You certainly couldn’t claim that the IT industry’s most celebrated personalities (think Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, or even the better than average looking Carly Fiorino) are anywhere near as glamorous as <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />Hollywood celebrities.  Even so, the IT industry has its celebrity recognition events and while Hollywood is far more newsworthy and photogenic, events like the SQL Server Magazine Reader’s Choice award and its sister publication Windows IT Pro Reader’s Choice Awards and are still important to those of us working to produce products for the IT community. 

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I began to learn some interesting new lessons when I first transitioned from a traditional line-of-operations IT job as a DBA to a product architect for Quest Software.  For example, the domain of expertise required for the job was essentially the same.  No surprise there.  You still had to know the ins and outs of the SQL Server relational engine, good Transact-SQL programming practices, set theory, the full set of features of the product, and performance tuning techniques.  What really surprised me was all of the non-IT skills that I had to learn, and quickly! 

 

I’ll give you an example to illustrate what I mean.  Let’s say that you’re a SQL Server developer/DBA and, in the course of your work, you’ve hit upon an innovative way to save yourself a hour or more of work per day.  After dinner at night, you spend a few hours per week turning your idea into a product and after a while you’ve got a pretty GUI, a few DLLs, and a config file to store your preferences. 

 

So then you go to the next logical step.  If it saves you hours per week, surely your product will save others the same work too.  And since time equals money in our society, you can charge for this product!  So here’s where it gets hard.  Your product has to sell itself in a single simple tag line.  It has to offer an immediate value proposition.    And it has to either be so obvious that you don’t need much training or have really good training and documentation bundled with it. 

 

And that’s just for our scenario described earlier.   It gets even more difficult if you’re trying to develop a product for a company with a large sales force.  Why?  Well, Sales is motivated in two ways: the carrot (commissions) and the stick (quota).  If a Sales rep already has products they know well and call sell effectively, your new product has to even more easy to learn and sell than anything they have in their inventory of products to sell.  Otherwise, it’ll be easier to get the carrot and avoid the stick with the other products that they already have at their disposal.  Similar lessons apply to things like installation, architecture (agented or agentless), upgrade process, and on and on.  That’s where I had to learn a lot of new lessons and, in fact, I’m still learning them.

 

Many times I’ve seen individuals, startups, and even successful established companies spend time and money on a product that, while cool, will be too hard to sell, install, or maintain.  As Paul Flessner, the Microsoft Senior VP of Server Technology has said in the past, if you can’t explain it to your grandmom, then it’s not simple enough.

 

So this long entry is really a preamble to a request.  There’s nothing more rewarding to a team of hardworking developers than to be acknowledge for helping to create a great product.  So, if you use any 3rd Party products, vote for the ones you like!

 

Here's the link to the voting page: http://www.windowsitpro.com/sqlserver/readerschoice .

 

Voting began on April 15, 2005 and closes May 15, 2005. Winning products will be published in the September 2005 issue of SQL Server Magazine and posted on www.sqlmag.com at that time.

 

 

Many thanks,

 

-Kevin