Why should I pay for developed add-ons when my software should do ‘X’ anyway!?

I started this blog article in response to the comment made in the QuoteWerks software support forum here: “I know there are add-ons to correct the date, but why should we need an add-on to get basic functionality?

For anyone who’s reading this that’s not familiar with my (and Hilltops IT / ConnectIT Software‘s) background – as well as providing licensing, consultancy, training and support for off the shelf business software solutions (such as QuoteWerks, Microsoft Dynamics CRM, Sage 50 Accounts, Sage 200 and Sage MAS) we also have a number of add-on solutions for these applications.

So… this is a very interesting subject for me! If people decline to use add-ons, then half my business is gone!!! BUT, if I can better understand what motivates or demotivates people to use add-ons, then it can help me deliver more successfully.

The issue of developed software add-ons

Abstracting this from the specifics of QuoteWerks development post, why SHOULD people pay for add-ons to be developed when they feel that their need is ‘basic’ or ‘fundamental’ within the software that they use? As someone who uses various software applications day-in, day-out, has a long history of developing software solutions from scratch and currently develops software add-on solutions, I feel quite well qualified to at least offer a first draft of thoughts on this.

Let’s look at the issue from the perspective of the main software developer, the end user and the add-on developer. I’ll then draw my conclusions and look forward to reading your thoughts and comments in due course.

From the software developer’s perspective

So let’s assume that I’m a good developer – I’ve got my enhancement log and process for people to submit requests. I’ll review that list every build, plus look at what support queries I’m getting where end users are having difficulty using particular features, listen to my sales and marketing team as to what prospective users and markets might want and I’ll have an overall strategic direction that I want to take the software.

So who gets priority when I plan my build? Well, it’s a balance…

I can’t just satisfy existing users’ one-off requests – that may push the software into being very complicated to set up with lots of very specific user requirements switchable and irrelevant to most users. I may also find myself in a situation where different user’s needs conflict – I push here, which gets pulled there and it all collapses. But I definitely can’t ignore this group either – these will be the people I go to for testimonials, case studies and I want them saying good things about my support / responsiveness to other prospective companies that may adopt my software.

I should be looking at support queries where users are having difficulty. This may suggest that the software’s overly complex or not intuitive enough and could be a barrier for people getting the most from the software.

I also need to listen to my sales and marketing team and the overall strategic direction for the software. If I don’t, then like any business that doesn’t look forward, I could end up slipping backwards and certainly risk having competitors get in front of me.

From the end user’s perspective

Any software developer worth working with is going to have some form of development enhancement request process, so I can submit my requirements here. But I might have to wait. I might have to wait a long time. If the software developer isn’t being asked for the feature by a good percentage of other users (or even more persuasive may be the prospective users) then there may be minimal motivation to add the necessary code.

Maybe there are workarounds to meet my requirement – either automated or manual – but these may be more or less practical to implement. Maybe I could develop the solution myself, but this is probably not going to be cost-effective.

So, I am left with looking at add-ons. And, actually, I might be quite impressed with what I see. Not only will the add-on answer the problem that I have, but it may well also open up other avenues for my usage of the main software. Add-ons are typically priced relative to the product that they enhance and the feature benefit that they deliver, so, actually, I might be in a much better position.

From the add-on developer’s perspective

Well, I love gaps in software. Particularly where there’s more than one user wanting the gap filled, and even moreso when those users are in different industries where I know that the main software is very popular. This all suggests good opportunities for me and my products / services.

To sympathise with the main software developer who may have gone down a route in building a particular piece of functionality that may be tricky to devolve, as an add-on developer I don’t have that legacy to worry about. I’ll also package my solutions in what are relatively smaller packages with options, so reducing the conflict between pieces of functionality between user A versus user B’s requirements.

Some main software developers may encourage me to develop my add-ons by providing detailed notes on their API functions, sample code snippets and even support forums. Others may be less encouraging and make me pay for the API information, having convoluted interfaces to the software program and database… you know who you are!!!

I can take a fresh look at the main software, look at it from a different perspective. Assuming that I’ve got a rounded API (application programming interface – the way that I ‘talk’ to the main software), then I can focus on delivering the requirement from a whole different angle.

My Conclusion on Add-On Software Developments

Rightly or wrongly, you just know that I’m going to come down in favour of add-ons. (They are 50% of my business after all!!!) For me, they offer a way to provide creative and innovative solutions for very specific user / business requirements without having to develop a solution from scratch.

Back in the day, I’d be hacking out solutions for problems from the ground up – a flat file, non-ODBC database format and an un-customisable front end. You’d need to have the source code to make any form of change to the software and as for a.n.other app reading the database and interoperability – forget it.

