Quarterly Releases == Trust

Discussion on the shift from "Big Bang" releases to quarterly releases at WebWorks.com and the importance of trust in software development.

by Ben Allums
March 28, 2008

Quarterly Releases

Our first-ever quarterly release is scheduled to ship early next week. On the one hand, you could say our first quarterly release will be at the end of June. On the other hand, even if customers cannot yet perceive the change, internally we're experiencing shifts in our approach to building and shipping software. It's been an interesting journey.

In the past, WebWorks.com has always shipped “Big Bang” releases. You know, the ones where if we couldn't label it “Newer!” and “Tastier!”, Marketing and Sales wanted more. This mentality meant most any desired feature could delay a release. Bug fixes and Support issues be damned! The thought process evolved to become, “Introducing feature X will cause customers to forget about defects A, B, and C.” Is that the right way to build and ship software? What message does that convey? What message do we want to convey?


In Stephen Covey's “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People,” Stephen guides readers toward the concept of a “principle-centered life.” I've come to realize that what holds true for people also holds true for organizations. So the question is: What principles center WebWorks.com?

I answered this question by thinking back through all the years of feedback from customers and partners. Through all of it, there evolved an image of what our past actions were leading us towards. All of the times developers stayed late to fix one last defect. All of the times our Support staff took the time to help a customer reach success. And all of the effort spent trying with all our might to understand customer needs. Heck, I even caught a clue from the behavior of customers who complained for years about this and that, yet steadfastly insisted they would use no other product.

There was only one answer. Trust.

Quarterly Releases == Trust

The effort to develop, package, ship, notify, and handle all aspects of a quarterly release demonstrates our commitment as a company to enable users to trust us. Yes, we slip up now and again. And yes, we do have to charge money to keep the lights on. But mistakes and a need for profit are not obstacles to establishing trust with customers.

Today, we have an opportunity to foster that trust relationship every three months! Now, about that Q2 release...