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Don't forget $FB refused a $1billion $YHOO buyout years ago. Zuck would have kicked himself in the pants now if he took that offer. There's more to it than money. There's a passion in the mission statement at $FB. But what is SnapChat's mission statement? Who knows.
The last company I worked for closed. Now I am back at the first job (I've only worked 2 places as a programmer).
My job is mostly updating the old stuff. We have a dos POS type system, flat file data structure, etc. The systems we use are all separate, and we need them to talk to one another. Stuff like that.
We are nearly ready to start working on our tablet system. It's been a long year, but I been working my tail off. Anything new has been written in c#/MVC, and I've been replacing, updating, and maintaining all of the other stuff.
We are starting to lose our customers to a competitor who already has tablet ordering. The problem with that is that they pretty much go by word of mouth in that community, so it's safe to say if we lose one and it goes well, then we'll lose more. So, I have till January probably to make the splash, or this company may start down sizing.
I'm not even sure at what point it's too late. I know that we better have it on the show floors by January, but I'm not sure that will save us either.
This is the point at which your sales/marketing team needs to engage with the customers you have left. Just because you've lost some customers, it doesn't mean that you'll lose them all. They need to be asking them what they need, and what they need that the competition doesn't offer - that's what you need to be building.
The last company I worked for closed. Now I am back at the first job (I've only worked 2 places as a programmer).
Mybe time to search for a 3rd one with better perspectives of future?
If something has a solution... Why do we have to worry about?. If it has no solution... For what reason do we have to worry about?
Help me to understand what I'm saying, and I'll explain it better to you
Rating helpful answers is nice, but saying thanks can be even nicer.
If your competitor has a tablet and you are making a tablet, you already loosing. You need something they don't have as a selling point. Maybe a broader POS that seamlessly interacts with all the local, national, etc tax laws. Maybe something that interacts with more types of bar codes, more drop shippers, etc.
You have to find a hook they don't have while creating the features they already do. So, you are a programmer working on the legacy stuff. That kind of planning is not your job. So, somebody else dropped the ball (marketing, executives, maybe the other programmers couldn't hack it). Do the best job you can, learn as much as you can, and keep your ear to the ground for other opportunities. The days of company loyalty are gone (you don't get a pension for number of years worked). Take care of yourself, that is the way the corporate world works.
You are supporting the old product, which is your only customer base. You are safe, but make yourself available.
Interesting point about POS tax compliance; I bought a shirt from Proper Cloth in New York. They made it to order, not something I generally do except when British shirtmakers won't do a style for an old fat guy like me(good luck getting a non-slim Club Collar at any price), or they are frightened of a particular colour(Green, formal shirt? Has sir been drinking?)
Anyway, first shirt they didn't cover the tax in the EU, so I had customs charges and handling charges on delivery. It came by Post.
I mentioned this in my positive appraisal on the feedback page.
A few weeks later I ordered a second shirt; this time it came quicker, by courier, taxes paid in advance on the payments page.
Customer service stateside is a thing of beauty. This is the quality of service that rapid decisions at the top make.
Being around for the next 5 months working on a tablet POS sounds like 'Buggin's Turn' coming into play. Somebody in charge at this company needs to make a decision, create a specification and implement it, by throwing extra resources in if necessary. If you don't swim with the fishes, you swim with the fishes.
"That's 'School Bully' to you, Tomkinson, you snivelling little tyke."
It's been too late for quite a while! Your company's flagship product is an obsolete, legacy POS (and I don't mean a Point of Sale; something else). Getting to the show floor on January will do nothing for them, because the product is (obviously) being rushed into production: you are ready to start a major project that needs a re-think, re-design (tablet UI's really are different!), re-code in a different language, re-test, re-document and re-market, all of it in four months, all by yourself (you and what army?). My opinion is that you should use the next four months to find yourself a new job ...
I could not agree LESS... This is America! (Gosh, I hope he is in America<grin>)
Anyways, I have been there when I was young. We rewrote MAJOR sections of our code in weeks to fend off competitors. In another world, we switched to weekly updates and plowed past them in months, winning the mind-share of the market place first.
You have a working system, you need a tablet interface to that system. Treat the tablet as a View, do as much code elsewhere, and get it working. If they are going to have multiple tablets (assumed, even 1 per table, maybe, like Chilis Has, which we LOVE, just wish I could ding it for a re-order on a Soft Drink).
To me it seems simple. Setup a VPN (secure is required, you exist in a wireless public arena), get the smallest workable app you can, I would shoot first for HTML5 type interface, serve it up from the server (this makes it mostly testable without being on a tablet all the time). Implement the core 3-5 screens, test the bejeevers out of it. Put it in the hands of a customer to provide feedback. Build in an update system so they can REACH IN and get the latest version at will (controlling when they take any risks)...
Tablets talk to this "box" this box talks to your POS system.
From my perspective, you have MONTHS on the clock, you need to move like you have weeks on the clock. Management needs to be leading this charge, and getting the customers who will test this lined up. Setting up a person to actually USE the tablets on your behalf, on site, or simple watch what people get hung up on, and make notes, and get it fixed.
This requires Buy-in, Focus, commitment, and lots of effort...
But I would NEVER say to back down. Your existing customers need to see you do something like this to stop leaving, but honestly most people are so RISK Averse and CHANGE Averse that they don't leave until you stop answering the phones. Unfortunately, if the business owners feel this is true, they will treat those Months as Years... And then you are doomed!
