Thank you very much for being a devoted telerik customer. You have provided some great feedback and I have made some comments inline in blue.
A couple years ago when I was evaluating ASP.NET control suites I looked at two vendors very closely -- Telerik and Infragistics. The high level summary goes something like this -- at the time the Infragistics controls were plentiful, but lacked the polish and quality of the Telerik offering. So I made the logical decision and purchased the Telerik suite. During my first year of ownership I noticed a few things that were very impressive to me:
- A published product roadmap. Web developers today are asked to really push the limits of the web browser, and it is helpful to know about new features so we can prepare to take advantage of everything offered in new releases. Those of us with demanding customers and site visitors need to stay one step ahead of requests.
- Telerik appeared to be focused on their ASP.NET control suite.
- Releases appeared on or within days of the posted dates. There is nothing so fun as release day when we can dive in to the new fixes and features!
- New releases appear to have a limited number of bugs. Very nice. Replace a few files on the development sites and after minimal code changes and testing move to production.
- The support staff monitor the forums very closely and respond to discussions directly and with the detail needed to answer specific questions.
- Support incidents are answered quickly. From time to time I have even received assistance on issues that might be viewed as outside the support responsibility of Telerik.
- Customer communications is fantastic. Customer surveys and a willingness to listen to customer comments and concerns in an effort to continually improve. Oh, and not only do they accept feedback, they act on it (improvements to the forums and to the product line).
Renewing my Telerik subscription for another year was a no-brainer. During the second year of ownership I have noticed a few changes. As with just about everything in life, some things stay the same, some things change for the worse, and other things improve. I am sure these changes have very good reasons behind them, I list them here mainly because these are the things that have set Telerik apart from other companies:
- The product roadmap was not updated as frequently and did not provide the same level of insight in to the next release. Perhaps to allow for some competitive advantage? Perhaps because the project managers are not in-tune with what the developers can accomplish during the development stage, and it is easier to remove features from the list when the customer doesn't know it was originally due for the release.
Vassil>> You are absolutely right - we didn't provide enough detail and it seems it wasn't a wise thing to do. Partly, we didn't feel you guys needed this extra detail. Another reason was that some of the things we worked on were supposed to be nice surprises (things like the Q4 r.a.d.chart release). Based on your feedback, we will do our best to maintain a detailed roadmap for 2007.
- Telerik no longer appears to be focused on any one product. As an outsider who knows nothing about the inner workings of their organization, it appears that they are trying to do too much with too little -- stretching themselves too thin in an effort to be everything to everyone. Don't get me wrong, I would likely use the other products they create if they are included in without extra licensing, but if I really needed something solid I would find myself evaluating a best of breed product.
Vassil>> One of the things that has always separated us from the competition is that we have followed a "best of breed" approach - we have always worked hard to make all telerik products top contenders in their categories. That's one of the reasons for the small number of new products in 2006 - we wanted to not only have the most comprehensive suite, but to also spend time to make our products the most stable and reliable on the market. Quantity-wise, we (and customers) suffered, however, I am sure that the current line-up of ASP.NET controls is a really good foundation for project development. All of our UI controls have undergone very serious testing and will work without major surprises. We are also investing a lot of efforts in all support resources we provide: Examples, Documentation, Videos (Soon to come), Knowledge Base, Code Library, etc. We do hope you are finding all these help resources useful.
With regards to focus, I have seen what happens in other companies that grow fast and get stretched on many fronts and I can say that we have done what's needed to ensure that telerik doesn't repeat the mistakes of others. Before moving on to ANY new development, we staff our teams accordingly so that the work processes and quality of the products and services does not suffer.
- Releases have not appeared by the published dates. I have witnessed quite a few development companies go through this same scenario... Start with the intension of being very open, then they have a few problems and miss a date here and there and start to get complaints from customers. The result of sharing release dates with customers and not meeting the dates is no more specific release dates. It is easier to hit a release date of the second half of a month than it is to hit an actual date. What happens when the estimated release dates are missed? No release dates at all. This isn't a huge deal, and it has happened to a lot of companies. More times than not Telerik used to hit their more specific release dates.
Vassil>> I think we made some good progress with regards to release dates in 2006. For all Qs, we managed to "almost" hit the release dates - we had 1-2 day delays. That said, even this delay is annoying and we will try to make the release on the promised dates in 2007. And we will continue to have release dates in the Roadmap so that you know when and what to expect from us.
- Releases appear to have more bugs, and are often followed by multiple service packs. I am a developer and understand that all software has bugs. Every line of code in every new feature presents a possible bug. So, I would rather have a service pack to fix issues than have to wait for the next major release. I also understand that if a company were to wait to release a product until there were "zero bugs" that the software would never be released.
Vassil>> Indeed, there were quite a few Service Packs in 2006. You mentioned one of the reasons - this was part of our strategy to eliminate as many bugs as we can, as fast as we can so that customers don't wait for months/years for a resolution to a given problem. Maybe it was not the best choice, but we had good intentions - we wanted to be truly agile and fix bugs almost in real-time.
