Sunday, 19 September 2010

Disclosure is Everything – but difficult for Management to Grasp and Execute.

In my posting, CIP - The Bomb; fragments ‘CAD in the Cloud’, I suggested one of the ways in which users could judge the Trustworthiness and Integrity of CAD vendors’ management and staff was in the way they interacted with you/their customers and how Transparent they were prepared to be in dealing with customer concerns and questions.

I used Autodesk’s ‘response’ to my questions (relating to their terms and conditions) and the application of the Customer Involvement Program (CIP) as an example of how these business practices are a window into the management and staff of a software vendor; now we have another example.

I recently wrote a letter - (sent via email) to Deelip Menezes in his role as CEO of Sycode asking several questions in relations to his published software terms and conditions.

Deelip’s response was to tell me I have “lost the right to have a private correspondence with me the day you posted the contents of my private emails to you on your blog without my permission”. He is of course referring to a series of emails initiated by me contacting Deelip and then referenced in, Rabid_Dog puts CIP_Data Up For_Sale.

He also made the point; “I find it odd that you make all this noise about why users should not trust the CAD vendors with their data when you cannot be trusted to even maintain the confidentiality of a private conversation”.

Three points quickly here, I initiated the original conversation and at no time did Deelip ask for his comments to be kept confidential. I am not a CAD software vendor offering or likely to be offering ‘cloud’ solutions and therefore do not need to ask for the trust ‘cloud software vendors’ need to prove they are capable of supporting; and to which my post refers.

To paraphrase Deelip (Vektorrum): For whatever its worth, I’d like to publicly apologize to Deelip for any inconvenience this incident may have caused him. It was not my intention to deceive him, whilst passing myself off as myself, getting him to say things that I could use against him.

Yes, I did use parts of a conversation I initiated with Deelip and no (his comments) were not collected for later use. Mea culpa. My mistake for not realizing only Deelip has the right to reference me and his comments to me.

That part of the spat though is a side issue, what is of significant importance, is the questions Deelip sidestepped with his admonishment. They follow;

“The first of which is, are you prepared to negotiate your licence terms and conditions? If Yes, are there limitations you would place on negotiations and what would those limitations be?

Would you be prepared to remove your audit and insolvency clauses if asked to do so? If Yes, would it be conditional and if so what would those conditions be?”

Yes, Sycode has in its terms and conditions some interesting clauses; the Audit being one and, one of particular interest to me given it is a ‘clone’ of Autodesk’s.

In a recent stoush on another blog we witnessed a tussle in which both Deelip and Michael Gibson contributed substantially. Both these fellows, as CEO’s., of their respective companies had an ideal opportunity to get their important points about - ‘software ownership/licencing etc.’ – across to the readers, and they failed to do so. The reason they failed is, in part, because, neither choose to embrace this issue from any alternative point(s) of view.

Licencing and business/software terms and conditions are neither difficult to understand nor implement. But they do require commonsense and in the light of our current level, and future use of the ‘cloud’ they do need everybody involved to understand what is reasonable/acceptable and what is not.

Software ‘ownership’ discussions have ‘raged’ in various forms and for various reasons for some time now and, they have really shown just how deficient the management of major and minor software companies are in using the ’power’ of the internet to educate and take their customers with them. CEO’s talk big about the advantages of the WEB and the ‘Cloud’ but cannot use, effectively, the tools they have had for ‘ages’ to engage their customers. The dismal performance of Autodesk’s managements in addressing my published concerns is all the evidence you need of these failings. You may well be about to witness another!

The internet is about breaking down time and access/barriers and being able to share and engage like no other time in history; and it requires some real re-thinking about how we interact. I don’t see any evidence the current crop of software CEO’s, in our sphere, are equipped to engage their customers as is necessary and I personally would say those I have tried to communicate with do not even have the courage to engage their customers as is needed; with one possible exception – Deelip Menezes. Let’s see if Deelip is really any different and, can show the ‘big guys’ how it should be done.

