A reality checklist for vendors

  • 26-Feb-2009

Web CMS vendors live at an interesting intersection between the new and the old: They live with one foot firmly planted in the enterprise-software world (a world of servers and routers and black console screens with flashing cursors), and the other foot planted on the Flashy, fast-shifting ground of the Internet.

The two worlds are diverging rapidly. Traditional enterprise software development (the kind associated with "programming in the large") tends to be slow, costly, inflexible. Solution sales, marketing, and support tend to be correspondingly process-heavy and inertia-laden. The Web, on the other hand, is agile, fun, and friction-free. It has changed the way people look at computing. It has changed expectations (and conversations) around marketing, pricing, maintenance, support, and just about every other aspect of the enterprise-software experience.

And yet somehow, software vendors who should know better (again: vendors in the Web CMS space) are sometimes failing to perceive how profoundly things have changed in the past year or so.

As a public service, then, I propose the following "reality-check checklist" for Web CMS vendors (and other enterprise software vendors) who intend to stay afloat -- if not prosper -- in 2009 and beyond. Violate these rules at your own risk.:


1. Our software comes with an installer program.

2. Installing or uninstalling our software does not require a reboot of your machine.

3. You can choose your locale and language at install time, and never have to see English again after that.

4. Eval versions of the latest edition(s) of our software are always available for download from the company website.

5. Our WCM software comes with a fully templated "sample web site" and sample workflows, which work out-of-the-box.

6. We ship a tutorial.

7. You can raise a support issue via a button, link, or menu command in our administrative interface.

8. All help files and documentation for the product are laid down as part of the install.

9. We run our entire company website using the latest version of our own WCM products.

10. Our salespeople understand how our products work.

11. Our software does what we say it does.

12. We don't charge extra for our SDK.

13. Our licensing model is simple enough for a 5-year-old to understand.

14. We have one price sheet for all customers.

15. Our top executives are on Skype, Twitter, or some similar channel, and: Feel free to contact them directly at any time.

Did I miss anything? Leave a comment below. I'd like to know your thoughts.