SolidWorks Service Pack Woes

I have been writing about the ridiculous SolidWorks policy of not allowing non-subscription customers to download service packs (see “Proud SolidWorks Customers“). Devon Sowell was planning to interview Rich Welch on that issue and asked people for questions. I sent him mine. Rich is the VP of Customer Service at Dassault Systemes SolidWorks Corporation. There is a reason why I added the “Dassault Systemes” before “SolidWorks Corporation”. I think I will be doing that more often now. This is how the interview started.

WARNING! If you are a programmer, please be sure to put that coffee down before proceeding to read.

Devon: Deelip Menezes asked about separating bug fixes, service packs, and enhancements so customers could chose what type of SolidWorks Subscription Maintenance they wanted to pay for.

Rich: SolidWorks has looked at this issue several times and determined that based upon the amount of effort, Quality Assurance infrastructure, and the extreme high cost of implementation, it would ultimately result in higher fees to customers with the potential to introduce instability in the software and require more service pack releases. This is the opposite of what we are trying to accomplish.

Here is the thing. A bug is fixed by writing new code and/or editing existing code. An enhancement is added by adding new code and/or editing existing code. Each and every one of my SolidWorks add-ins is an enhancement because the new code is neatly tucked away into an add-in DLL talking to the main SolidWorks application via the API. Every time I fix a bug in my add-in DLL, I rebuild it, increment the DLL version and ship it to the customer. The installer takes care of the rest. And to do all of this I do not even have to touch the core SolidWorks code (obviously I do not have access to it). SolidWorks has access to their code, can do a far lot more and not be limited to working with the API only. SolidWorks has more than half a GB of object code stored in DLLs. The functionality of any software, not just one as complex as SolidWorks, needs to be organized into parts (basically DLL’s) so that it can be independently worked upon by different teams spread across the globe. That’s the whole freaking point of DLL’s to begin with – to make it modular so that new stuff can be added and existing stuff can be changed or tweaked easily and efficiently.

By the way, Autodesk splits up bug fixes and new functionality into Service Packs and Subscription Advantage Packs. And they do not charge customers extra for doing so. Each and every software company worth being called one and which builds software using the concept of DLL’s knows how to do this. This has absolutely nothing to do with costing more. This is just the software is made. Period.

Bottom line. This is bullshit.

  • daveault

    It amazes me that fundamentally bad decisions are made so often at the corporate level. I for years contracted work to a restaurant chain of about 750 stores total. We are talking about a concern that well over 15,000 people depended on for a living plus servers that earned part of their living.

    One day an idiot VP over the commisary operation that produced food for the chain was asking the facilities manager what he thought of the “new” recipe that basically was just corn syrup instead of more expensive honey in the honey mustard. My friend told him that he thought it was junk. A few hours later the manager saw me and told me of this. He went on to say that the VP took offense at the “negative” comment and informed the manager that they were “going to educate the customers as to what they would like”.

    Well they did educate them. The VP recieved big bonuses for a few years until decreasing quality of food in the store caught up with them and almost put them out of business. The VP was belatedly fired, thousands of people lost their jobs and shareholders were in rebellion with stock values plumeting.

    It took about a dozen people at the top who were not restraunteurs, did not create the concept nor start the chain, to nearly destroy this creation of the founders. If I had not seen this over the course of the roughly 14 years I contracted to them I would not have believed it if you had told me about it. But I did see this and the end came within four years from top of the heap to “educated customers”.

    I don't think anything good is going to come of all this with Dassault SW user's as they to are to be “educated as to what they will like” and until there is severe loss of customer base the “innovators” will not be held accountable. We used to hear the same psycobabble justifications for poor choices from the above VP as Dassault SW users are hearing from Rich Welch. What is it with people that convince themselves while standing in front of a mirror that their choices are going to be well recieved by those who are not? Maybe Dassault SW will not go through with this but if my experience with corporate types is any iindication as to what is to come, Dassault SW users better start up their contingency plans.

  • I was ‘taught’ long ago, a company created by a grandfather is successfully expanded/grown by his son and then ‘destroyed’ by the grandson.

    I have seen the evidence of this process in several very large organizations here in Aust’ along with similar examples of what Dave has outlined.

    ‘Succession’ presents problems for many in business. What Dave has described is an all too common occurrence after ‘takeovers/buy-outs’ and it is evident in a number of CAD vendors: there is a ‘feel’ in some businesses and quite often those who follow creators have ‘business qualifications’ but lack ‘the feel’. Decisions are made based on ‘reality’ and ‘perceived’ customer requirements; supported by rhetoric that may appear rational at first but in time proves false. Customers ultimately learn to see through the veil and then the business suffers.