With some 25+ years in the software business, it’s kind of interesting for me to reflect a moment over the differences in mindset and strategies between development, production and marketing of established consumer goods, such as cars, with that of development, production and marketing of typical software products.
I mean, I have a fairly good insight into the thinking and mindset of the software side of things from having spent a long time in various roles in the business, and as someone very interested in cars and driving – I’ve been handling the wheel, stick and pedals of cars since I was little older than a toddler – I also believe I know a thing or two about cars.
Thus, let’s just for the fun of it imagine that the mindset of the car business were identical to that of traditional software business, then the likelihood that you’d have a conversation like the one below is quite high: (in the scenario below, YOU (Y) are a potential customer looking for a new car, who SALES GUY (SG) is in this play should be fairly obvious:
SG: Hello Sir, I see you looking around in our show room… can I draw your attention to our latest and greatest product ?
Y: sure, what does it do ?
SG: this new innovative technology we’ve just brought to the market is amazing, it can be fully customized to do whatever you want it to do.
Y: so, does it have good performance and scalability, I mean, I occasionally enjoy driving a lap or two on the race track, but I also need the car being able to transport loads of heavy goods to my summer house ?
SG: yes, of course, we have designed the car with a very generic and extensible “Big Driving“- architecture that will meet all your current and future needs, and it will also allow you to upgrade it’s performance and capabilities on demand, just-in-time.
Y: what about quality ?
SG: it’s in our company’s genes to always place quality first, we do careful analysis of all functional as well as QoS requirements before development, we then let our sharpest minds develop a solid and robust overall system architecture, we use the best development tools and methods available, and we employ extensive testing on all our products, and we are of course certified by all international quality and process standards. Furthermore, the car was developed with the best modern development process in the world, “FrAgile“, and our entire logistics thinking is based on the Mean principle, which allows us to avoid any waste in our production line, so you can be fully ensured that your new car is a masterpiece of functionality, performance and quality, offered to you for a very competitive price.
Y: well, that all sounds really great, I take it!
Sometime (not very long) later:
Y: hey, Mr SG, this thing you sold me sucks, it doesn’t do even a fraction of what you said it would! I was picking up my family to drive to the beach, and noticed that there are no other seats in the car over and above the driver’s seat!
SG: Oh, ok, you actually never told me that you had a family, but don’t worry, Sir, we will issue a patch release within a few weeks, and as a matter of fact, that patch release does contain a number of other enhancements which I’m sure you will find very convenient. Meanwhile, what do you think about the state-of-the-art onboard infotainment system, isn’t it great…the next version will have an even greater onboard media experience, available for just a modest upgrade fee…
Y: #!&%! I wanted the car for driving and transportation, I don’t care about the %¤#”! infotainment system, I can listen to music and watch films at home, you moron……!!!! [leaves the show room very frustrated in his newly purchased single-seater…. and returns two weeks later to get the patch installed, and drives away, feeling at least a little bit better now that he’s finally able to board his family into the great new vehicle]
sometime a bit later still:
Y: Hey Mr %&¤#”! SG, the other day I was driving uphill the San Fransisco Lombard Street – there had been an accident, and the Police directed me to drive up that steep climb – and the car just couldn’t handle the climb! You told me it had enough performance!!!!
SG: oh, ok, you actually never told me you were going to drive uphill… most roads today are fairly flat, and following our Mean principles, and focusing on shareholder value, we’ve optimized away all capabilities needed for uphill driving, including any power in the engine. But rest assured, we have received similar reports from other customers, and our R&D department is working hard to resolve these minor inconveniences, thanks to our generic architecture and efficient processes, and our certified staff, we expect to be able to provide you with a patch within a few months.
still sometime later:
Y: %¤#”%!!!!!!!! I’m returning this car, it’s an absolutely hopeless piece of sh*t, now it even doesn’t start on my drive way in my new hometown in the north!!!
SG: oh dear, don’t tell me you’ve moved to a cold climate…?! You see, in the name of cost efficiency, we never bothered to test the car in sub-zero temperatures, but since we’ve already gotten similar customer feedback, our R&D department are working fast to resolve this issue, you can expect a new patch to be provided within 6-8 months…..
….and so the story goes on…
Moral of the story: a pig with lipstick is still a pig.