by Timothy Lee

Filed Under:
customers, data centers, quality


Your Company Will Be In Trouble If You Don't Focus On Product Quality

from the better-products-needed dept

One of the biggest signs that a business has trouble ahead is when it seems to be focusing on everything except the quality of its products. Back in the dot-com boom it was common to see a bunch of MBAs get together and draw up plans for a technology company, raise a bunch of funding, throw a lavish launch party, buy a Super Bowl ad, and then hire some programmers to implement the product almost as an afterthought. Most of them aren't around any more. If I were a Microsoft shareholder, I think I would be worried about the rumors going around that "an aggressive acceleration of the company's investment in its data center network" will be "one of the cornerstones" of Microsoft's online strategy. Obviously, Microsoft is going to need more and better data centers to compete effectively with Google. But ultimately, success in the online marketplace is the result of having great products, not great data centers. If you've got such a great product that demand is outstripping your server capacity, it's not that hard to buy additional infrastructure. But if your core products suck, a lot of servers and disk space isn't going to do you any good. Indeed, I suspect that it doesn't even make sense to build "data centers" in the abstract. It's hard to know exactly what mix of hardware will be needed and how it should be set up without a specific suite of applications in mind. So it seems like it would make sense for Microsoft to focus its resources on developing and marketing great products (like this one, perhaps) and upgrade their data centers as demand warrants. Treating data centers as a "cornerstone" of their strategy seems like they're putting the cart before the horse.

Techcrunch points us to an even more egregious example of focusing on the wrong things: AOL has been touting the number of new sites it plans to launch in the coming year. It's hard to think of a more meaningless statistic than the number of websites your company owns. AOL says it plans to roll out 30 websites by the end of 2008, but one good website will generate more traffic than 30 bad ones. Google, for example launches new sites all the time, but you don't see them bragging about the number of new sites they're launching. They understand that what their customers care about is what their sites can do, not how many there are. Of course, this is probably an outgrowth of AOL's misguided idea that it's in the advertising business rather than the online content business. When your company focus is on advertisers, then websites probably seem like interchangeable places to sell ads. The problem is that if the content isn't any good, you'll have fewer and fewer eyeballs to sell to those advertisers—even if the number of websites you own keeps going up.

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  • identicon
    Hellsvilla, 4 Mar 2008 @ 6:06pm

    Good post

    That was a good post Tim, thanks.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    rkme, 4 Mar 2008 @ 6:29pm

    product qual

    n1 Tim.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Astrid, 4 Mar 2008 @ 8:00pm

    Good Story - Remember MCI Worldcom?

    One of the earliest signs that MCI/Worldcom was in trouble should have come from the lowest end of the totem pole. Local and national consumer advocates, one with a syndicated radio show out of Atlanta, started receiving tons of calls from frustrated consumers who had been slammed or crammed, finding MCI charges on their phone bills month after month. Stranger still was the reaction that the reporter out of Atlanta got when he and his staff tried to get somewhere with MCI on behalf of individual consumers.

    They were cursed at, hung up on, told to go to hell, and the reporter finally started naming the company on the air, something he only did when a problem couldn't be resolved. It didn't make sense at the time, why a company would be so clueless when it came to customer service. This guy could sweet talk any POS company into doing the right thing and making things right for an unhappy consumer. He couldn't get anywhere with MCI. They wouldn't reverse obvious erroneous phone bill charges, misstatements, etc. They didn't care.

    This predated the MCI Worldcom scandals by about three years, and with a crystal ball, it's obvious now that this was a red flag. There was trouble brewing at the top of the s--t pile, and it had filtered down to the lowest rung of the customer service rep answering the phone for MCI. A company that had previously been known for reasonably good customer service and reliable product line was being flushed into the sewer by the greedy CEOs who were draining money from the coffers like it was their own piggy bank. I am more in tune with this now than ever before - when a good company's products, service, attitude, begin to go really bad, keep your hand on your wallet if you're an investor.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Le Blue Dude, 4 Mar 2008 @ 11:25pm

    Well written but...

    Very well written and enjoyable, but isn't it a bit duh that businesses need to keep their customers happy with actual, quality, products?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      mkam, 5 Mar 2008 @ 5:37am

      Re: Well written but...

      You would think, but many of these business don't seem to realize it. A recent example is Comcast and there 'don't care about the customer' philosophy. In addition think 'music industry' and providing a less useful product (DRM), making customers leave in large numbers.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    tedivm, 5 Mar 2008 @ 1:03am

    what if the datacenter is the product?

    With Amazon's EC2 system and rumors of Google rolling out something similar, I would be shocked if Microsoft hadn't considered something along those lines.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    NPGMBR, 5 Mar 2008 @ 6:32am

    Re: Your Company Will Be In Trouble......

    I kidna disagree. I don't think your argument holds up when it comes to Microsoft because Microsoft is the only company out there being targetted by everyone and fights with them all. Microsoft has its problems, but they have responded to competiton from Google by beefing up their search, online ads and maps and directions. In addtion Microsoft competes with Sony and Nintendo in the video game arena. Microsoft compets with Mozilla, Opera and others in browsers and has competition with OpenOffice and other office suites with. Microsoft also competes with Apple, Linux and others in desktop and mobile OSs and again with Apple and many others with portable media players. Thats only mentioning the areas I know of that Microsoft has fierce competion in.

    Considering that Microsoft is being attacked from all sides by many different foes; I'd have to say they are holding their own fairly well.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 Mar 2008 @ 9:40am

    There's a great amount of pre-work that needs to be accomplished. All this takes months, if not years in some cases.

    I'm real interested in seeing what's being cooked up in the lab

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

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