Moving on to VB and VBScript apps based on Word, Excel or Access – we had an open database, could potentially build your own interfaces and reports, but we were still building apps from the ground up. There was just so much duplication in what we were doing for client A versus client B. The solutions were (relatively) cost-effective because we could often take 80% of solution A to build solution B, but we still fundamentally had two code-bases to build and maintain ongoing.

We’re now in an era where off-the-shelf software is considerably more open to change – incredibly flexible with the tools available within the application itself, plus the wonderful API that the add-on developer can use to sprinkle that last 20% of magic. I’m not duplicating the 80% between the solution for client A and B any more – client A and client B are using the same application, they just aren’t getting everything that they want from it. I can now concentrate on making my add-on 20% as flexible as possible (within reason) to satisfy both client A and client B’s extra requirements.

Then there’s the web, but that’s a whole different blog article… or is it…?

If you made it this far, then thanks for reading and I look forward to reading your thoughts and comments in due course.

Steve Siggs
CEO, Lead Developer and Chief Pot & Bottle Washer
Hilltops IT / ConnectIT Software

Tags: , , , , ,

42 Responses to “Why should I pay for developed add-ons when my software should do ‘X’ anyway!?”

  1. Wayne Schulz says:

    I try to explain this very same thing to clients all the time. The other common thing clients think is that everyone works like they do.

    It’s shocking to see the number of bizarre sales commission structures created at companies — with very little reason behind them other than “we have always done it that way” …

  2. admin says:

    From DZ on LinkedIn ACT! Resellers Group:

    I agree with you. I think the Sage attitude to business is rather poor. Why can others create addons that work and Sage don’t seem able. EG links with mobile devices, accounting systems.

    I also object to the fact that ACT cannot work with products such as Thunderbird email, Open Office

  3. admin says:

    From SR on LinkedIn ACT! Addons Group:

    ACT! is a low end CRM that covers the basics. Not every one needs all of the functions AddOns provide so my guess is they keep the specialty functions out in order to keep the price down. But i understand your frustration – we sell over 300 different ACT! AddOns and I’ve heard your comment from others. http://www.actaddons.com

  4. admin says:

    From SC on LinedIn ACT! Resellers Group:

    Great idea – just one little problem. Everyone’s idea of what that added little extra should be is going to be different so we would have a huge bloated bit of software which 95% of people would only use the core components. ACT has incorporated many of the popular add-ons over the years in to its program but there has to be a limit. ACT is no different from any other CRM product who all have add-ons written by 3rd party programmers. Just be thankful that as ACT is such a popular program that there are so many people willing to write add-ons for ACT so we at least do have a great choice and can select one that fits our individual need.

  5. admin says:

    From GG on LinkedIn ACT! Addons Group:

    I totally agree with your post but I am an ACT! add-on developer, so maybe I am biased. Let’s be clear though: add-ons should add functionality not fix issues…

    My personal belief is that the most underrated value in the software industry is simplicity. In general if software would be simpler and advanced functions would require add-ons, users would be better off. We all now that 99% of the Word or Excel users only use 10% of the functionalities of the program.

    We would have better, lighter and faster programs and we could even imagine paying less.

    Unfortunately software editors are not going this route because they see users as milk cows and want them to pay every year for new “enhanced” versions even if a very low percentage of the users do need the new functionalities…

    • I totally agree with add-ons enhancing software and not fixing issues. I think that there may be a grey area where some end-users perceive “an issue” whereas the software author deems it to “by design”.

      I feel that the Word / Excel example may be an extreme one, not necessarily true of other software solutions, particularly business software solutions. Business software solutions need to have the capacity to grow / evolve to a certain degree with the end user’s business, otehrwise they may find themselves replacing it every year.

      Of all the software applications we’ve sold and implemented into various different business types, probably the most any one individual business uses is 70% of the features. The other 30% they simply don’t need, at least not yet.

  6. admin says:

    From PGM on LinkedIn ACT! Resellers Group:

    A good percentage of ACT! users say they don’t use enough of the product.
    A good percentage of ACT! users say the product doesn’t do enough.

    Our goal for our customers with ACT! is that their solution does what they need, and yes many times this includes third party products.

    To be fair, progressive and successful, customers need to get beyond the one-does-it-all model because as Steve correctly points out not everyone has the same needs.

    He’s correct that if Sage tried to make ACT! do everything everyone wants it would
    – never get released in time to maintain compatiblility with current operating systems and business needs
    – not run fast or reliably due to too many features (ie. bloat)
    – cost too much to justify.

    We are thankful for the open ACT! addon market that exists to meet the additional features and specialized improvements of various customer uses. As an “in the box” product, ACT! does many things with IMHO great value. Thinking “out of the box,” users can accomplish much more. Not suprisingly however, there exists some overlap among addon vendor products, yet another example why it pays to build a relationship with an ACT! Certified Consultant. We have direct and/or collective professional experience with these products including their long-term outcomes.

