Staying Ahead Of The Curve

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Having been part of the high-tech industry for more than 25 years, I have, of course, seen technologies come, go and evolve. In 1989, I started my own software company by providing C development tools for Microsoft Windows developers. Ten years later, with the advent of .Net, we recognized that the entire computing landscape was about to change. To ride this wave of innovation, we merged with one of our top competitors and began to develop what is now today's top-selling user interface component toolset for .Net, Infragistics NetAdvantage for .Net. Between then and now, I've learned, and implemented, several key doctrines to survive in this ever-changing industry:

1. Keep Your Eyes On The Technology Trendsetters
Infragistics is part of the Microsoft ecosystem. We provide UI controls above and beyond what Microsoft provides for Windows Forms, ASP.Net, Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF) and soon Silverlight. So it makes sense that we maintain a very close relationship with Microsoft to learn about technologies on the horizon. This strategy has paid off. Five years ago, we started working with Microsoft on WPF. When WPF shipped last year without a data grid, one of the essential components for building a UI, we were there to fill that gap. The company that can add value on top of new technology will win new customers and retain old ones.

2. Get In On The Ground Floor
We've leveraged our relationship with Microsoft to get involved early on in new technology. By participating in training days, beta programs, etc., we work with Microsoft bits early on and start developing ideas around them. Infragistics takes it a step further by becoming part of the community and releasing our work out to the masses. As an example, this year at MIX, Microsoft officially released the bits for Silverlight 2.0. Being a Microsoft partner, we already had the bits and were able to build a whole sample showcase based on it, exemplifying how developers can use Silverlight to integrate corporate data with services provided on the Internet to create a business-driven mashup experience, while simultaneously providing LOB application users with an engaging and visually appealing UI. We accomplished two things by putting time and resources into a sample showcase: First, we were able to preview controls we're working on for Silverlight. Second, we made the source code to the showcase available to anyone who wants it so we become an enabler of this new emerging technology.

3. Invest In Training
Our customers look to us to show them how to utilize technology. We make sure everyone who touches customers is ready to talk and teach. We get the proper training for developers, technical support and sales engineers. When making buying decisions, customers are far more likely to buy from companies that can do more than just sell them a box of software. Infragistics understands that it is not enough to make great products. For that reason, we supply a wide range of value-added support that helps developers use our products to achieve maximum effect while utilizing best practices.

4. Plan To Support Transitional Activities
With new technology comes change. Our customers will have to decide whether or not they should stick with what they've got or if utilizing a new technology will help their businesses. When planning for new technology announcements, we anticipate the questions our customers will ask: Will you continue to support the legacy products and for how long? Will there be an upgrade path? Will there be upgrade pricing? And the list goes on. By being prepared with clear answers and a road map, we win customer loyalty.

5. Be Prepared To Hurry Up And Wait
With any technology comes a period of slow adoption. It always takes some time to see ROI on our development, training and resource costs to support and deliver on an emerging technology. But being one of the first ISVs that supports and adds value makes our product the choice of early adopters and shows our commitment to innovate and evolve with the market.

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