Life in the fast lane of software . . .
Subtitle ---- What happens when you throw out all process and just do it
A while back we decided that in order to be a cool company we needed an iPhone app.
It was obvious what the app should do - remotely control our consoles of course. But how would we do it? While many may look at ETC from the outside and say "You guys can get that done. Look at all the people you have. Come on - just knock it out quickly and move on," Experience at ETC has shown that these things are much harder to fit in than they appear. Our company president has a saying; "The farther you are from the actual problem, the easier the solution looks." It is very true.
Anyway - a software developer at ETC emerged who would author this little app in his "spare time." He was and is still a hero in his valiant work at "keeping us cool."
It was decided that we would set this up so all the money gets diverted to lighting charities - so it it goes for the good of all our industry. Another great idea and great cool factor.
Next steps - We began to see prototypes and "kind of working" models and then next thing you know us folks in marketing (the root of all public mistakes!) decide to demo the thing at USITT and then we write about it in a newsletter and then a few salespeople with iPhones begin to show it to others and then a banner ad appears. And then customers want this thing. I mean they really want it. And we don't have it.
Then we start saying things like:
"When is this iPhone app thing done?"
"Well - there have been some delays and complications."
"But, I heard it was almost done. And what about those complications? What are they?"
"Well it does not work on Eos unless you have this software version which is not released."
"Wow, bummer. I guess a lot of people are going to download and then be really confused and ultimately PO'd. What else?"
"Well on Congo these things work now - but these things don't and won't until this summer with V6."
"OK - more confusion. We are accustomed to that. Anything else?"
"A few things: We need some written documentation on how to use this thing. Who is doing that?"
"Have we set up our account with the App store?"
"Has our attorney reviewed the Apple contract?"
"How does the money get to the charities?"
"When is this thing finished again?"
"I heard it was almost done"
Well, in the meantime we are getting hammered to produce this thing. If you browse our forums you see a number of threads - some with very unhappy customers because they don't have this app. (It's amazing how indispensable this little app has become prior to its release) There are some complaints because we delayed the release due to [all above mentioned issues.] Complaints because we are charging $49 for the software (which is a giant sum of money in App store dollars.) The app-confusion even resulted in one group of customers feeling "less than" another one! Wow! This is going well for our cool factor!
Welcome to the new software world created by Apple. We had no idea what we were getting in to. The iPhone has changed many things - how people get software - how people value software - how many people use the software. There are a host of articles out recently about people making millions of dollars in the iPhone software industry that has sprung up. At ETC we are accustomed to slowly building apps and then testing the hell out of them and then taking a long time to release them and then watching them slowly trickle out into the market over months. Welcome to the fast lane, ETC! one thing for sure about iPhone apps - people want it and they want it now.
I'll quote one of our forum users who said it best "This has been a really poorly handled process by ETC." I'll second that motion. We are learning a lot by doing this and we appreciate everyone bearing with us. I knew we were at critical mass when the product managers who work for me started asking things like "Who is product managing this thing?" Answer: "Nobody - and it is showing!"
One thing I have learned - and many of you can learn too. When you are going to develop an iPhone app, DON'T TELL ANYONE UNTIL IT IS REALLY DONE.
PS - Latest update ---- I hear that the iRFR is "almost done"