Friday, August 01, 2008

Let us learn from others mistakes but with caution

My context here is a blog post on Alfresco's blog roll that discusses Vignette's slow but sure decline - full post here.
I don't have domain expertise in the CMS/ECM market and in general i agree with a lot of what Uzi says in his post. He points out the Vignette is "losing the people that they should keep. And they’re keeping the people that they should lose" - which leads me to assume that has inside knowledge about what is going on at Vignette.

My bone of contention is with that following phrase (please read the full post for context before jumping here)

And that’s where the old businesses are falling over. Customers cannot trust in how their money is being spent. It isn’t simply that Vignette’s brand has lost its trust - it’s that the products actually do not work.

Why? Because managers don’t know how to develop good code.

Give them credit, though, for knowing how to keep their jobs.

Umm... really, that is the problem --- "managers don't know how to develop good code". Wow! that scares me.
So let us trace this a little.

a. the brand lost its trust ---> (why?)
b. the products do not actually work ----> (i can see how this can lead to 'a') (why?)
c. managers don't know how to develop good code ----> (let me ask you again -- FOR REAL?)

Products don't work for a lot of reasons - chief amongst them being being poor software, poor understanding of the market problems, poor quality of requirements being given to engineering, ignorance of how the market has changed since v1.0 of the product came out, etc. But rarely does "managers not developing good code" show up on that list.
I would agree that if the product direction is driven by a manager with no technical background or software development experience, that is not a recipe for success. But that is a far cry from "managers don't know how to develop good code".

I understand the point Uzi is trying to make and the distinction being drawn between open source philosophies and "big elephants" but i caution against blaming everything associated with "big elephants" by association.

Imho, one of the reasons I think Alfresco executed so well out of the gate and continues to build on that momentum is Kevin Cochrane - who did not necessarily code (he might have a coding background, i don't know) but did a stellar job of understanding market needs and helped R&D build against it. Kevin's title was product MANAGER :-) if I remember correctly.

Disclosure - I have no stake, interest or strong affiliation with Vignette or the CMS industry. This is more from my perspective as a product manager.