    • Love the notion that “A good percentage of ACT! users say they don’t use enough of the product. A good percentage of ACT! users say the product doesn’t do enough.”.

      I’ll no doubt use that quote in the future. You could almost certainly replace “ACT!” with “any other software application you care to think of”!

  7. admin says:

    From TO in LinkedIn ACT! Addons Group:

    Most add-on’s are rather inexpensive. If the value you get in return isn’t worth the price, don’t buy it; but if it is, tell us all about it!

    • Indeed! the more knowledge experienced consultants share on what’s good, what’s not and who’s best to work with the better!

      I’m very much an advocator of the sharing / social approach to consultancy – imho it can help make all our solution deliveries better and therefore clients happier.

  8. admin says:

    From CP in Linked In MAS90 and MAS200 Users and Consultants Group:

    Well put, Steve. To expect 100% functionality is ludicrous. Not only does it leave no market for customization, but no upgrade path to more feature laden software. You can’t buy Peachtree and expect MAS200 functionality.

  9. admin says:

    From JP in LinkedIn ACT! Resellers Group:

    For many ACT! users the functionality and capabilities of the more recent programs is beyond their level of understanding – so the old adage of KISS! comes into play.

    As already noted – this is where ACT! consultants have a role to play in interpreting the User Requirments and leading them sloowly into deeper water. Get them comfortable with what the need before add in the additional capabilities.

    However, there are areas where Sage could make a difference without over complicating the existing levels. Simple things like having the ability to grab and parse contact information from Emails, Documents and Web sites; improving the handling of Duplications; making the Dialer capabilities more User Friendly; enabling emails to be attached to Opportunities Notes and History rather than to the Contact Record (keep all the information relating to the opportunity in one place) are some areas that would make the clients love them!

    Right now all I wan is for the DateTime problem affecting the Asia Pacific , Mexican and Spanish Users to be fixed so we can get our calendars back in operation and not have an error every time we start up.

  10. admin says:

    From SC in LinkedIn ACT! Resellers Group:

    One of my jobs as an independent CRM consultant is to find the right product for client needs. I admit to being heavily biased to ACT as it generally gives the client immediate payback for their investment and is relatively easy package for them to learn.

    On many occasions where I am told ACT will not perform a specific function we have looked at the ultimate client objective and a way has been found to achieve this within the existing product. Creating a SKYPE field, Linking to FOLDERS rather than individual documents, and changing the existing QUOTE FORMAT are just some of the requests we have been able to achieve without the need for additional add-on software.

    I do admit there are also times where we do have buy add-ons but only after we have looked very carefully to see if there is not some way we can achieve the clients goal from the existing product.

  11. admin says:

    From MG in LinkedIn MAS90 and MAS200 Users and Consultants Group:

    I add to Steve and Chad comments that MAS 90/200 addresses multiple vertical markets. What’s “common” for a wholesaler is different that what’s “common” for a manufacturer.

    Add-ons often become options and/or features in later versions. This is true for operating systems, office software systems, and ERP systems. The feedback and requests of users creates the basis for innovations (“add-ons”) that we can embrace or reject. Developer means to develop not restrict or dictate.

    An end-user that expects that their version of “basic functionality” is the global definition for all businesses, in all industries and in all economies likely believes that their opinions are facts, rather then perceptions.

    • Kayza Kleinman says:

      “An end-user that expects that their version of “basic functionality” is the global definition for all businesses, in all industries and in all economies likely believes that their opinions are facts, rather then perceptions.”

      That is a valid point. But, sometimes functionality really is broken.

      For instance, there are different ways to charge inventory – LIFO, FIFO and average cost are the three most common. You can’t say that the software does it wrong if it does it one way or another, although you had better makes sure that the software can handle it the way you need to have it handled. If, however, the software claims to be doing one thing but is doing another, then the functionality is broken. So, if the software SAYS it’s using LIFO, but is really using cost averaging, then the software is broken and needs to be fixed.

  12. admin says:

    From CJ in LinkedIn MAS90 and MAS200 Users and Consultants Group:

    If a product like MAS 90 did 100% of what 80% of the market wants it wouldn’t fit on a DVD, wouldn’t be maintainable, and wouldn’t be affordable. No company could create a viable business case for the amount of effort required to program, test, document and support all those features, many of which would be mutually exclusive.

    Personally, I’ve been doing this for over 20 years and I have yet to encounter a vanilla business that doesn’t need some tweak to the system to meet their requirements, and I cannot imagine an off the shelf package that would support all the disparate requirement of the businesses I have worked with over the years – it would be a mess.

