Monday, June 16, 2008

Book Review: The Business of Software

Eric Sink on the Business Of SoftwareWhile I was at TechEd in Orlando I had the opportunity to speak briefly with Eric Sink the CEO of SourceGear. Eric wrote a series of articles on The Business of Software for MSDN Magazine between 2003 and 2004. He compiled these articles into a book called “Eric Sink on the Business of Software”. They had a copy available at the conference so I took the opportunity to pick up a copy.

I was able to read the book during my flight home and I really enjoyed reading the book. The articles have been organized in a different order than they originally appeared giving the book more of a flow. Additionally Eric has added a brief introduction to each of the articles.

Like Joel Splosky, who wrote the forward, Eric has an effective way of incorporating his humor into the serious topic of running a software company. This humor appealed to my inner geek, in the article “Geek Gauntlets” contains shades of AD&D (gauntlets of fumbling vs gauntlets of dexterity). I doubt I am the only geek who picked up on that right away.

The book is divided into four sections; Entrepreneurship, People, Marketing and Sales. Each chapter is one of the original MSDN articles. Each chapter contains valuable information and flow quickly making the reading enjoyable. Since each chapter is a self contained article you can put the book down and pick it back up so you don’t have to set aside a block of time to read in order to get something from the book.

The first section is entrepreneurship and my favorite article was “Make More Mistakes”. I have always found that I learn more by making mistakes then by getting it right the first time. This is a frustrating part of life but there is no substitute for experience and experimentation. It is always humbling to me to go back and look at code that I wrote years ago, hopefully I do a better job and I will continue to improve.

Next is the section on people and my favorite chapter was “Career Calculus”. The essence of this article is that you should never stop learning. I whole heartedly agree, I have learned a lot from various blogs I have found or that have been recommended to me over the past year. It is always good to get a different perspective on our industry and our skills.

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Next is a section on marketing and I really enjoyed “Going to a Trade Show” probably because it is really entertaining and I picked up the book at TechEd 2008. I like trade shows it is a fantastic way to interact with customers and potential customers. I also enjoy attending and speaking at these conferences, allowing me to meet other developers and exchange ideas.

The end of the book is a collection of articles on sales I thought “Tenets of Transparency” was excellent. This article is all about communicating with your customers and partners. I like companies who provide lots of information to me about their products and services. I use the Internet for research about many of the products that I buy. A company that provides good information about their products usually get more of my attention. I think weblogs are an excellent way of extending this communication. A peek into the future is also a very important tenet which we do with Advantage.

There is a wealth of useful information in this book. If you are a part of a Small ISV then you are already aware of the challenges of being a “jack of all traits”. Eric’s insights will be very useful for you. For anyone who has that great idea and wants to strike out on your own, I sincerely hope you achieve your dreams. Take some time to read through this book and many other business books as part of your journey into entrepreneurship. Finally if you are happy where you are and like me you just want to expand your business knowledge this book offers solid business advice and practices for geeks. I have always worn my geek badge with pride.

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