Company Blog

Jane, Stop this crazy thang!

April 23, 2009

Everyone at Redcort Software is relaxing a little more these days. When we shipped Virtual TimeClock '09 Release 2 on April 8, we all began to believe that we had successfully pulled back from the brink. Some back story (over a couple of posts) will help you to appreciate the journey.

As far back as 2003, we knew we had to stop the insanity of our engineering cycle. Like every other software publisher, we were going more than a little bonkers, often working around the clock and missing deadlines trying to crank out monolithic upgrades to our time clock software every 18-24 months.

Our 'periodic major upgrade' mode had created an overwhelming engineering schedule where everything had to be decided a year or more ahead of time. First we had to accurately determine what new features our customers would need two years from now. In addition we needed a crystal ball to tell us about the technical advances and changes in the next version of Mac OS X and Microsoft Windows operating systems. Add to the mix new state or federal rules that would be coming regarding time and attendance reporting, overtime, vacation, timecards and time tracking rules.

This volatile mix of planning and priorities became a certain recipe for an explosive development cycle for Virtual TimeClock. It was certain in the earliest stages of planning that the time clock software upgrade we were envisioning would morph, delay, and challenge us as we adapted real-time to a world that unfolded quite differently than our predictions.

In 2004 we realized the Internet could revolutionize our engineering cycle. In the same way that the Internet facilitated direct customer interaction and free time clock software downloads, it would also change our approach to software development. The wide spread adoption of high speed Internet meant that electronic distribution of software was now trivial for our customers. We could release software in incremental updates 2-3 times a year, allowing us to predict and plan for our customer's time clock software needs months rather than years in the future.

Indeed, Redcort Software became a much better place to work following the release our last major upgrade, Virtual TimeClock 5.0 in December 2004. After the huge 5.0 upgrade, we settled into a wonderful rhythm of incremental time clock software releases 2-3 times a year. We loved it and our customers loved it. In this period we shipped Virtual TimeClock updates as soon as a needed new feature was ready, when a government regulation took effect, or when we needed a compatibility update for a new OS release from Microsoft or Apple. Life was good in the land of Redcort Software! Our report writer was enhanced for customized timesheet and timecard reports. We added timecard entry auditing and a fully automated timeclock database backup system. Apple OS X 10.5 Leopard support and Microsoft Windows Vista compatibility was maintained as each OS was released.

By the middle of 2007 we faced a grim reality. As the effects of Apple's switch to Intel processors reached us in a practical way, we realized that we had a huge software development challenge ahead of us. Reluctantly, we found ourselves in the insanity of a major upgrade. The next Virtual TimeClock release would become our largest software upgrade in 10 years. By the end of 2008 we all started to wonder if the insanity of a major upgrade would indeed be temporary.

The release of Virtual TimeClock '09 marked the triumph of a successful major upgrade. Shipping Virtual TimeClock '09 Release 2 in April was the tangible proof we needed that life in the land of Redcort Sofware was indeed getting back to normal.