The Bleeding Edge of Technology

in Technology

By JOE BALSAROTTI

I was racking my brain trying to come up with a good topic for this edition when inspiration struck. Unfortunately, it struck at one of my client’s workplaces and with a lot of wasted time, energy and frustration.

The publisher of an LOB (line-of-business) application (some people call them vertical or industry-specific applications) contacted our client to say that a new version was available, and the publisher needed us to provide remote access for them install it. The client has a maintenance contract with this publisher; it includes any and all updates as well as installation. This is a commonplace event for specialized software – and this is a software company that has a long-established program and track record of solid tech support.

In this scenario, we are the “boots on the ground,” acting as the intermediary/translator/consultant. We let the manufacturer of the software do its thing. We all decided upon a date and time, the appointment was made and one of my techs was on-site to answer questions about the network and provide the support requested by the software publisher.

Backups were made, and the installation appeared normal. The techs from the software publisher’s company said they were satisfied and went off on their merry way.

Of course, if the story ended there, this would be an awfully short guest column.

The story didn’t end there. What actually happened was that the next morning our client called to say they were getting kicked out of the application every couple of minutes. After some basic troubleshooting, it was time to get the publisher back on the line. The publisher’s software technicians fiddled around for most of the morning; meanwhile, the client wasn’t getting work done. That afternoon, the publisher said the issue had been fixed. The client squeezed in a couple of productive hours late in the day.

Unfortunately, the next morning, the client was back on the phone, reporting that they’d features they hadn’t used the previous day and some of those either did not work as they were supposed to or just plain crashed. Again, the publisher went to work, spending the rest of the day fiddling and fooling, but to no avail. Same thing on day three. The publisher was logged in and getting nowhere while our client’s staff sat around being unproductive.

Time for a conference call. Guess what? The techs suddenly admitted that this version had only been out there for one week and that all the installs were experiencing random problems. So, our problems weren’t unique and this update “might have been put out there without adequate testing.” Ya think?

Luckily, the software publishing company has been around for a couple of decades and did have a provision for rolling back the update. The publisher brought our mutual client to a stable environment so they could all get back to working productively. That’s not how it usually happens; the ability to roll back changes is not normal practice, unfortunately.

Like many others, this publisher has pushed annual updates of its software for years – something I think is ridiculous because at this point very, very few useful features are being added to anyone’s programs. Nearly every time, they’re merely cosmetic changes so that a publisher can continue justifying that a maintenance contract is worth the expense, rather than just buying an upgrade ad hoc. In this case, it looks like the publisher was running out of days on its calendar to get the 2019 release out there and rushed a buggy, obviously untested program to its clients just so it could say there was a new version available. This publisher even went as far as to proactively contact our mutual client to schedule installs.

As of now, our client is back to using the previous version of the software, which has worked well and has been bug-free for the past year. The software publisher is still working on making the update usable. There has been no estimate from the publisher’s techs as to when a fully-tested update will be available.

Joe Balsarotti is President of Software To Go and is a 38-year veteran of the computer industry, reaching back to the days of the Apple II. He served three terms as chairman of the National Federation of Independent Business’ Missouri Leadership Council, as chairman of the Clayton, Missouri Merchant Association for a dozen years, chaired Region VII of the Federal Small Business Regulatory Fairness Board and currently serves on the Dealer Advisory Panel of the ASCII Group, an organization of nearly 1,200 independent computer and technology solution providers in North America. He can be reached at businesstech@software-to-go.com.

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