Back a few weeks ago, I wrote 2009.4 and the missing feature. Customers gave that post some great feedback. People seemed to understand our goals for end-of-year releases. It made sense to them that we dedicate time in our annual release cycle to focus solely upon stability.
As validating as it was to receive that feedback, concerns were expressed regarding the pace of ePublisher releases. The message?
This issue, our quarterly release schedule, has come up before. I've heard it mentioned by attendees during our RoundUp conferences in 2008 and 2009. Folks simply felt overwhelmed by the prospect of rolling out a new ePublisher release within their organization every quarter. They could see it stretch out before them, quarter, after quarter... after quarter... after quarter. They loved the new features and bug fixes we were making available. They just wanted those releases paced every six or twelve months rather than every three months.
First, let me say loud and clear, “I understand”. Back in 1997, I took at two year break from WebWorks.com (Quadralay to you old timers) and worked at Tivoli Software. Tivoli had recently been purchased by IBM. It was a place with vast resources and a customer base who faced daunting deployment challenges. To give you an idea of what they were up against, consider this. One of Tivoli's customers managed 36,000 systems world-wide with Tivoli management software. It took somewhere on the order of 18-36 months to roll out a new release. 1 1/2 to 3 years?!? This was a time frame that shocked me. This was such a big chunk of time that folks working on the project retired. Others went from burping newborns to wrestling with two year olds. And the computers they worked on were getting replaced completely (most had three year leases). Coming back to WebWorks.com in 1999, I brought with me an appreciation of what organizations are up against when it comes to deploying new software releases.
So, what about ePublisher and quarterly releases?
First, the lesson from Tivoli was simply this: Customers can't/won't pick up every release. Organizations need to pick a time frame that works best for them. With quarterly releases, we let you run as fast as your needs dictate. The quarterly cycle ensures we are moving users away from having to rely on workarounds created in Support. They get to ditch those short-term fixes and move on to out-of-box product. This helps everyone because out-of-box products are easier to deploy and maintain than a product with workarounds.
Second, keep in mind that WebWorks.com supports ePublisher releases for a minimum of two years. That means, if you're running ePublisher 2009.1, as long as your support contract is active, we'll help you keep 2009.1 running throughout 2010 and into 2011.
Finally, to help you decide when the time is right to make a switch, we provide you with all the information you need. We take care to document the major changes for each release series (see 2008 and 2009). We also provide detailed release notes. Our goal is to provide you with everything you need to make an informed upgrade decision.
So what do you think? Do we have the right approach?