I am Joannes Vermorel, founder at Lokad. I am also an engineer from the Corps des Mines who initially graduated from the ENS.

I have been passionate about computer science, software matters and data mining for almost two decades. (RSS - ATOM)


Entries in roadmap (2)


No excuse for not disclosing your roadmap

Software is a fast-paced industry. New technologies soon become obsolete ones, and you need keep your mindset in Fire and Motion mode to move forward. Yet, when something really big emerges, say cloud computing, you end up in a crossroad and you need to make a choice about the future of your business.

This future depends on the 3rd party technology you decide to rely on. This is true for software companies buying software components, but it's also true for brick and mortar companies moving to the next generation ERP.

Trying to push my own little company forward, we can't afford reinventing the wheel. Thus, we are relying on loads of 3rd party tools and technologies; most likey any software company I guess - with the notable exceptions of Microsoft and Google that are nearly self-sustained.

There is nothing wrong in itself depending on other business. Specialization has been a driving force behind business growth for the last two centuries. Yet, in order to take good decisions, I need to be informed about future plans for key technologies that we are adopting.

Plainly put: I need business & technology roadmaps.

A roadmap helps to understand:

  • where the company is heading.
  • if it fits your own business vision.
  • if it matches your upcoming requirements.

Looking around me at companies who disclose their roadmaps, I realized that roadmaps are strong drivers to establish trust and commitment. It shows to your customers and partners that you are committed to move forward with them; not just to leverage status quo.

Yet, it's still sad to see that many companies adopt the Absolute Radio Silence strategy of Apple. It might work in the case of Apple, because they have become expert at leveraging the media buzz around their own plans; but it looks to me a total nonsense for B2B markets where relationships last for years if not decades.

The average lifetime of an installed ERP is 8 years.

Hiding behind the argument we don't want to over-promise  to keep your customers and partners in the dark looks to me a lame excuse. The roadmap represents a best effort attempt at summarizing directions, not an exact schedule. Obviously, it comes with a level of uncertainty. In B2B markets, your customers are smart enough to understand that.

Thus, I have decided to publish a public Lokad roadmap for 2010.

Obviously, one can argue that this roadmap is going to benefit to our competitors. Frankly, I don't think so. If disclosing a 3 pages document is sufficient to put your business in trouble then it means that your intellectual property is really weak in the first place.

The roadmap tells what you are going to do, not the fine grained details to make it work. As usual, ideas are dime a dozen, many investors would even offer them for free, execution is everything.


Windows Azure deserves a public roadmap

Last week, I had the chance to meet in person with Steve Marx and Doug Hauger, two key people part of the Windows Azure team at Microsoft.

First of all, I have been really pleased, those folks are brilliant. My own little company is betting a lot on Windows Azure. When I tell people (partners, investors, customers) about the amount of work involved to migrate Lokad toward the cloud, the most frequent feedback is that I am expecting way too much from Microsoft, that Lokad is taking way too much risk too rely on unproved Microsoft products, that Microsoft failed many times before, ...

My own belief in that matter is that Microsoft is a large company, with loads of talented people and loads of not so talented people too. Yet it seems clear to me now that Microsoft has gathered a top notch team on Windows Azure, and this alone is a very healthy sign concerning the future of Windows Azure.

In particular, Doug Hauger spend a lot time to explain to me his vision about the future of Windows Azure. Again, it was brilliant. Unfortunately, due to NDA, I won't be able to discuss here the most salient aspects of this roadmap. It's a bit sad because I am pretty sure that most of the Azure community would be thrilled - like I am - if this vision was openly shared.

Among all projects going on at Microsoft, on team that I like a lot is the C# team. In my humble opinion, C# is about one of the finest product ever released by Microsoft; and one thing that I appreciate a lot about the C# team is that they openly discuss their roadmap. C# 4.0 is not even released, and that have already started to discuss features that lies further ahead. If C# is such a good product, I believe it's precisely because every feature get openly discussed so much.

Back to Windows Azure, I think everybody would agree that cloud computing is, as a technology, about several order of magnitude more complex than any programming language (even C#). My own experience - reading questions asked on the Windows Azure Forums - is that many developers still fails to understand the cloud, and keep asking for the wrong features (ex: Remote Desktop). A roadmap would help people to avoid such pitfall, as it would make it much more obvious to see where Azure is heading.

Then, when we started migrating Lokad toward Azure about 6 months ago, we build our architecture upon a lot of guesses about the features that were most likely to be shipped with Windows Azure. So far, we have been really lucky, and Doug Hauger just confirmed me last week loads of things that we were only guesstimating so far. Yet, I would have been 10x more confident in the roadmap had been available from the start. You can't expect people to be that lucky at doing forecasts as a line of business.

The world is vast, and no matter how dedicated is the Azure team, it does not seems reasonable to expect they will be able to spend hours with every partner to enlight them with their secret roadmap. Private roadmaps just don't scale. Considering that Microsoft is a late entrant in the cloud computing market (Amazon EC2 has been in production for more than 2 years), a public disclosure of their roadmap seems unlikely to profit to any competitor (or rather the profit will be very marginal).

In the other hand, an Azure roadmap would heavily profit in very certain ways to all the partners already investing on Windows Azure; plus it would also help convincing other partners that Azure is here to stay, not just cover fire.