A common question with software companies is when to release the next version of their software. Should it be as soon as enough new features and benefits are available that people will be interested in? Should it be when there’s enough value that virtually everyone will want to purchase an upgrade rather than only a percentage? Should it be every month? Should it be once every year, two years, etc.? This is a very hard question to answer and every software company handles it differently.
Not only does every company handle it differently, but sometimes different releases of the same product/project are handled differently! And this happens to be the case with this latest version of LandlordMax. Normally I only like to release a major version of LandlordMax when we’ve added enough new features that it will excite a large percentage of our customers! If it’s only a few features, we sometimes will just release that as a patch, but I generally like to push features to major releases.
This particular upcoming release will be different than usual in that it’s only been a short time since the last release. Although version 2.12 states that it was released in December, it was actually released in April. That means it’s been just 6 months, which is very quick for a new major release. Is it too soon is the better question! And this is where I’m facing a very big delimna which I’ve finally resolved over the last few weeks.
I’m sure you’re wondering why it was a difficult choice, and I’m going to explain why right now. In the upcoming version we’ve added several features that have a major impact on how people perform their daily tasks. One of these features is the “Late” button shown in this animated tutorial. Although this is just a simple button, the amount of effort it will save some of our customers is significant. Another small feature that has large implications is that when you now create a new lease, a scheduled accounting entry will also automatically be created for you. The more tenants (ie. leases) you have, the more beneficial this quickly becomes. For some of our larger customers with hundreds of tenants, this is a huge benefit!
On top of this we’ve added many other features. I don’t want to divulge everything yet, but another major new feature is the ability to create, store, and print receipts. This is a whole new section that many people requested. We’ve also added date formatting, some preference settings, etc.
As well, we’ve done a lot of very significant performance enhancements. Between version 2.12b and version 2.12c we initially did some amazing performance enhancements, as much as an order of magnitude faster for many screens (that’s 10x faster performance!). Well in this version we did another order of magnitude in performance for most data and list screens! We ran a test database with over 2000 tenants, over 2000 units, over 5000 workorders, over 5000 receipts and invoices, over 50,000 accounting entries, and all the related data. I can assure you that the larger your database, the more significant the performance enhancements! Some screens have improvements where the display is virtually instantenous for larger tables (under 1/2 second)! We’ve improved the speed of the UI (User Interface) and the database calls (which I’ll probably write about the later very shortly). All in all, there are some very significant performance enhancements in this upcoming version!
Now you’re probably still asking yourself where’s the dilemma? The dilemma is that we wanted to add two other new and very powerful features for this upcoming version. The problem is that neither of these features is going to be ready for at least 2 more months. So do we wait 2 months for these two features or do we go ahead and release now with all the great features and benefits we’ve already implemented?
You still don’t get the dilemma? The dilemma is that if we release now, we might now also want to release the other two great features in 2 months. Releasing major versions too often will annoy your customers! Nobody wants to be upgrading every other day. So if we release now, then when do we release the two other major features? In case you’re wondering, these are very highly requested features, so I believe they will have a significant impact on sales and customer happiness.
So we can postpone the release for 2-3 months, which means we lose revenue (opportunity cost) as with every new version, every new features, we increase our sales. If we release in 2-3 months, I personally believe that these two new features will generate additional significant sales by themselves! So we want those in sooner than later too. So if we release now, do we push those features to the next major release to avoid having too many upgrades and annoy our customers or do we release them in 2 months? Which do we do?
As well, each release has technical support costs. Although our upgrades are fairly easy to do, all you need to do is re-install the software overtop the old one (the database is automatically converted for you), many of our customers still require technical support. What you have to understand is that many of our customers aren’t all technically literate (we do offer the easiest property management software after all!), which means it will convert to some extra technical support costs for us. This adds to the equation in that more releases is more expensive.
So just to recap as this is fairly complex, here are our three choices:
1. Release today missing two major features. Re-release again in 2-3 months as another major upgrade (knowing that people don’t like too many new major releases, and that there will be additional technical support costs).
2. Release today missing two major features. Push the 2 major features into the next major release several months away, even possibly as long as a year (and lose the additional sales for that time).
3. Release in 2-3 months and withold all the great features we’ve already built. This also means we’ll lose additional sales during 2-3 months.
As an extra factor, September to April is our busiest time (they’re multiples of the rest of the year). So these 2-3 months are right in the middle of where we make most of our yearly revenue! This means that 2-3 months is actually like 6 months for most businesses!
Which would you choose? I personally opted for option 1. I’m willing to absorb the extra support costs that come with each upgrade because I think the additional revenue during our busy season will outweigh them. I also believe that we shouldn’t hold back our current features for these two other features, no matter how great they are! I don’t care if they’re pure gold, we already have so many highly requested features that I’d like to get them out there now rather than later. The other two features are important enough to me that I don’t want to wait until another major version, I’d rather release them as another upgrade in 2-3 months. They’re big enough to warrant an upgrade rather than a patch, but I’m not willing to wait for the next major release.
Which option would you take with these assumptions?