Edgewave: E-mail Encryption and Product Problems

Apologies for not posting over the last couple of days. I ended up giving myself a mild case of food poisoning Monday Night. I am fully recovered now and in fine shape. To link this back to our story, I ended up in the hospital shortly after the release of the first portion of the Encryption Product. I had to have surgery on my left foot. It was a major bummer for me, as I had planned to go visit my parents and my in-laws over that Christmas Holiday. I am in California and they are in New York and Connecticut respectively. So, this is a trip that I do less often than I would like.

To explain this portion of the story, I will need to talk through a couple of details about the product and process. These are going to be put in a way that requires no technical training so bear with me. The first of these is that the Spam Filter was a SaaS (Sotfware as a Service) product at heart. The product was software that ran on off the shelf computers (in our case these we used primarily Dell Computers). Most of us are familiar was SaaS service now - Gmail and Facebook are such products. Another thing you need to know (and I am sure you know) SaaS providers upgrade their service as they see fit.

So, we got this part of the product out the door. From a customer standpoint, this was a product upgrade to the existing Spam Filter that they already bought from us. It allowed them to do some things with their outgoing mail that they could not do previously, but that was a minor change from a customer standpoint. The reason we needed it was so that we could route outbound mail to this new Encryption Service that we had created.

Now many people would not want to release a product over the Christmas Holiday. I considered it low risk. First, there is a significant drop in good mail volume over the holiday. So many folks are on vacation, that it seemed like we could think of this as a large Beta Test and we could find any small issues over the break. We could then quickly fix and release an update early in January. The other reason that we considered this a low risk was that the change itself was very small. We added to existing capabilities that were in the product. We then re-organized the interface that customers configured them with to make them more visible. Given the minor nature of this change we were pretty sure nobody would use the new code over the Holidays.

Well, I was in the hospital for 7 days and by the time day 4 arrived I was feeling pretty well. I had my son bring my laptop to the hospital and I worked on the network over the hospital WiFi. Nothing major but looking for small problems so that I could record them and get them fixed. Well, we had a customer have a significant issue over the break. The worst part of the problem was that they called our San Diego HQ and got a message that the office was closed. Now, this was true but the messaging bit was 24/7/365 and there were people in the Rohnert Park office at the time. I know because we run a Skype chat channel to talk about issues and discuss solutions. The customer got through on the old Red Condor number and got to us. They were quite upset over us being closed and we talked about it in Skype. We fixed there issue but is kept reoccurring.

As you can imagine, we thought this had to do with the new software. The reality is that it didn't and was related directly to the way we stored certain types of data in the system. What it meant for us was that we had to be more vigilent than normal looking for the problem to crop up in other places and then knock it down. Which happened and we did. The biggest fallout of this whole thing was a perception issue in San Diego that we had "pushed out junk". It will eventually turn out that this software had absolutely nothing to do with the problem, but perception is 100% of reality. The worst part from my standpoint was that the customer was most upset because of the reachability issue when the problem first came up. The Rohnert Park team was viewed dubiously over that, although we had nothing to do with the connectivity issue. It surprised me most that the San Diego team had routed the voice badly. They did have call coverage over the holidays and that "office is closed" message was only on the main number not the service number.

Well, the fallout continues next week over this event.

Jim Sackman
Focal Point Business Coaching
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