    So, one of three choices:
    1. Buy a package like MAS 90 and modify your business practices to match the workflow and functionality of the software. This is often overlooked because the business in question maintains that “we have to do it this way”, which is sometimes true, but sometimes really means “we have to do it this way because this is how we’ve always done it”
    2. Buy a package like MAS 90, use Customizer to add functionality where possible, purchase packages add-ons where possible, then finally have an MD make modifications to the system if needed.
    3. have someone create custom software for you. This is ridiculously expensive, and I wouldn’t ever seriously make such a suggestion, nevertheless I have encountered this more times than I would have thought possible.

    • Ref. “I’ve been doing this for over 20 years and I have yet to encounter a vanilla business that doesn’t need some tweak to the system to meet their requirements.”
      And isn’t it truly impressive how far solutions have come on over that period of time. As consultants we CAN now configure the software for individual client, different software packages DO now ‘talk’ to one another (or provide the capacity to import / export information).

      Ref. “have someone create custom software for you. This is ridiculously expensive, and I wouldn’t ever seriously make such a suggestion”
      With respect, you’ve been working with the wrong people!!! There is an argument that custom software from the ground up is “expensive”, BUT does that translate to it not being “cost-effective”?

      It’s not often that we recommend a totally bespoke solution (partly because we don’t market ourselves they way) because out-of-the-box software is so customisable these days, and there are SDK/APIs to allow interfacing with them where required. However, there is still a very good argument for totally bespoke solutions for niche business requirements and businesses with the desire to keep themselves ahead of the competition. I’ve found these very excellent systems mostly developed by in-house programmers, where they’ll draw in expert 3rd party programmers for particular areas, i.e. a programmer with accounts experience to work on an accounts module or a database expert to work on data cube / mining reporting work.

  13. admin says:

    From MC in LinkedIn MAS90 and MAS200 Users and Consultants Group:

    That being said, after 25+ years on the market MAS90 is missing alot of features even a basic distributor that has a warehouse larger than 15k feet needs living in the real world where most stuff is now made overseas….

    Multi-bin, multi-currency, container tracking, landed costs (that taken into account that a container has more than 1 PO), The ability to properly palletize and ‘license plate’ product for shipping, a proper bill of lading, some support for basic variants (color/size/style).

    Clearly a package can’t do everything for everybody. Even if it could, it would be too complex for most users and wouldn’t sell well because of it.

    However, MAS was designed for a market place that outgrew Quickbooks but wasn’t ready for ‘big-time’ distribution. However, Quickbooks Enterprise and to some extent even Sage’s own Peachtree have really eroded that market with very low priced solutions. During this time MAS90’s price has crept up from about $8k in 1992 to $20k now without adding much in the way of core functionality beyond toolset and technology improvements.

    MAS90 isn’t priced much less than solutions like Apprise or Prophet 21 but is seriously gapped in terms of stock distribution functionality. Those holes need to be addressed if the solution is to remain competitive in the space that is now considered above Quickbooks Enterprise.

  14. admin says:

    From DG in LinkedIn MAS90 and MAS200 Users and Consultants Group:

    Well said MC. In addition, MAS 90 and MAS 200 are supposedly marketed to distribution and light manufacturing concerns. This was communicated to the channel at Insights during the mid market keynote. With the release of v4.45 for SQL, there is not Job Cost, Work Order, or Payroll modules available. I would add these modules to “basic functonality” for a large portion of the market segment Sage is targeting per the Insights communication.

    In general, yes, cutomization creates a lower TCO. How is this so? Because in many instances, an organization can spend $50K implementing a MAS 90 and another $10K to get the features that are not off the shelf. The alternative would be to buy a product that has more of the required features like an SAP or EPICOR and spend $200K-$300K.

    The point is, there are certain minimum requirements that should be included in software that is touted as “good fit” for distribution and light manufacturing facilities. It’s like marketing a sports car with a 4 cylinder engine and an automatic transmission.

  15. admin says:

    From RC in LinkedIn MAS90 and MAS200 Users and Consultants Group:

    Another way to frame this is to tell a prospect or client that even if you found a software package that did 100% of what you need today, and you were using 100% of the software’s features today, then it’s perfect for you – today. What happens in six months when your needs have changed? Does the product you’ve selected have the ability to grow and change as you do? Custom Office, custom development, the upcoming Sage MAS Intelligence are all tools to help you extend the functionality of your system over time to meet new requirements.

  16. admin says:

    From JMU in LinkedIn MAS90 and MAS200 Users and Consultants Group:

    I’m just going to compare this to SAP B1.

    Out of the box, SAP is crude, to say the least.

    It takes a lot of hours to plan/imbed sql logic in their formatted searches (UDF’s), to make the product even close to a real application.

    And, if anyone has dealt with their built in report designer, you will appreciate Crystal that much more. Crystal is part of SAP, but not even close to being integrated, as we know it.

    MAS90/MAS200 has come a long way, and the new tools make it at least doable with other mid-high end solutions.

