We are reaping rewards this week from being a user of our Point of Sale software. Last Tuesday night we installed a major update (beta release) to our software in our two retail businesses. This provides us with practical experience without inconveniencing paying users. Having our own employees using the software they gain first hand experience with the update and this enables us to see what needs to be tweaked to ensure that what we deliver our paying users is valuable to them. Without our own retail businesses we’d otherwise rely on use feedback and any software developer knows that can be problematic. Developers know the boundaries whereas users often don’t report issues thinking they may be transient or caused by non software factors.
This update is especially challenging because we have replaced our database engine and we plan to ship the change without on site interaction. By placing our developers on site for the update and time following they were able to see the software under the pump of a busy retail business. This shortens the update process and increases the scope of updates. Our approach is efficient for all stakeholders.
Even though our experience tells us that users will be able to install this update themselves, we will install it in several other sites to ensure that what we experienced in our own business was not a once off.. Had we not had access to our own retail business the final version of the update (due in a few weeks) would not have been as good.
I’d encourage all vertical market software developers to own their own fully operational user site. Certainly in our case it provides an unassailable competitive advantage.