Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Thanks, but no thanks

I received a comment yesterday.

Now you have got over the shock, I thought I would write a post in reply as I can not edit the comment and remove the personal details and I felt it deserved a full reply. I would not normally turn it into a full post (well, I might if I had more comments) but even though it was short, it raises an issue that is dear to my heart.

Hi PivDev,
Thanks for your honest feedback.
I am a product manager who works for Pivotal and would love to get some more feedback on some of your posts.
Feel free to contact me @



Now, XXXX is not their real name and the email address has been changed so I am not blamed for filling this persons inbox. I am hoping that you realised this but thought I would make sure ;)

The commenter, lets call them Alan to ease my typing, was commenting on my last post Live In Action - Statue Style, which, if you haven’t read it (shame on you), raised a few issues with Sedna and the “demo” that was given of a customers system.

Whilst I would relish an email conversation about the current state of Pivotal 6 with a product manager at CDC, my anonymity whilst writing this blog means more to me. I am sure, with a bit of digging, anyone that is bothered could find out who I really am but I want to keep this blog anonymous for some selfish reasons, mainly keeping my family in bread and water and being able to talk about what I want without the dreaded spectre of upsetting current & future employers and being out of a job looming over me.

I also feel these conversations about the product direction and problems with Pivotal in alls it’s incarnations should be aired in the public arena to increase the knowledge available to the community. A community for any product or service, whether it is a business tool, game or device, only helps the product or service. Look how Salesforce & MS CRM has flourished because of the external groups making (and selling) functionality, discussing problems, and helping each other out with issues and solutions. You can also look at the communities around online games, media streaming products and other devices to see that they help evolve the product.

A social network may not add directly to the CDC Software bottom line, but a strong community encourages everyone to push the product to it’s limits, giving everyone more options in deploying to their end users, increasing the likelihood that the product is not replaced by something else and, more importantly, encouraging new customers to sign up when they search Google and see several sites full of information about how to do things.

I feel that CDC is not doing a tenth of what they could do in terms of encouraging this behaviour. Yes there are the official forums and the unofficial version, but where is the blog from a Pivotal insider? Where is the RSS feed of new patches & hotfixes? Where is the online Wiki(I know this has been tried unofficially, but seems to have fallen by the wayside)? Where are the online chats with Professional Services experts to answer questions and give advice? All this stuff is easy to create and develop, and probably would take very little encouragement for those of us who rely on Pivotal for a living to contribute to and little expenditure from CDC to organise.

This becomes apparent to me when I visit other customers. Everyone implements Pivotal in a different way, one of it’s key benefits over other CRM platforms (I am looking at you, SAP), but there are no samples around about how other users have done certain things, apart from those available in the official & unofficial forums. Mark Lyseyko’s (I hope I spelt that right) Tech Tips is good, but in the wrong format - try using this to search for some way of accomplishing a task.

What this, once again, long post (apologies if you got this far) boils down to is I hope that Alan does not take too unkindly to me not taken him up on his offer, and I hope I have let you all know why I think I shouldn’t. If Alan reads this, I would be happy to have a conversation with him over comments in the blog if he wants to address some of the points raised here or in earlier posts.

Monday, 23 February 2009

Live In Action - statue style

I am not sure what Pivotal’s definition of Live in Action is but it is a bit different than mine.

I have just watched the Pivotal 6.0 Live In Action—Sysmex Shows Off Their Solution webcast, recorded on Wednesday, and now available for all those who are interested. “Live In Action” it is not.

My idea of “Live Action” is not PowerPoint slides. I could forgive this if they had an interesting and powerful speaker, but, in my opinion, Don Patulo, is not. There is nothing new in the slides they showed, nothing that made me to think “Wow – I have to implement that, it was cool”. Sorry, Don, but my attention span lasted 20 minutes, even though the webcast is an hour long.

I am not sure who the intending audience was for this demonstration. Existing customer? Customers who are currently migrating? Potential Pivotal clients? What I do know is that the first 2 groups would not get an awful lot out of the presentation. There was no incentive to upgrade in there, no “Feck me, that is worth the pain of the upgrade”. Potential clients were not given a good demonstration of the capabilities of Pivotal 6.

I think this is negative publicity, especially for people who are evaluating Pivotal versus other products. Where was the live demo of a working system? Where was the awesome real-time connectivity to other systems such as SAP etc? Where is the pretty SharePoint portals made with something more than Pivotal graphs?

I remember seeing a demo of a customers system as part of the series of webcasts before Pivotal 6 was released, which was Live Action, was pretty (lots of SharePoint portals made with a decent reporting tool), had dynamic content in the forms and was a kick in the arse for me to try this stuff for myself. I finished the session with a list of things to try out and ideas for nice features that our users would love.

I came out of this demo wanting to write a grumpy piece for the blog.

Thursday, 19 February 2009

Been a while

It has been a while.

Firstly, sorry for not sharing my thoughts with you for a while, work and family life have intervened to prevent me from publishing my thoughts. Happy Christmas / Hanukkah / New Year / Martin Luther King Day / Presidents Day / Insert holiday I have missed here to you and yours. Hope you had a lovely time. Anyway, enough of the pleasantries, back to work.

Secondly, is Sedna still in beta? It certainly feels like it. Recently, I have been deeply involved in an upgrade project, taking a heavily customised 5.9 system into the new world. It has not gone live yet, but it should do before Easter. We have gone through the hard tasks of migrating forms (damn they look ugly when first migrated), converting code (it’s amazing how many things in scripting I used to rely on that just don’t work anymore), designing new forms (I am not an artist, someone really needs to through some flowers at the forms when I have finished) and getting our heads around the navigation (all the possibilities really prevent you from getting it done). UAT stage one looms next week. I am going to have to get my head down and code the priorities, so it might be a while before I post again.

The users verdict – excellent! Performance is better, usability is better, outlook sync is an essential.

My verdict – so so. Performance and usability are better. Outlook sync is nice and easy to implement. The problems I have is that there are things that do not work – logging of new records, soft required fields have a tendency to remain marked, tree control is not as good as it could be etc etc.

I would expect this from a beta product, but not a polished, finished version. It seems that the R&D folks have never create a system using their code. If they came and sat next to me for a couple of hours (or any developer who is trying to produce functionality for an end user) they would see that the product is still rather flaky. Are they getting feedback from their own professional services guys? Doesn’t look like it or the professional services guys are not pushing the application to it’s limits.

And have I ever mentioned that the documentation sucks? It really becomes apparent how much my 5.X knowledge was from experience. I knew what was possible and what was not from experimenting, not from the documentation. The same goes for Sedna. It really is poor. I just hope Mr Munro gets his finger out and does something about it.