    I’m still a believer.

  17. admin says:

    From MR in LinkedIn MAS90 and MAS200 Users and Consultants Group:

    I agree with much has already been mentioned…

    One has to budget what to pay out-of-the-box vs. customization. It is not always easy to know up front “everything” that is required, especially as Rick mentions, the requirements change over time.

    It sounds easy task as a user, to expect that a software product to do whatever we imagine it to do, but from a programmer’s perspective, every feature has a cost in mind, whether it is hard drive space or processing time, or both. Nobody wants to wait 10 minutes to start-up the system. It’s easier to add-ons to a Mas90/200 system, then it is to do take-aways from a SAP system.

    A software product will dictate how much work is required on the front-end (doing the set-up), how much skill, training, and knowledge the user will need to use the software, and how much maintenance is required to maintain the usefullness of the data. All of these criterias or hidden costs must be taken into consideration, aside from the acquisition costs of a new software product. Mas90/200 may be closer to Quickbooks then it is to SAP, but then again, it’s a lot easier to use. By no means, is it perfect, but more manageable than most.

  18. admin says:

    From MC in LinkedIn MAS90 and MAS200 Users and Consultants Group:

    Jeffory, to some extent, fair points, but isn’t relevant to the conversation. I don’t think Doug was referring to B1 at $200k to $300k. That is All-In-One territory.

    Except for multi-currency and proper landed costs, B1 has many of the same holes as MAS90 does in regards to distributors including lack of Multi-bin being native.

    Not sure if you’ve seen B1 version 8.8. Other than the stock reports not being re-written in crystal, the actual integration is tighter than MAS90 now and you can create crystal reports that DRILL BACK into B1 from the details lines. Something I’ve not seen on any other Crystal Integration with an ERP system. Agreed that prior Crystal support was very weak in 2007 edition. Plus you don’t have the huge provideX performance issues with the reports you create since it’s native SQL..

    The Formatted search logic is no more difficult than mastering Custom Office Scripting syntax and is better documented. Plus formatted search can directly access B1 tables. The huge problem with BOI scripts is you have to create shadow tables to access values in existing data tables. Look at how Steve M. had to do that with is great demo videos and examples.

  19. admin says:

    From MC in LinkedIn MAS90 and MAS200 Users and Consultants Group:

    Mario, it’s not always easier to add on than take away. If ‘add on’ meant buy an additional module, such as RMA, I’d be with you. But what add on usually means is if you have 3 unique requirements, you have to buy 3 add-ons from 3 vendors. Some are great, some suck. Each with their own EULA’s for the customer to sign, their own maintenance plans and contracts, their own release dates after Sage patch releases (and usually far too long) their own language and time-zone battles if the ISV isn’t based in the US (see that alot with SAP B1 add-ons). ANd generally, when something doesn’t work, you the var, as Wayne likes to put it, becomes the unpaid complaint department spinning wheels on site and on the phone and are given an interesting laugh when you attempt to bill for the hassles.

    I would say 30% of all ERP headaches relate to copy protection/security-either in the software or surrounding IT infrastructure, 30% the application itself, and 40% ISV related issues.

    • Interesting point on the EULAs, maintenance plans and contracts. From both the integrator and end users point of view, the release of a new version of an application can go smoothly, and it can go not so smoothly. This is a real tricky one which I’m not sure that the software industry hasn’t got ‘right’… I feel another blog discussion coming on as it’s too involved to cover off here.

      Regarding the time-zone point and as owner of a software company that successfully trades internationally: we’ve always worked on the basis of KISS (keeping it simple, stupid!) and Ronseal (ensuring that the software does exactly what it says on the tin). That alongside a comprehensive set of documentation, online knowledgebase, a flexible team of staff that don’t mind an occassional early morning or late night to work with a client, and a carefully selected set of resellers has got us a good foreign customer base. But, would you be more inclined to buy an add-on from a local VAR than direct from the foreign ISV? Or is the fact that it’s a foreign ISV a total barrier to buying the add-on?

  20. admin says:

    From MR in LinkedIn MAS90 and MAS200 Users and Consultants Group:

    Mark, I hear you and understand where you coming from. There are more uncontrollable problems that exist for a var as compared to and end user, who can determine when it is a appropriate time to perform an update.

    First and foremost, I was a never a big fan of updates because it wasn’t later that I discovered features that I lost that somehow wasn’t disclosed. Consequently, I would bypass all of the smaller updates and wait for all the patches to be released after the big updates, in order to counterattack, much of the problems you mentioned.

    Most of my add-ons came from Macabe, so your situation is alot more complicated than mine, dealing with 3 vendors. As an end user, before I even considered an add-on, I would have my reseller’s most senior technical support guy give me a thumbs up before I even consider it.

