90-Day Wonders

In the past six weeks, I’ve had some unique opportunities to meet with CIOs and developers in Los Angeles, Newport Beach, Shanghai, Sydney, Palo Alto, London, Melbourne and Sydney. No, that’s not an accidental duplication, there really were two trips to Sydney in just a three-week slice from that period — but in all those places, no matter how often I visit, I still meet people who are getting their first introduction to the possibilities of PaaS.

On a short intra-Oz hop yesterday, I found myself sitting across an airplane aisle from a principal of a salesforce.com partner company: someone whom I’d first met, and briefed on PaaS, last fall. He put the power of prompt project delivery on Force.com into very concrete terms.

"I tell my clients, ‘I’ll never make a proposal to you that costs more than $100,000 or takes more than 90 days,’" he said. "I tell them, ‘Over the course of two years, we might do a million dollars’ worth of business together, but I’ll never pitch a project to you that involves your spending a million dollars on something that takes two years to deliver.’ I tell them, ‘In 30 days I’ll bring you something that does a lot of what you need — and then you’ll get some new ideas about what you want. Over the next 30 days, I’ll make those changes — and for the last 30 days, you’ll actually be using the application, and we’ll just be fine-tuning.’"

He told me that new clients find this a startling change from the process they’ve learned to tolerate. It’s quite a dramatic shift from the old approach of having an application specified, storyboarded, prototyped, and finally delivered in a disappointing version 1.0 after a discouraging delay — to be followed by a bunch of finger-pointing as to whether the fundamental flaws are in the statement of requirements, or in their fulfillment by the development team.

It’s an enormous change to have the actual users of the application tightly engaged in polishing the product in what amounts to real time, and seeing that the effort they make to clarify their needs is rewarded with prompt and effective payback.

As we put the final pieces into the architecture and the ecosystem of PaaS, I see no reason why the 90-day wonder should not become an expectation rather than a surprise.

May 18, 2008