I have in the past year encountered several variations of the same two business problems. I wonder what each of you have found works best to deal with them ...
- The “first adopter,” now left behind: A company that was one of the very first adopters of a new and hitherto-uncomputerized idea. Although they never sought venture-capital and therefore never became any sort of household name, for a decade or so they did do very well. (After all, when you are competing with “there’s nothing like it,” anything-at-all looks great and pays well.) But... now they are stuck with a Web 1.0 web-site and a rapidly shrinking customer base. Competitors have watched their every false move and are now eating their lunch, but the company itself seems preoccupied with its “glory days.” They’re in denial.
- Open source, free apps, no revenue: This company made a name for itself first with “open-source” applications and packages; some of which you might know. It also produced a handheld-computer “app” which has been very popular ... for free. More than 124,000 free downloads, in fact. And about 1,900 copies of the “premium” version of the same product were sold for the apparently industry-standard rate of $1.00 apiece, and there was price-pushback for even 25-cents more. :-/ Well, guess which one’s generating all the support-calls, and the negative reviews from “free-bees” who didn’t get their way! Either way, the problem is: lots of “customers,” but no revenue to keep the lights on for any of it. The company can plainly hear “the great big sucking sound,” but they’re also in denial ... or maybe it’s just shock and terror. The FMV of what they’ve put into this thing is a quarter-million easy, but all they’ve actually gotten for it is “recognition.”
As the entire global economy continues to “tank,” I suspect that many business enterprises are starting to take a much closer look at what might actually give them sustainable revenue streams ... and that the things which we have been doing and the things which we have been advocating for the last decade or so as “the new economy” simply are not passing muster anymore. What to do? How can these scenarios be turned around? What cost justifications, and indeed what costs, might there be? I am beginning to see the whites of their eyes.
Edit: As I put in a comment below, I and my company are seriously in need of a serious discussion here. I think it is a timely topic for all of us everywhere and that it needs exposition and discussion ... perhaps not so much to draw conclusions but to share observations and experiences and insights. I know that there are long-standing customers out there who fear that they are staring bankruptcy in the face, due to technological evolution; and, they just might be. Obviously Perl technology can accommodate anythin we ask. Also obviously, our tools and responsibilities of course stretch well beyond “just Perl,” and this also happens to be the most esteemed company of software engineers I know of. Hyperlinks welcome.