  21. admin says:

    From KD in LinkedIn MAS90 and MAS200 Users and Consultants Group:

    As an add-on vendor, I certainly believe that there is always a need for outside companies to create functionality that the software publisher does not include. I find it interesting to hear Mark’s take on how it is very difficult to work with 3rd parties. Is there anything an add-on company do to make your life easier? What is the differentiating factor between the vendors that “suck” or “don’t suck”?

  22. admin says:

    From RW in LinkedIn MAS90 and MAS200 Users and Consultants Group:

    If I may I would like to add my 2 cents to the discussion.

    I thoroughly understand the original posters frustration and I myself have built a career off of being disappointed with the product. As a self-taught developer I can totally agree with Marks comments on how it is impossible to make everyone happy especially in the arena of ERP systems where the underlying goal of ERP is to provide functionality for everyone in all dynamics of any enterprise. And in the support of Sage I can say that they have put a lot of effort into making the product as flexible as possible with the customizer, visual integrator, and best of all The Business Objects Interface. With the tools they have provided virtually anything is possible where I am sure that any business problem can be handled without modifying existing ProvideX code or in other words not changing the way the original product works. Where I think Sage can make the product as strong as it possibly can is too provide a means for a technical person too acquire the knowledge to leverage the product in new innovative ways. It has been a challenging ordeal to get documentation as most of the documentation is only shared between Sage and there partners where it is difficult for talented professionals who are not sage partners to acquire the knowledge necessary to work with the product in a way that promotes a solution to a critical business problem. The beauty of their work with the BOI is that it can interface with a multitude of computer languages therefor making it easier to find the talent necessary to achieve the objectives a particular company would need.

    The reality is that we live in a world where technology doubles in capacity in a very short amount of time. There seems to be a shortage in regional talent that is able to keep up with the rapid advancement of this technology which makes this kind of work an exorbitant expense. Affordable development is available but it is very difficult communicate with talent that is both culturally and physically on the other side of the world.

    All in all if there was one thing that I could change it would be that Sage would make it easier for any users (technical or not) to learn the product regardless of whether or not they are a partner or not. If they eat the cost it takes to produce the material they would most certainly make it back in dividends as the product would be all the more valued to those who use it which in turn would yield more sales.

  23. admin says:

    From GF in LinkedIn MAS90 and MAS200 Users and Consultants Group:

    Quick list…Vendors that suck
    1. Other than closing initial sale…never hear from them again regarding our customer.
    2. Tech support has an attitude and is slow to respond.
    3. Customers never here from them again…so sometimes software gets outdated and or customers falls behind.
    4. Apps developed are not supported through out life of MAS product.
    5. Apps not easy to install or uninstall.
    6. Apps change MAS code.

    Vendors that don’t suck (by the way… Scanco does not suck!)
    1. Timely and Courteous followup
    2. Working solutions..without a lot of reseller involvement
    3. Easy to install and un install apps.
    4. Constant contact with CUSTOMER and RESELLER… with each release of MAS to keep them up to date.
    5. Quick app updates after new released of MAS.
    6. Apps add on to MAS code and don’t change it.

  24. admin says:

    From KM in LinkedIn MAS90 and MAS200 Users and Consultants Group:

    Speaking as a Master Developer, I would like to add my 2 cents as well. I have been around the MAS90 world since Level 1, so I have seen the product morph from the simple DOS accounting software it used to be, to the ERP application we see today. I have also been to enough “Dog and Pony Shows” to know that often times we present this application to a potential client, or present the latest and greatest version to an existing client for a potential upgrade, we are met with “well, it does not do xxxx or why can’t we do xxxxxx? We could do it with our old software” (one of my personal favorites). We rarely tell a client the software “cannot do that”. What we tell the client is “we can make the software do that”. It’s our job (and our pleasure) to make the software do as the client needs it to do.

    To address the Sucks vs. Does not Suck list – I am sorry Glen, you had bad experiences in the past with Master Developers; we are not all bad people!! I am not sure how things went down with your previous programmers. We normally write new programs in addition to modifying the existing to accept the new. It’s kind of a Domino affect. If we were to create new lines of code without integrating with existing lines, that would be a wee problem. Think of it like installing another MAS90 module such as Bill of Materials, then deciding it was not the right fit for your organization. Data files were created and integrated to your IM, PO and SO data files. Enhancements work along the same principle.

  25. admin says:

    From KM in LinkedIn MAS90 and MAS200 Users and Consultants Group:

    As a followup to my previous post, I would like to ask all of you to read a post by David Faye. Although this was written a few months ago, it is spot-on to this post: http://www.fayebsg.com/2010/01/customizing-software-is-not-so-bad/

  26. admin says:

    From RW in LinkedIn MAS90 and MAS200 Users and Consultants Group:

    Nice! Thanks for sharing that.

