Whenever we launch a new service in Zoho – we don’t actually do it that often, only once every couple of months, really 🙂 – one question that comes up is “Why are you launching a new service instead of improving what’s already there?” It is a fair question, and sometimes when a user is waiting for an update from, say, Zoho Writer or Zoho CRM, and sees Zoho DB launched, it causes them to go “Hmm, have these guys forgotten their existing products?”
Well, here is the answer. Each Zoho service has its own dedicated engineering team, working on its own schedule. It is not easy to just add people to speed up the schedule. Beyond a point, adding engineering resources to a team won’t make the development go faster; in fact, it could well make it go slower. There is a certain intrinsic pace to software development, which is a function of a) the requirements b) the available technology of the day c) the skills of the development team and finally d) the size of the development team. Whether or not adding people helps increase the pace crucially depends on whether the workload can be partitioned among multiple developers. A lot of software tasks are not readily partitioned.
The second reason is that as hard as we try, updates don’t happen like clockwork, but instead follow the pattern of lulls followed by bursts. Just as an example, check out this page listing the updates in Zoho Sheet. As you can see, there have been 5 updates in the last 2 months, but that flurry of updates came after a 2 month lull. That lull actually explains the flurry – there were multiple features the team was working on, but it took a while for those to converge. They all converged within a few weeks of each other, leading to the surge of updates in Zoho Sheet. You will see a similar pattern in any of our products – so if you see a period of lull, that most likely means a series of updates is coming. There is another inherent feature of software development; some important features may be easy to get done, while some others may suck a lot of development effort. Alas, there is often no way to know the difference ahead of time. A relatively simple feature (or what is thought to be a simple feature) may run into a critical browser bug (for example) that takes several days, sometimes even weeks, of work-arounds and testing, something that is impossible to account for in any conventional project management methodology.
Finally, there is the attention effect. New product releases get publicity, while updates to existing products tend not to get noticed that often. So if you are keeping score by what you hear about Zoho from external sources, you are likely to conclude that all we do is launch new products! But rest assured – each of our products has a dedicated team, working hard to bring you better functionality and a more refined user experience.