contribution as the renew price is quite acceptable) has given us twice the suite we orignally purchase.

I do note what you are saying in this article, we did do as Joe was going to do, we purchased the suite based on certain capabilities that were coming. however we had the luxury of releasing the basic program and then improve as components became available. As per you recent post on Software Risk the issue I found myself in with your components was 5. Gold-plating (aka Feature creep). The advantage was I could build the basic framework and extend from there.

Haven't looked back.

Just a FYI.

Cheers

1 May, 2008
Ben Hayat

Julian;

Would it be possible to talk a bit more about this? I'm very interested to know what DX is up to on SL, beside Area 51 product?

>>Microsoft released the Silverlight 2 beta. Suddenly we were able to see what was going to happen with regard to SL, what we had to do with regard to the synergies between SL and WPF, etc. And guess what? The slack we thought we had was gone; priorities were changed.<<

2 May, 2008
Julian Bucknall (DevExpress)

Ben

Sorry, not at this time, apart from saying that we are working on more than "just" the Area51 layout controls.

Cheers, Julian

2 May, 2008
Ben Hayat

Julian;

>>Sorry, not at this time, apart from saying that we are working on more than "just" the Area51 layout controls.<<

Alright man! I Understand!

Just to let you know, I'm getting pretty involved with SL, and in case you're putting a committee together for SL feature list and future, I'll be more than happy to help!

2 May, 2008
ctodx

I thought I would just point out a few of my posts from the past -- raising them into your consciousness

18 June, 2008

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