Brilliant SCADA System that failed

A friend of mine shared an article about software failures. it’s a good stuff to read, where we can avoid some mistakes that previously been made by software developers. there is a SCADA software there – some of the problems that I’ve been encountered too in my life. check this out:

http://images.nakedmaya.com/Troll-Link1-sm.jpgNet-Herald – a monitoring application for water supply companies. It was a complex client server application that would receive monitoring data from specialized hardware and store that data inside a SQL database. The client displays that data in different graphs, provides printable reports or sends alarm messages via SMS if a monitored value is not within its specified limits. I developed Net-Herald as a perfect fit for that specialized hardware that is provided by a local manufacturer. That way, so I hoped, I could profit from their sales leads and would find a smoother way into these water supply companies. The downside of course, was that my software would only work with their hardware.

Why it was judged a commercial failure

I sold a first license fairly soon after I had a sell-able product, although it took the customer nearly a year until they finally bought. But since then I sold only one more license within the last 4 years or so.

What went wrong

  • I didn’t do my own marketing and the hardware guys weren’t really concerned with selling my software.
  • Water management companies have a terribly long sales cycle. Other vendors monitoring applications usually cost tens of thousands and are geared toward large suppliers. Whenever a supplier buys into such a product he is unlikely to change within the next decade or more. I tried to position my software towards small suppliers but even then most of them were already locked into another vendor’s solution.
  • My software only worked with a specific hardware. That narrowed the market down substantially.
  • In the end the software became too complex for one poor mortal to maintain. Because the software didn’t produce any substantial income I had to stop adding new features which would make it attractive for more prospective clients.
  • This kind of software is not sold over the Internet. Rather it needs very active sales people that nurture clients over a rather long period of time.
  • All these facts indicate that software like this should not be developed by a one man show.

Time/money invested

At least 3 man years of work went into this product, with me doing m+ost of it. Thankfully I was a salaried employee. But the lack of success of this product contributed to the demise of the part of the company I was in.

Current product status

Now, I have drawn a line and stopped active development of Net-Herald. I still do some custom extensions for my first clients. But I no longer market the software. I have instead focused on my consulting services. I also develop and sell my cross-platform drag-and-drop product Simidude.

Any regrets? I didn’t succeed yet selling

my own software (which is still my goal) but I do not regret doing it. I developed Net-Herald using (Java) technologies that now give me leverage at my consulting gigs. All in all it was a heavy ride. But it was fun and I would do it again.

Lessons learned:

  • My biggest mistake was the lack of market analysis. I trusted the word of the hardware manufacturer without verification.
  • I have written more about the above and some other failures on my blog.

Contributor: Torsten Uhlmann

Taken from Lessons Learned From 13 Failed Software Products by Andy Bryce <Hacker Monthly issue 3 August 2010>

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2 Responses to “Brilliant SCADA System that failed”

  1. Retwitted this. Greetings from the Speedy DNS.

  2. I have read a few of the articles on your website now, and I really like your style of blogging. Thanks for taking the time to discuss this, I feel strongly about it and love learning more on this topic. If possible, as you gain expertise, would you mind updating your blog with more information? It is extremely helpful for me.

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