Stop The Killing! It Must Stop And Stop Now!


Once again I get another product with over the top functionality, complexity for complexities sake and with references to web pages that our crowded with information and hard to read.

OK, I know where a lot of this comes from and it’s not always from you product developers. A lot of times it’s from the Marketing folks up on the 14th floor or on the other side of the building/country/planet. As soon as one potential customer says “hey, it would be neat to have…” they add a new requirement to the product plan. And, of course, that adds time. Time to development, testing, training and everything else.

I know that this is a real difficult in your big organizations where there are tons of marketers supposedly studying competitor offerings, surveying customers and analyzing sales trends. They have “evidence” to support all these requirements. We know what that evidence really is.

I’ve been there. When I was at Allen-Bradley (before it became Rockwell) our Engineering team either did projects where we had the vaguest possible requirements or we had very detailed, almost nonsensical requirements.

The ones with the vaguest possible requirements became pyramids of functionality. We piled every possible cool technology we could think of into the product. We increased its size, cost and complexity until it became virtually unsalable in the market.

Perversely, I worked on one of those projects and then left the company. After leaving I started supporting that product and writing software for it and made hundreds of thousands of dollars because of that complexity pyramid. I’m not smart enough to think that sort of thing or deceitful enough – so don’t go thinking I planned that out ahead of time.

Even in our little shop this monster rears its ugly head. And when it does I have to be the big, burly mean policeman that protects our customers from these sorts of disasters. When I see it I say STOP. It’s one of the few times where I throw my weight around.

Most everybody in our office just does what needs to be done. There’s no job descriptions and God knows I don’t do much “management”. Things just sort of get done. People see what has to be done and do it.

But about 6 weeks ago I looked at some web screens for one of our products and I was shocked by  the complexity and chaos on the screen. Nothing was organized in the way that I thought would make sense to a user. Lots of extra steps. Lots of nonsense.

And it’s my fault. I didn’t get involved early enough. I let the Engineers go. And they were kind of pissed when I pulled the reins back, told them that this sucked and we were going to start over. There are probably still some hard feelings.

But you’ll be the judge. Within a week or two we are going to start shipping the first products with the new user interface and a bunch of additional features that many of you have been asking for. I’ve done the best I could to make it simple, easy to use but still provide you with the additional stuff you’ve said you needed.

The first products out of the gate our converter to move Modbus RTU registers to BACnet and our converter to move Modbus registers to MicroLogix, PLC5s and SLCs.

I’m looking forward to finding out what you think.