    If I could add a point to his counter argument to “The Software Never Works Right Again” it would be. If the software worked right in the first place why would you consider customizing it?

    In regard to “You Can’t Upgrade” I can see why consultants would disparage custom programing as upgrades are probably there bread and butter. Custom programming will introduce challenges that will need to be overcome which may result in the client postponing what could be a simple upgrade if not for the customizations for a later date. So the consultant does not get that chunk of cheese at the end of the day which is “Bad” relative to the consultant and then the consultant needs to share that chunk of cheese if the client does upgrade. All in all when it does come time to upgrade it can be done and the worst case scenario is that the customizations are rewritten. But in many cases it may be just a few changes necessary to make the customizations work again as long as there are no radical changes to the underlying data used. In many cases nothing needs to be done at all and they continue to work after an upgrade without intervention from a programmer. In cases where the inventory module upgrades from 3.x to the BOI framework and you have some heavy customization in the realm of inventory then you’re going to incur some heavy cost if those customizations are mission critical. Which goes back to the point above…? Why would you need customization if the software worked right in the first place? More functionality costs more to have and maintain and if a company elects to purchase a less expensive package they are not going to get as much functionality.

    As for “You Become Beholden to the Programmer”… not much different than being dependent on a very expensive consultant or anyone that has professional knowledge that the client needs.

    Thanks for sharing that link there are many good points in it.

  27. admin says:

    From RW in LinkedIn MAS90 and MAS200 Users and Consultants Group:

    I realize that my comments so far seem to be ragging on the product at large and I would like to add a little bit to clarify my view of it. For a reasonable price tag MAS 90/200 does do a satisfactory job at handling a wide array of business functions right out of the box. When it comes down to answering the question why can’t my MAS 90/200 software do XXXXX? The fact is that it is very likely that MAS 90/200 can do it due to the diligent efforts by Sage developers to provide the customization tools to allow it to happen. Granted it takes a high degree of knowledge and talent to accomplish this but it can be done without modifying the original products code in any way. If a client wants to pony up and pay the price to make it happen I would be delighted to have the opportunity to prove that MAS 90/200 can do XXXX.

  28. admin says:

    From DH in LinkedIn MAS90 and MAS200 Users and Consultants Group:

    I always have to laugh when a client or prospect says to me “My old Quickbooks (or substitute Quickbooks with any other accounting package could to that” so why can’t MAS 90? The reason is obvious: anyone can pick out at least one feature that is not available in competitors offering. I’m sure there are some nice features in a Quickbooks or a peachtree, et al that aren’t available in MAS 90. But…. there are hundreds of MAS 90 features that aren’t available in Quickbooks. So one needs to look for the software that is the best fit within a budget.

    For most small or mid sized business, buying SAP r/3 would likely get you every feature necessary, but the cost of implementation and maintenance would be very high. Another alternative would be to change your business practices to fit whatever software you choose. Not many business owners are likely to do this, but, in my opinion it may not be such a bad alternative, as many small businesses could benefit from some process re-engineering. The best alternative would be to buy a SMB solution such as MAS 90 or MAS 200, and get maybe 90% of your needs off the shelf. Spend additional money customizing it to get the remaining 10%. Now your total cost of ownership is reasonable and your have software that you envisioned. Of course this solution has it’s pitfalls, but it is better than the other options.

  29. admin says:

    From JN in LinkedIn MAS90 and MAS200 Users and Consultants Group:

    Beware of the coming change to all this! The prospect who asked the question that started this thread is in the “old camp.” The “new camp” prospects are thinking about this completely differently. You can thank the past 10 years of SaaS product development for this.

    Like it or not, some key features and expectations of an ERP product are being set by experience with CRM and other products delivered via SaaS. Among them:
    – fixed, monthly price for the functionality package chosen.
    – invisible (ok, nearly so) upgrades
    – tech focus is on product usage, not on fixing things

    Yes, yes, I know that these are perfectly delivered on SaaS products now. But the expectation to have them is spreading.

    The monthly, per user, fee for SaaS is developing an increased interest in TCO.

    All Sage divisions have as one of their top goals producing products with “no break upgrades.” MAS 90 sees it in the BOI customizatios which survive through upgrades. For better or worse, making money on upgrades will be a thing of the past very soon.

    I expect to see more proposals discuss simply the functionality included in a proposed product package, not the price per item (think “EES”).

    If your prospects aren’t yet focusing simply on the problems the package solves, the return to the company to solve it, and the price of the solution to deliver it, then expect them to soon.

    I think 5-10 years from now, a thread like this will sound quaint.

    • I totally agree that SaaS is having an impact on the “old camp” way of delivering solutions, but I don’t necessarily thinks that it’s reaching anything like end of life. Rightly or wrongly, these (arguably) legacy things have a habit of lingering around (despite efforts to put them to bed, see VB6 and IE6!!!).

