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Very High Quality vs. Just Good Enough

In a recent article discussing Novell’s leadership change, one analyst was quoted regarding the change as being positive for Novell in that they (Novell) could stop building very high quality products and instead build products that are just good enough. I don’t know about you, but this spirit of mediocrity is exactly the wrong kind of thinking for IT vendors.

Specifically, the quote stated this:

“Ron Hovsepian appears to be an astute business person, one who will be able to quickly take stock of the environment and Novell’s position within that environment. This, I hope, will help Novell move from its current position of very slowly building extremely high quality products to quickly building and marketing products that are good enough to satisfy the market,” concluded Kusnetzky.

So what is he (Dan Kusnetzky) proposing then? It sounds to me that Dan thinks IT software vendors should make their products just good enough to pass muster, instead of making them the best that they can be.

In my opinion, this spirit of mediocrity—this willingness to accept products that are knowingly released with imperfections and flaws because they are “good enough”—is exactly what brought the industry to where it is today. This mediocrity is what brought SQL Slammer, Blaster, and Melissa. This is the view that accepts that rebooting your computer a few times a day is just a part of life, and that our operating systems and applications shouldn’t be expected to be stable and reliable. Just good enough? When was the last time you recommended a product, service, or vendor because they were “just good enough”? No, just good enough isn’t good enough.

Every major IT vendor out there—from HP, IBM, and Sun, to Apple, Microsoft, and Red Hat—should be held accountable for the quality of the products they release. Hey, I understand that companies may make mistakes, and miss errors. That’s understandable. But any company that knowingly releases a product that’s “just good enough” when it could have been better is not a company we should be praising. We should be supporting those companies that emphasize quality over “just good enough”.

Perhaps I’m overreacting. Perhaps the analyst’s comments were merely directed at the speed with which Novell releases their products, and was instead trying to state that Novell needed to release competing products more quickly. Even so, any vendor that values speed over quality is bound to get bitten sooner or later. Microsoft got bitten, and changed their priorities (somewhat). Apple will get bitten, too, if they start letting the quality of Mac OS X releases slide in favor of shorter development cycles. The same goes for all the other vendors.

What about you? I’d love to hear your comments on the matter.

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