There is definitely some things to be concerned about here, but the biggest in my books is that this company was already a minimum of decade behind before you even mention mobile/tablets. You're not trying to catch up on the last couple of years of doing nothing - you're trying to catch up on over a decade of not upgrading the product. DOS-based? Flat-files? Can you create a tablet solution to show off at a trade show in the next few months? Sure. Can you create a working tablet solution that is connected to a "turn-of-the-century" POS solution in that time frame? Hard to say because I don't know how complex the system is, how many people have been working on it, and how much work has already been done. But I don't think it matters how many resources you have to throw at it at this point if you're not already very close to being there. The core concern though is the approach taken to this - is the system being updated or is the approach to make the absolute minimum changes necessary to "look updated". The phrase "lipstick on a pig" comes to mind if its the latter.
My two cents for the company - if the situation is truly as you have depicted it and they are this far behind, there is simply no way that the product will be brought up-to-speed with the competitor you mentioned in that short a time frame unless the POS is very simple or there's been a really good team working on it for the past year+. Otherwise trying to do it and push it to market has a high likelihood of failure - customers that may have been willing to wait for a decent solution will jump ship sooner once word spreads that the first attempt at entering the 21st century is a horribly designed, bug-ridden failure that lacks half the features of your competitors and your legacy system. Not that the company can afford a "take the time to do it right" approach given where they are! If they are this far behind in product innovation there is likely little you can do about many of the customers you're going to lose in the next 6-12 months, but that doesn't mean the business will close its doors either (though there are many factors we don't have here like the qty of existing customers, sales force activities, whether revenues streams are sales based or service based, the specific market this POS is targeted at, does the competition's product have the same features, product stability, and price, etc.). Get a good team together to work on a solid solution to bring to market in the next year and consider short-term plugs to satisfy existing customers that may be itching to leave (which can be anything from a lipstick website that runs off a tablet to "loyalty" discounts - remember, most people don't want to have to change because change is scary and expensive).
Advice to you - if they aren't prepared to tackle the problem correctly then there's likely little point in trying to stick around that sinking ship (unless, of course, you can't find another job quickly!).
On the plus side - you guys are not the first company to face this challenge. Someone needs to do some serious research and learn from the successes and failures of the other companies in the same situation. For some companies this may mean paying a consultant some stupid amount of money to tell the owners/management the exact same thing that they're employees have been telling them for years.
To carry forward the analogy... The ship IS sinking, but the crew and passengers aren't doomed - but you've got to build a better ship (and do it responsibly, but quickly) - one that runs on wind and solar polar instead of coal and steam. Building a quick life boat and shoving all of the passengers on it will do nothing more than make it clear to all of the passengers that the ship is in fact sinking, the lifeboat doesn't have near the amenities of the ship they paid for, and that the crew has no plans beyond that. At this point the passengers will just wait for the next ship that comes passing by to save them - and given the choice they'll jump on the competitor's ship at this point before jumping on one of yours.
We have been making small products/features at the requests of our customers. We've turned out lots of neat looking websites, and other in house tools for them. Web ordering isn't an option we can go with, because of tech difficulties with convention centers.
We've been doing what we can. I'm the only developer for new software, and for updating. We have something of a manager, but he's not really able to program very much. He does help maintain some of the legacy stuff so that I can get more done.
Our system is POS - like. It's not a fully featured POS system. It's used in trade shows, but the easiest way to communicate it to other people is just saying POS.
The system isn't really that complicated. It's hard for the people running the small business to get their head around that. We've had to make very slow incremental changes. So we have a database available now, but we still have to support the flat file system. Once we create the table program - which is just a wpf program using sql express on a windows tablet - then we can start phasing out the flat files quickly. It would have been faster to just make a rewrite, but that is really scary for the owner.
You were right in that the challenge is that they are so far behind. Our internet ordering and at-show ordering can't even be considered the same system... so it has challenges with reporting. That's all stuff we are addressing. Right now we have an option, but as you can imagine with old technologies, it's still not idea. We have to use a web site I created to send files back to the office for processing.... not exactly real time. There are many challenges like this. Most of them are compounded by the owner (he helped write teh original, and hasn't learned anything new since qbx.)
I knew that it was going to be a lot of work when I was re-hired. I'm just freaking out because the customer list keeps getting shorter and , on top of that, the travel expenses of the company have been "putting our profit margins under pressure".
I'm going to ride it out until there's nowhere left to turn. If it works, then I'll be a hero If not, then I'll be on unemployment looking for another job.
That does give a more clear picture of things. To be fair, it's easy to fall behind in tech - especially these days. Having the original owner still involved and either insistent that the old stuff still works or that the redev is not worth it is harmful as newbies trying to insist that a complete redev is necessary every time a new language/framework/etc comes out. Still, running a DOS app would certainly put the company in the minority of successful companies in today's world. Finding a good way to bridge between the old and new "gracefully" is certainly one of the bigger challenges so there's no doubt that you have your work cut out for you. I can't believe (no matter how talented you may be) that they're putting the fate of the company in a single developers hands. That's a lot of pressure on you. We have a local company here that I believe was getting into the tradeshow market as well - I even talked to them at one time about mutual opportunities since we have done a lot of work with Kiosks, which have become quite popular at trade shows.
I am now typing in my finals hours with my current employer. Following the advice I have had faffing has ruled the day since I was told. The upside to this is the software (the VB thing) has not (yet) gone wrong. That is a relief! Now I wondering how to unhook my Drop Box account from my PC, will simply uninstalling it work?