Monday, September 24, 2007

ACD (Another Commenter Deciphered)

To describe a software do I really need it in my hands or not? Can the manual be enough? If the program, as described by its own manual, doesn't attract me, the direct experience is going to be even more disappointing. I haven't the ACD processor, nor I have the manual, I only have Ryan's blog. This is the third time I am citing it, because it's a mine of precious information. Strangely enough, when Ryan praises his product, he brings forward such arguments that make me conclude I can never like it. I will try to write a review of ACD exclusively based on Ryan's blog. To start with, today I am commenting what I find to be his best post: The Price of NMR Software. There Ryan is able to engage the reader and, at the same time, to hide the most important facts.

Ryan: "Some people have a pre-conceived idea that no matter how good a piece of software is, it shouldn't cost more than $500."

It depends on what they are going to do with the software and it depends on the price of the alternatives. If they use the NMR software only to avoid sitting in front of the spectrometer (which is the case of 99% of the chemists I know) they are perfectly right. To attract them, you must make a good product that costs less than 500. If you are only able to create specialized and advanced tools that cost much more, a thing that you still have to prove to myself, sell your stuff to the few ones who really need them, don't try to convince the rest of us. I have a driving license and second-hand Opel Corsa 1.0. Was I supposed to own a Rolls-Royce? Would it make a difference?

Ryan: "The cost of supporting the software and the customer base. i.e. product management, development, technical support, sales, marketing, production, etc."

I am ready to pay for development & technical support and that's all. I also know a lot of people who don't care or renounce to technical support. I don't want to pay for a sales-agent. I don't want to pay for advertisement. I don't want to pay for that University which, in your press release, stated that the ACD processor was cheap (the cheaper was for them, the most expensive is going to be for me...).

Ryan: "We have many, many customers from all over the world. To name a few: ..."

Then you cite Menarini Ricerche, the company where I worked from January 15 1990 until July 15 2007 and where I never used nor bought any of your products. Are you sure you sold anything related to NMR there?

Ryan "Why wouldn't we share our prices publicly?"

I don't think that's a problem. Whoever wants to know the price can ask a quotation. The real annoyance for the customer is when he discovers that not all customers pay the same price. The same happens, for example, with many 4 star hotels. Only a few unlucky customers pay the full price. For a reason or another, the lucky ones pay the half. I am not curious to know how much you will ask me, I am curious to know how much the University of XX paid!

Ryan: "We've sold to these companies and institutions and we have survived more than 11 years in this industry selling and supporting our software in many of the above institutions and more. I don't think we would have come this far if our software was flat out "too expensive"."

But you also wrote: "Unfortunately, there are also cases where users just haven't found the software useful for their research, or haven't even gotten around to installing it yet." which means that some people were convinced by your shows and demonstrations, not by first-hand experience. Or it means that it was the boss of the department to buy the program, against the will of the researcher.
You forget that today we have the internet. It can directly connect the creator with the consumer, by-passing the middle man. Before the internet, only 10-20% of the price of the program could arrive at the creator. Today we can reach 90-100%. It means that the same product can cost from 5 to 9 times less. The internet also means that a patch (or a new version) can be released in a couple of hours; as a consequence, testing is much less critical and time-consuming than it used to be. Will people always be happy to pay 5 times more only for the sake of the middle man? Only to receive the CD into a box? Do they really need a major update each year? Get Real! GET REAL!


At 7:25 PM, Anonymous Ryan Sasaki said...

Hello Giuseppe,

You are going to write a product review exclusively on the content of someone's blog without actually using the product???

You mention that I have engaged the reader, but hide the most important facts. What are the facts that I am hiding?

You mention that the only reason chemists want this software is so they don't have to sit in front of a spectrometer. Yet this absolutely contradicts a statement on one of your earlier posts at:

Old Swan Blog

Where you say specifically:

Most of the people don't like off-line processing because:

1) Why buying another program when we already paid a lot for the spectrometer software and its upgrades?
2) They want to seat in front of the spectrometer. It's the most coveted toy in the department and everybody's still a child.

So do chemists like offline processing or not? Do they like sitting in front of a spectrometer or not?

Now all of a sudden you know a bunch of chemists who use it, and they only like it because they don't need to sit in front of a spectrometer?

The point you are missing Giuseppe is that chemists will use NMR processing for more than just "getting away from the spectrometer" They will use it to re-process their data in some cases, re-cut integrals, analyze multiplets, assign their data, report their data, create tables, and spectra to use in their reports, patents, publications, and ELNs. This software does indeed have specialized and advanced tools, but why would we remove them from the chemist’s hands? Some chemists are also very fluent in NMR and would like to use these tools. You will find a handful (or more) of these chemists in every large laboratory. Furthermore, we do have more specialized and advanced tools for databasing, high-throughput work, structure elucidation, etc. We aren't pushing those onto chemists. These NMR processing tools have been proven to be useful to chemists, therefore I will talk about it on my blog until proven otherwise.

Now, will there be some chemists who will use the software solely for its convenience purposes? Sure. But without additional and useful features, functionalities, and benefits, organizations simply wouldn't buy our software.

Finally we recognize the fact that in general, chemists will not need access to all the functionality and advanced tools that a spectroscopist would use and need. For these situations our pricing absolutely is reflected by that. This information can be found on the ACD/Labs website. I won't provide a link since I know you do not appreciate that.

We are running a company where we try and build and maintain the best NMR software products on the market. I was highlighting some of the things that have to be considered when determining price and running a successful business. We want to be around forever, for the customers who have invested in us. Do you want to purchase software from a company that provides no documentation? One that doesn't have technical support answering your phone calls and emails? One that does not do market research to properly understand the challenges you are facing day-to-day? One that does not provide live bodies to discuss potential products and solutions with you? One that does not improve on their current offering? The list goes on.

I think it is inevitable that someone out there will not find your product useful. It's unfortunate. We do the best we can to avoid that from happening, but I think it happens with every piece of software out there. I am not going to pretend that this part of the population doesn't exist. That being said, I would like to point out that this group of users I speak of is very small and clearly we would not be where we are today if we simply took their money and ran. We stand by our products and we work hard after every sale to ensure that the customer is getting the benefit they expected out of the software. It is another good reason to have a relationship building stage between the sales person and user. One of the main reasons ACD/Labs has been a successful company is through repeat business. Customers and users come back to us because they know they are getting good products and they trust us.

Finally, I do not forget that today we have the internet. I have a blog after all that is attempting to open the lines of communication more and to provide a resource for users and non-users that is unlike a traditional website. I clearly stated in my post why a sales person is involved to aid a potential customer’s decision. I stand by those statements and continue to believe that it is the best practice for our organization.

At 10:02 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello. And Bye.


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