Other reasons for the numerous updates were for example the Atlas/ASP.NET AJAX updates. If you remember, we were the first component vendor to provide Atlas-ready UI controls and we needed to keep the edge. Having in mind that every CTP/Beta/RC release of ASP.NET AJAX was not backwards compatible, we had to release Service Packs to provide compatibility for the latest release. Another such "mandated" update concerned Internet Explorer 7 - the vast changes this browser introduced would have inevitably affected our customers so we were again quick to address them in a service pack.
In order to smoothen the releases and updates we have substantially increased our automatic test coverage. As a result, the number of bugs to hit our customer base in 2007 should be significantly reduced.
- I have noticed that frequently someone in the community attempts to answer most customer questions before Telerik chimes in with their input. This may simply be caused by the fact that the community is in and out of the forums 24 hours a day, and Telerik works normal business hours. Perhaps others attempting to answer questions in a community setting like this fees Telerik up to focus on official support tickets and development. As a customer I value the Telerik follow-up comments more than those of Intermediate, Master, or MVP customers.
Vassil>> We have not lost dedication for forum posts:) It's just that the community has grown considerably and there are non-telerik people that want to help and, more importantly, have the capacity to help. We continue to monitor all posts and if something is misleading or incorrect, we kick in and provide a solution.
- I have not witnessed any significant changes to the level of support provided, and that is a good thing.
Vassil>> As I mentioned above, we are careful when it comes to new developments and before we move on to something new, we make sure that our core products and and the level of our services do not suffer. Losing your trust would be the biggest mistake we can make.
- Telerik continues to look for ways to improve.
Vassil>> Thanks:) I hope that you and other telerik customers will be pleasantly surprised by what's coming up ahead in 2007.
I don't want to get in to a feature comparison here -- we all know that Telerik has some products and features that Infragistics doesn't and vise versa. My thought is that I haven't seen anything from Telerik to show me that they are working to be a leader with their current offerings.
Vassil>> Perhaps it's not visible yet as we are in the early stages of the life of the Reporting and WinForms product lines, but we have never settled with mediocre products. It's just not our style and we will work really hard to make those new product lines leaders in their segments.
With regards to the ASP.NET product line, we have done a lot to keep our leadership position. We were in a state where we decided to take a different approach from other major players and to focus more on quality that quantity. We could afford this step and took the risk. Overall, quantity-wise the controls in our and competing ASP.NET offerings may be similar, but I believe we offer a much more reliable offering that will save you precious development time and hassles.
This is not something that you can easily market as it doesn't boil down to features, but nonetheless is perhaps the most important thing - how much effort does it take to get your job done.
The reporting and Windows form products are in its early stages, and it is hard to see where Telerik plans to take these products. Can the Telerik organization realistically handle developing and supporting all of the new products they have created (Reporting, Windows Controls, SiteFinity), and continue to provide the same level of quality and service we have come to expect in previous years? Is the Telerik product line expanding faster than they are? Are they attempting to research, develop, market, and support too many products in a too short a period of time?
Vassil>> So far, we have managed to work on new development and to continue improving our current offerings and services. For your information, new product lines are serviced by entirely new teams so existing products should not be affected.
I don't think that the failure of any of the telerik products lines is an option, nor is the sacrifice of customer service. It's definitely a challenge to grow at this pace and still keep customers happy, but we'll have to find creative ways to "deliver more than expected".
I am a happy Telerik customer and my interaction with the company has been largely positive. So much so that I actually want to see them succeed (as opposed to not caring either way). As far as I can tell, Infragistics has been very busy playing catch-up, and they are really challenging the Telerik product lines. Taking another look at these two vendors today makes me wonder if Telerik is loosing the edge they had in product focus, quality, and feature-set.
Vassil>> When it comes to ASP.NET, I don't think we have lost our leading edge, even though Infragistics have done a lot to catch up and put pressure on us. As I mentioned earlier, there are many things that cannot be measured by a mere comparison of what you get in terms of number of components, number of help topics, etc. Everything is about productivity and quality of the final application and I think that the fact that our products offer a codeless experience, strong AJAX/ASP.NET AJAX support, provide the widest cross-browser and standards support, have very lightweight rendering and more or less offer most of the features you'd ever need are a good sign that we can help you minimize the time you spend on UI development. And that we offer the tools with which you can impress your end-users:)
Just as Infragistics is challenging our ASP.NET product line, we are challenging their Windows Forms UI product line with some really novel features that were not available to .NET developers previously.
Either way, it's a rewarding experience to have great competitors and this only motivates us to push even harder and fight for your love. Hopefully, in a few years you will post "6 years with Telerik" and we will be able to have an honest conversation whether we've been successful in meeting your expectations throughout the years.
I would like to use the opportunity to ask for your input: what would make you happier as a telerik customer? Could you make a list of the top 3-5 items that would make a difference when the time comes to renew next year?
Once again thanks for the great feedback and for reminding us about the pitfalls we should never make!
the telerik team