Thursday, 7 October 2010

Opportunity Knocks and then Knocks Differently.

“Those who ignore the lessons of the past are destined to repeat the mistakes.”

Recently, whilst working on a problem the irony of the solution found immediately made me smile. My solution lay in the use of software to be found in Sycode’s stable of utilities.

For those who know my business, it would have never been a surprise to find, one day, me using Sycode’s tools. Typically most of my work is Autodesk product based, training and support with a particular interest in problem shapes or geometry hassles; things that go wrong for users.

What made the situation I found myself in ironic is embodied in Sycode’s published terms and conditions. Sycode’s terms and conditions contain some very invasive and unreasonable clauses; clauses very similar too, if not ‘lifted’ directly from Autodesk Inc. Given I have not accepted Autodesk’s T&Cs it is highly unlikely I would accept Sycode’s.

;-) I think I’ve been here before!

So, a quick letter to Sycode’s CEO Deelip Menezes about the clauses in question drew the response detailed in a previous blog posting. The questions remain un-answered. Interestingly, in the tweeting that followed (that we saw), Deelip made no mention of the reason for the letter, but did ask the question; ‘it was in letter form….should I be worried?’. Well no, though maybe a bit of sensible thought (and an answer) would not have been (professionally) out of place!

With no answer from Deelip, I still had a job in hand and no time to muck around, so I fired off a purchase order (a commitment) to Deelip. I requested he consider removing, from his T&C’s, for ‘this single instance’, the Insolvency and Audit clauses. I stated if he accepted my request, added no additional conditions and, responded in writing the transaction would proceed. A simple enough request for a competent business owner to handle, process and answer; and a contract in the literal sense!

Had Deelip’s answer been yes, $245.00 US. would have immediately found its way into Sycode’s account and Deelip’s software would have been pressed into service. But it was not to be, and Deelip is the person who knows why. I suspect petulance played a part. “Sycode - software made simple” – but not universally available: unless of course Sycode’s T&Cs are accepted unconditionally, without question or negotiation and payment is made in full before delivery – or your not this Waddington?

Where have we seen this ‘attitude’ before!

Now this situation is different, to that which divides Autodesk and I, for a number of reasons. A primary one being I (currently) use no Sycode software; it was not a discussion about a change in the T&Cs of existing software. So, no negotiation simply meant no purchase. To Deelip, maybe, $245.00 is no great loss compared to being able to now gloat he ‘poked me in the eye’.

Some marketeers would have their views on the handling of this situation and the ‘value of a disgruntled customer’. For me, it was neither a loss nor even a momentary inconvenience - it provided another type of opportunity. It became fodder for Caveat emptor. Was sending me a childish message and, getting ‘your own way’, worth having this record (and that which will follow) attached to the name of Sycode, Deelip?

A few points to make; Deelip has not denied me (as far as I know) access to his product and, he does have his ‘rights’. He can define his T&Cs and he can, in theory, choose with whom he negotiates. Interestingly though, ignoring my request Deelip has, now, compromised Sycode’s T&C’s and maybe more besides. But let’s look on the bright side Deelip, at least now you can say you have a lot more in common with Autodesk and CEO Bass than just the clauses in your respective T&Cs ;-)

In a previous posting, CIP - The Bomb; fragments ‘CAD in the Cloud’, I argued CIP, and similar systems or software are windows into the management of a software vendor; and challenge the Integrity of all involved. I also said that one way to judge the management of a company was in the way the individuals involved interacted with existing and ‘new’ customers. Caveat Venditor: consumers deserve better!*

I argue an expanded use of the internet and the ‘cloud’ requires customer to place enormous (and maybe too much) Trust in their software vendors. Because of this fact, vendors’ management MUST be able to and respond (quickly and Truthfully) with answers to ALL the questions asked, regardless of content or reason. The internet is a communication ‘interface’ between retailers and customers (Sycode and Draftsight are similar but differing examples) so it stands to reason this is the same system vendors’ management are going to need to use to interact with their customers. Get it right and it will be successful; use it in the manner I have highlighted and it will haunt.

Vendors want, and are quick, to use the internet to ‘force’ their business arrangements - eg. T&C’s and payment before delivery, etc. - and to use it as a moat between themselves and their customers. However, they have refused to learn to effectively use the same communication tools, as a bridge, for situations which may be problematic; and yet this is an ideal place and an ideal set of tools with which to respond. Just imagine the positive flow on effect had Autodesk answered my questions (as requested) about licencing and CIP. Instead they churlishly chose to stall, ignore and worse and, as a result are seen to be hiding something. Deelip has chosen to ‘ignore with comment’; Mr. Aaron Kelly simply chose to ignore my requests - Three times.

