A Hi-Tech Software Vendor Evaluation

Two clients in Fairfax, VA engaged my services to help them evaluate a complex software system and its vendor. In addition, the clients requested I provide them with a recommendation as to whether they should license the software platform from this vendor. Prior to my clients contacting me, they had identified a software platform upon which they hoped to base their Environmental Services business.

Actions Taken:

After reviewing the clients' business plan and technical requirements, I joined my clients in Houston, TX to observe the software vendor's product in use at a large petroleum products storage facility. During our visit at the storage facility I talked with technicians who were using the software and their supervisors to learn what their impressions were of the software; what value did it bring to their work; and how reliable was the software system. We received glowing reports from everyone we talked with. In addition, to our customer tour, we spent time at the vendor's facility observing a fully equipped demo system in operation. Our prelimnary impressions were positive.

A month later, the vendor's Founder/President invited my clients and I to attend a trade show in Houston, Tx where his company would be demonstrating its latest product enhancements. After observing other vendors' offerings, my clients and I agreed that their preferred vendor's software product with its new enhancements made the product stand-out among its competitors. Yet another positive impression. After the trade show my clients made arrangements with the software vendor for a week long product installation and training session at the vendor's Houston facility.

Prerequisites for the training were for my clients to order over $20,000 worth of computing and control hardware, and ship it to the software vendor's Houston facility. My responsibilities were to assemble the equipment at the vendor's facility on the first day and to oversee the installation of the software product on the second day. At the end of the second day it became apparent that the vendor's newest software product release did not function properly. The brand new hardware upon which the software had been installed would either crash and reboot when invoking a particular software function, or just hang and do nothing, which required a manual reboot. In addition, when I asked if they could load the version of software we had observed in operation at the bulk petroleum products storage facility, the software team could not retrieve a working version from their version control system. This did not bode well. On the morning of the third day I met with the Founder/President of the company and informed him of my concerns. He responded in a defensive manner claiming that my clients had ordered the wrong hardware (which they hadn't), and that I must be mistaken about his team not being able to retrieve a working version of software. I responded that my client's had ordered the hardware specified on his company's website, and that I would gladly join him in overseeing his team installing a working version on my clients' hardware. The president ordered his software team to get a working version installed on the equipment. By the end of the day they were unable to do so. Wednesday evening my clients arrived in Houston and we met to discuss the situation. Next morning we met with the President and cancelled our training session and licensing agreement, packed up our hardware, and left.


My clients avoided spending $15,000 in training and $70,000 in software licensing fees with a software company whose flagship product, customer service, and business practices did not meet my clients requirements.