      To the end user SaaS pricing model may be attractive, but as author you need to achieve a critical mass of subscribers to make the business viable which only larger (or new, ambitious and well marketed) software authors can achieve. Some end users also like the idea of buying and owning software outright – a one off cost and then not taking on updates / upgrades.

      With regard SaaS upgrades – what if I don’t want them, what if I’m happy with how the software works because all my users understand it and it just works the way I like. On a SaaS model, I may not get the option not to upgrade.

  30. Kayza Kleinman says:

    I don’t have a problem with paying for add-ons. And I do think that the fact that Quotewerks encourages the creation of add-ons is a big plus, and it’s one of the things that I looked at before moving to the product.

    I don’t mind paying for things that are unique to the way I do business. And, I’m even ok with the idea of paying for additional functionality that I think has wide application. What I don’t like is paying for an add-on to make existing functionality work correctly – especially when a company has been on notice about the problem for a long time.

    So, if I need an export to a niche accounting product, of course I need to be ready to pay for the work, or, hopefully, an add-on. If I want or need connectivity with Outlook, then I need to be ready to pay for the add-on, even though I could make the argument that it would be useful to lots of people. But, if the vendor is claiming to have a feature, then it needs to work correctly. If it’s *broken*, then I shouldn’t have to pay to fix the problem.

    To me that’s the key difference. If you claim functionality, it needs to work and your customers shouldn’t have to pay to fix your errors. For anything else – be prepared to pay if the feature is important enough to you.

  31. admin says:

    From JN in LinkedIn MAS90 and MAS200 Users and Consultants Group:

    I’ve been a master developer for over 12 years. I’ve seen good and bad. It wasn’t until I started work on other software packages written in Providex that I really understood what a pretty good package MAS90/MAS200 really is. Take a look at other softwares then revisit the MAS product. It is eye-opening.

  32. admin says:

    From SS in NUB! Northwest UK Business Group:

    No, because no software package will address everyone’s perception of X, and no business would pay for a piece of software so huge that it addressed everyone’s version of X out of the box. I guess the answer depends on what the business needs and good requirements analysis. No software package will ever do X for everyone.

    I have worked with Dynamics 4.0, vTiger, TeamServer, Maximiser, Mamut and many more. They all have their pros and cons, and the trick is defining “X” before you propose a solution. Dynamics provides useful expansion with the ability to add entities and some great scheduling features, but there are also many low cost, or open source CRM solutions which address 80-90% of small business requirements out of the box. There are an increasing number of industry specific solutions available for Care Homes and Central Heating installers etc which try to address “X” for a specific industry, which is more realistic.

    Happy to talk to anyone about IT strategies on a budget.

  33. admin says:

    From SY in NUB! Northwest UK Business Group:

    If you buy a piece of software and then start to develop add-ons for it (whether you pay for them or not), then you have bought the wrong software.

    The likelihood of your / anyone’s business being so unique that there is no software already out there to handle it is pretty much zero. So the trick is to work out what you want now, where logically that might take you over the next 3-5 years in terms of further requirements, and spec your software purchase accordingly. And buy software that already does it. If you can’t find software to meet your perceived need, then it is quite likely your need is not real, and that, by thinking laterally, you should find a different way to solve your problem.

    Businesses often get very hung up about “their” requirements. However to get too hung up about these is to ignore the reality that there are only a small number of distinct business processes. For example, all manufacturing businesses buy stuff, do things do the stuff and then sell other stuff. Whether it is food, chemicals, automotive or whatever, the core principles and processes are the same, and don’t let anyone tell you their business is different. All businesses have suppliers, staff, and customers. A CRM system needs to handle complex customer interactions, but they are the same regardless of industry.

    The trick therefore is to buy a solution appropriate to your place in the market (number of users, budget etc). The software distinguishes itself by the depth of the functionality, and by its reporting capabilities.

  34. admin says:

    From GF in LinkedIn MAS90 and MAS200 Users and Consultants Group:

    I know I am coming to this discussion late… but my 2 cents….

    Sage did a great job with its MD (Master Developer) program and continues to have better standards and processes for managing developers than most of its competitors. I can’t remember running into add-on conflict as I have seen with other products.

    For MAS 90/200, I think of it as a pretty out of the box solution for many customers. I do like add-ons that are products not custom code and some of Mark’s examples of things he would like in the products have been done pretty well. I loved extended solutions and the fact that Sage backed them, but that ship has left the port.

    Custom code that is written for one customer and then sold as an add-on is rarely a product that is sustainable for multiple customers over a long haul unless it is really narrow in scope. Some MD’s also do try to make the customer beholden to the programmer, but shame on the consultant or consumer who falls into this trap these days (that’s so 80’s).

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.