Apr 142004

How can Borland customers and partners persuade Borland to invest more resources into certain technologies or products?

Simple: Show us the money. We generally don’t do art for art’s sake.

The hardest part of deciding which technologies or product features to pursue and which to pass over is figuring out the business justification for each. Ultimately, that means assigning a revenue estimate to each feature and comparing that to the development cost estimates, including the much-loathed “opportunity cost.”

Where does that revenue estimate come from? It’s usually built upon feedback from the Borland sales organization, rating features by how compelling or attractive each feature makes the product for specific customer categories. How does the Program Manager, marketing staff, and sales staff determine what features are compelling to various customer demographics? By talking to customers and understanding customers’ business goals and technology requirements to achieve them.

In a comment to an earlier post, Peter Sleuth asked:

“What is the best way that we as your customers can do to help you increase the resources? Buying some more Delphi-Licenses? Contributing some money directly to the Delphi-team? Make our voices heard by Dale Fuller on the next BorCon?”

Buying more product is certainly good for business! ;> For example, Borland isn’t about to discard the Win32 product line just because Microsoft says .NET is the future. While .NET may actually be the future, there is still a lot of money to be made in Win32 right now, today, and for the near-term future. For the long-term outlook, we play it by ear, adjusting the scoreboard day by day.

However, if you’re particularly interested in the advancement of a particular aspect of the product, you’ll need to do something in addition to buying more boxes. Gross sales figures don’t tell us which technology pieces are most compelling to you.

Contributing money directly to the team? Well, I can’t think of a Borlander who has ever turned down an invitation for free food! As for cash, I suppose a PayPal tin cup on BDN might pick up some spare change, but it would probably do more harm to the corporate image than good to the pocketbook. When you buy Delphi product or annual support, that revenue goes directly to the Delphi team.

Assault Dale Talk to Dale at BorCon? While cornering Dale for a personal gripe session does seem to be a popular pastime at Borland conferences (and employee meetings), initiating change from the top down is usually only for very broad corporate-wide policy, not specific product features. Other than providing global direction (“Let’s do Linux”), Dale generally stays out of our hair (for which we are truly grateful!).

Besides, when someone drills Dale on specific product issues, all he’s going to do is hand you over to someone like me or Michael Swindell or John Kaster – details people. Dale does the big picture, we do the pixels. Given the choice, I’d much rather you drill me directly than drill me and irritate my boss.

Here’s the short list of how to better influence Borland product plans, resource allocations, and corporate directions:

  • Show us your business
    Help the Borlander you’re talking to understand what your line of business is, how you’re using Borland products in your line of business, what your goals are, and what gaps or conflicts you see in the Borland roadmap towards achieving your goals.
  • Show us the pain points in your processes
    Customer pain points are a hot item – what development or business processes are a constant source of pain for you? Pain is a powerful motivator. People will gladly pay for solutions that eliminate pain. We like pain. Mmmm-good.
  • Get to know your local Borland rep, regional Borland product line sales manager, or Borland office.
    These are the people on the front lines that the development team queries to find out what sells, what motivates, and what doesn’t. Malcolm Groves (Asia / Pacific), Jason Vokes (Europe, Middle East, Africa), and Mike Rozlog (Americas) are the three kings of the field organization. If your organization is large enough to buy direct from Borland, chat them up in email, or take them out to lunch. Let them know your business goals, your technology goals, and your pain points. Don’t tell them what you’d like to see in Borland products, tell them what you’d like to buy.
  • Get to know your Borland product manager, evangelist, or development lead
    Michael Swindell, John Kaster, Allen Bauer and I are all receptive to customer feedback, particularly information about how you’re using what we’re working on. The same is true for all the Borland product groups – where would we be without customers? There are a lot more of you than there are of us, so please don’t expect an immediate response if you send us a brief in email.
  • Participate in user groups
    If you’re an independent developer or a shop with a purchasing budget too small to make a sales rep dream of commissions, band together with like-minded individuals to pool your collective purchasing power. User groups are a great way to increase your visibility to Borland – sales reps, Developer Relations, and the core development teams as well.
  • Publish your development successes, challenges, and interests online
    You don’t have to obtain an exclusive audience with a Borlander to make your interests known to us. You don’t even have to email. Through the magic of the Internet, if you publish a document mentioning Borland product names we’ll probably hear about it within a week or two, depending on how quickly Google scans your site. If you publish a link to this blog, I’ll know about within the hour in many cases.

Things to avoid when presenting technology requests or ideas:

  • Don’t presume to tell Borland its business
    We don’t tell you how to run yours. Nothing glazes over the eyes as quickly as “But if you’d just do this one thing, you’d sell millions more!” because that frequently boils down to the self-centered rationalization “This is important to me, therefore it must be important to everybody!” Stick to what you know best (your business, your projects) and let Borland figure out how that correlates to other customer feedback worldwide.
  • Present the problem, not your solution
    Too many technology proposals open with “I have this great solution that Borland should adopt for all it’s products”. Ok, but what was the problem? We can’t accept any solution without understanding the problem first, and once we understand the problem we can often find a simpler, more powerful, or more efficient solution than the customer’s proposal. It’s not about ego or arrogance, it’s just a simple fact that you can’t modify the compiler, the language, the VCL or the IDE to solve an issue. We can.

    It’s also not uncommon for the customer to address only the aspects of the problem that are important to their project. Borland is held to a different standard: we’re expected to solve the problem for all uses and all customers. So, save us the onion peel exercise and just present the problem itself and what it is you’re trying to achieve. You can cover how you chose to solve the issue, but focus on describing the problem and its consequences instead of selling your solution.
  • Respect individuals’ bandwidths There’s no need to carpet-bomb every Borlander to get your point across.


Presenting your feature wish lists directly to the Borland development teams will definitely register your interest in the subject in their minds, but it’s often difficult for the engineering staff alone to guestimate how compelling a feature is to customers in general. So, engineering turns to the staff in the field to see if they think the feature would be a good match for customer needs. If the feature solves a known customer pain point, then it’s quickly seen to be something worth researching further. If the idea resonates with customer scenarios known to the field staff, it’s worth pursuing. If neither the engineering nor the field staff can visualize a customer need for a feature, that’s usually the end of the road for that idea.

Ultimately, the art of persuasion boils down to making somebody’s decision easier. Showing Borland how you are using Borland products and how you want to use Borland products is the best way to get your point across. Technology requests backed by technology in use are better than wishlists; they are wishlists with teeth. Knowing how you are using our products and what your projected needs are makes Borland’s decisions much easier, and increases the likelihood that what we choose will support what you need.

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