I was listening to a Redmonk Podcast on the train on the way home from work today, and James from Redmonk said something that struck a chord with me. The quote was…
How many customers really have the requirements of Charles Schwab? That is an edge case and sometimes large software companies treat these edge cases as if they were the most sensible source of requirements.
This just really gelled with me. I’ve been working for the largest global mobile telecommunications company on earth for 8 years now, and we battle with vendors every day on requirements, features, architectures and roadmaps that we’d like them to build into their applications. What I take from that (and other things I’ve been reading and listening to) is that you have to be acutely aware of who your customer base is. If you are serving the top 5-10 companies in a particular sector in the world, then you can clearly afford to bend to their requirements, because that’s what they are paying you for. If you are trying to hit mass market, don’t try and emulate the big boys. Keep it simple. Keep the minimum. Keep the maintenance down.
I guess this aligns well with the philosophy that 37 Signals use with their rails apps, and also with the way I tried to create Got the GiST. That was an exercise in taking a painful and complex activity (tax preparation) and simplifying it so my mother could use it.
This is also something I need to remember when I start my new job in just over 1 month. Moving to the vendor/consultant side of the equation is going to be a real eye opener. I won’t always be working with very large enterprises.
The episode was only podcast 2 (very old!), I’ve only recently been introduced to these guys by a colleague. I say give them a listen if you’re keen for an alternative analysts take on IT and the industry.