I read this article in CNet today about how Betas are becoming longer and how the lines between a Beta and the final product are blurring.
As you know, Microsoft Visual Studio took the lead in releasing CTPs (Community Technology Previews). Other products are starting to do this. The goal behind this exercise is to provide customers access to our early builds and start a 2-way dialog that helps us deliver “the right product” for our customers. I believe in the saying “Life is all about setting the right expectations and delivering on those or exceeding those”. Some people refer to this as UPOD – Under Promise and Over Deliver. As long as you set the right expectations with customers in terms of what they can do and more importantly what they can’t do with our products, I would always err on the side of transparency.
For example, we are very clear to our customers about CTP drops, why we do them, what we expect customers to be able to do and not do in these CTPs. We also have the notion of a “go-live” license where for certain Betas, we work with a number of customers to deploy these Betas in production environments. Once again, it has to be a decision made by the customer working in partnership with us.
By the way, it isn’t that we are super good today about being predictable with when we deliver our software. Our goal, as part of transparency, is to ensure that we both share our roadmap and do appropriate change management as necessary.
If we ever get to a point where we are not crystal clear on setting expectations with customers about what they can and can’t do with early bits of our products, that is a big dis-service to our customers and ultimately to ourselves. I do hope that we and others don’t get confused between being transparent with customers/community and worrying about long beta cycles.