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: – 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”

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