Management attitudes on display and prime examples of just how backward* software vendor management is in using ‘modern’ communication tools, in a ‘modern’ manner. More than keen to use it for their own benefit and to the deliberate disadvantage of their customers and individuals; and they have the hide to tell us we are not embracing technology fast enough (ie 2D to 3D etc.) and intimate we should place still more Trust in their abilities, services and products.

It’s a new form of slapstick – we (software vendor management) whack you (the customer and fall guy) around on the stage of business and expect you to keep standing up to take the custard pies in the face as well!

In the case of CAD; the changes customers have had to grasp, cope with, apply and fund, in the last 30+ years, far exceeds the growth and effort in vendor management’s capability to be Truthful and Transparent with their customers. Petty personal attitudes, deceit and selective disconnection practiced by vendors’ management is at the heart of my posts.

Caveat Emptor is a warning to consumers and, the internet and this blog are tools for consumers. That these tools can be used this way will sooner or later sink through skulls and, penetrate the conscience of software vendor CEO’s, management and staff.

When, in the late 1890s’, Lawrence Hargraves said the following he could just as well have been talking about the internet;

In my mind, the flying machine will tend to bring peace and goodwill to all; it will throw light on the few unexplored corners of the earth and it will herald the downfall of all restrictions to the free intercourse of nations”.

As aircraft were, and still are, capable of reducing the barriers of distance, communication and function for peace or as a weapon. So too the internet reduces distance and time barriers and it is an equalizing agent; it is also a tool of scrutiny and a (potential) weapon. Software vendors’ management can either embrace it ‘all’ or continue to use it selfishly (and as a weapon) only to find it slowly fretting away their credibility.

Face to face, over the counter trading ‘has gone’ guys, eg. Sycode/Draftsight. The question(s) a customer may have asked ‘sales assistants’, across a counter, are now asked via e-mail and in ‘open forums’. Ignoring ‘tough’ questions and trying to ‘hide’ is exposing the real practices and personalities of vendor CEOs and management. It is also revealing their very real shortcomings in knowing how to deal directly with (‘the public’ and) customers concerns and enquiries*. More importantly, the internet is leaving a trail, which cannot be easily covered. When the ‘crap hits the fan’ and the time arrives for a vendor’s management to be asked to justify their actions, past records will count. Evan Yares makes a similar point when he stated “the internet does not forget”.

That is the warning carried by and, is a core reason for my blog, Caveat emptor!

There is considerable consumer discontent in software vendors – the sole cause being vendor management. It could be argued, one solution, vendor management see (to contain the discontent) is by gaining more control of customers’ business data (‘CAD in the Cloud’); thereby constraining customer resistance using control over choice and the fear and cost of change etc. This will work, up to a point, but it is business built on bubbles, and bubbles burst!

Licencing, EULA and Customer Involvement Programs (CIP) etc. are, for me, a bit of a side issue now: they were once a reason but now are catalysts maintaining the ‘heat’. Deelip simply added to the heat. What has had my attention for some time is how those documents, CIP type software and managements reactions provide a window into the management of software vendors and, within the management, they expose individuals (lack of) Integrity.

I despise with a passion, those who ‘push’ people around, those who (deliberately) take advantage of the less fortunate and, persons/organizations who take advantage of those in ‘weaker’ bargaining positions. Whether it is in business or in life in general, they are Bullies! That I am not frightened to personally (or to use the internet to) speak out must be obvious by now. Thus far I have achieved some of what I have set out to do – and, there is more to come.

CAD vendor management; is there a business statesman amongst them? Who is to be the first to step up to the plate and demonstrate they are made of the stuff which recognizes they know and care about their customers needs and the success of their customers businesses. From my perspective will it be CEO Bass, Owner Menezes, Manager Kelly or somebody else?


Just prior to publishing this post I checked Sycode’s T&C’s for change and read Deelip’s ‘conversation with Ron Fritz’. The following excerpt could not be more appropriate to include in this post. Knowing and Caring about customers, is a point many (suppliers/vendors) in the CAD industry should spend the time doing and put into to practice;

Ron: Yes. For about seven years I managed hotels and restaurants. It’s not as different as one might think. If you take the time to understand your customer’s needs and what they are really buying from you, then all business is somewhat similar. It all centers around knowing your customer and caring about them. I like to believe that my high service orientation was helpful to us, since I don’t think that is particularly prevalent in the technology industry in general.”


Anonymous said...

chuckle.... why is it the smallest frog in the pond is always the loudest. If you have a problem with Automess' EULA, don't buy it (or in your case, try to make a living from it).

R. Paul Waddington said...


"why is it the smallest frog in the pond is always the loudest."

I guess because I have been one of the very few who have spotted the problem and game/willing enough to speak up.

"(or in your case, try to make a living from it)."

I do!

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!