Firstly, understand, I believe and accept software developers have a ‘right’ to determine the contents of their T&C’s but as I have demonstrated, to Autodesk’s discomfort and loss; the application of them in the ‘newer mediums’ cannot (always) be exactly the same as in the ‘old days’ and, customers ‘rights’ and an ability to challenge MUST be taken into consideration and be part of future computing ‘orientated’ transactions.

As an example Deelip announced to the world Raytheon had become a customer. Evan Yares made the point, Deelip may have breached Raytheon’s terms of purchase. Now I don’t know (the complete or) what the order of events was but my take is easy; if an order was placed on Deelip and he did not re-negotiate the clause preventing him using Raytheon’s name, he possibly was in breach. However if Deelip’s product was purchased on-line with no correspondence to ‘enforce’ the purchasers T&C’s then Deelip was not in breach as such; he may just be guilty of not thinking very carefully. Wisdom comes with age and by way of lessons learned from ones mistakes.

The reason I raise the Raytheon issue is because it highlights one problem ‘unique’ to online business trading. I still issue purchase orders for my software and that has become a problem for dealers because my terms and conditions have equal standing to their own; and this goes for/against Autodesk as well. The one thing business software users cannot afford to loose is their ability to apply purchasing terms and conditions or to loose the ability to negotiate. The latter is already a casualty in need of serious surgery.

In considering why I am interested in Deelip’s response to his ‘Audit’ clause; it would be wise to remember Deelip once made this very public (and for me, a very useful) comment.

“I develop CAD software. If I want I can make my software send me all kinds of data belonging to my customers. The moment someone runs my EXE on their computer and tells their firewall that its OK for that EXE to connect to the internet, I can do just about what I want on that computer, just like a virus. But I don’t because that is not my freaking business. And that is why people buy my software.” But…..?

Deelip has the capability and he appears to believe he needs to ensure his customers have provided him a pathway to use the capability, why? What is worse though, he has sown a seed of distrust, and defined a security issue! I wonder how Raytheon would view finding out ‘they have accepted’ a condition requiring them to (potentially) allow an audit of their facilities by Deelip or his representative?

Using the WEB more widely and in particular using ‘CAD in the Cloud’ requires those in CAD vendor management being very closely ‘linked’ to their customers and, it requires their ABSUOLUTE Integrity and Transparency and that of their staff and affiliates as well.

Now, I ask Deelip the questions again: hoping to see Deelip is the CEO of the future. One who can convince the wider skeptical public CAD CEO’s can be trusted, by engaging in a full and frank discussion about his T&Cs, why they are important to him and will stay and, his reasons for (enforcing) them; starting with the following questions;

“The first of which is, are you prepared to negotiate your licence terms and conditions? If Yes, are there limitations you would place on negotiations and what would those limitations be?

Would you be prepared to remove your audit and insolvency clauses if asked to do so? If Yes, would it be conditional and if so what would those conditions be?”

Over ;-)

1 comment:

FCSuper said...

I asked asked similar questions about CAD on the Cloud awhile back in my article "Layers of clouds for Dassault Systemes Part 2: Thunderheads"

24th May 2007

Buyer Beware…’, was the title of a letter published in the Sydney Morning Herald on the 24th May 2005. It detailed a fundamental shift in the use of a particular EULA away from being a tool that defined the rules of use for software – reasonable - to a legally enforceable contract containing a number of questionable conditions including one granting the licensor, "the right to conduct an audit on your premises or by electronic means"; unreasonable!

The EULA moved from being a contract defining what you can and cannot do with software to a contract, if accepted unchallenged, that specifically gives the licensor access to your premises, business, design and computing systems!

Caveat emptor, the Blog, is an extension of that original letter and highlights my original, unanswered, requests relating to the addition of Audit clauses in my existing Subscription and Licence contracts. Requests for information and detail that I, as an established licence holder and customers, have every right to; and information the licensor should be compelled and obligated to provide!

If my goal is considered offensive, unjustified or unreasonable it will only be by those who believe protecting their IP is more important than that of others. To them I make no apology; if the issues raised previously had been broached correctly, and in the first instance, they would have long ago passed by.

Caveat venditor: ‘Like a dog with a bone’, I have absolutely no intention of letting go of these issues until they all are sensibly discussed and answered as I believe they should be!