Will HTML Force You to Lie?

OK, our company, Farata Systems has created this nice application using Adobe AIR, and our customers are happy. It’s not a simple CRUD though. We’ve implemented some cool stuff replacing tons of paper forms with PDF documents processing. PDF documents are being scanned, the OCR software processes them to automatically figure out what type of document is it to properly save it in a database. Customers’ checks are scanned, digital signatures are flying, reports are being created… All is integrated into one Adobe AIR application. No external Acrobat Reader, no nothing. I’m not saying that it’s not doing some traditional grid/form processing, but there is something to be proud of.

Yesterday, one perspective customer asked me if we have an HTML5 version of this application. I said, “We can create one for you”. The next moment I realized that I lied and added, “I mean, most of it can be turned into HTML/JavaScript, but some heavy duty stuff we’re doing now would be too expensive to re-create in HTML/JavaScript”.

I didn’t start questioning why they even wanted to do a pure HTML5 version. I know what the answer would be: “Everybody goes HTML5, we want it too, and we want it now”. You can’t piss against the wind. You shouldn’t attack windmills unless your name is Don Quixote.

In my 25+ years in IT I always stuck to one rule – give your customers an honest technical opinion, but if they decide to overrule it for whatever reason, do what they want. This strategy allows me sleep well at night knowing that I didn’t lie. I also know that I would have won more project bids if I wouldn’t stick to this rule.

After thinking of this yesterday’s conversation I felt like deja vu – it was happening in the past and will be happening all over again. I’ll be saying to our perspective customers something like this, “We can do it in HTML5/JavaScript, but it’s going to be a lot more expensive than if we’d in Adobe AIR”. But the next day a salesman from another consulting firm will meet with the same perspective client and, without thinking twice, will answer, “Yes sir, we can do it in HTML5 at the same or even lower cost. Promise.”. After that the salesman will give a strong handshake looking straight in the eye of a customer for about three seconds. They’ll win the bid… Said I loved you, but I lied.

Only six months later it’ll become obvious to everybody that the entire project budget is drained, because of “some unforeseeable technical difficulties”, and they’d need to substantially increase the budjet of this project. But hey, they’ll figure out something. And what do I get? I didn’t lose self respect and sleep well at night, which are not a bad things too, don’t you think?


5 thoughts on “Will HTML Force You to Lie?

  1. I’m starting to see that too. We call them the “buzzword compatible” projects.

    Everyone has heard of HTML5 and wants it, it allows them to sound cutting edge… but from the implementation side… it’s another story.

  2. Privet Yakov,

    In the company I work for, we decided that Flex 4.5 will be more than good enough until the end of 2013. After all, Flex 4.5 is recent. And even if the Metro version of IE10 won’t run Flash Player, the legacy version of IE10 will, and enterprises are slow to upgrade their deployed browsers. By then, we expect the HTML 5 / Javascript enterprise frameworks to have somewhat matured and we will reconsider. We will see if the HTML 5 hype will have deflated and the Apache Flex project will have gained traction or if the hype was right.

    I am not convinced frameworks like ExtJS are the swiss knives they pretend to be when I read this:

    Serious performance degrading leads me to doubt Sencha’s Future

    PS: “You can’t piss against the wind”: I like the russian expression there 😉

    • Hi Karl,

      I think your company has made the right decision. But we are a consulting firm and don’t want to lose customers who are not that savvy and are moving with the trend. We understand that moving from Flex to Ext JS is like going “Back from to the past” – I’m just rephrasing Ted Patrick from Sencha who went the same path and said “I realized that I lived in the future”.

      Slower performance (on IE) doesn’t bother me that much – I’m sure Sencha will fix it soon and it’ll be as fast as JavaScript can be with these rich components they offer. Having said that, I’m not married to Ext JS, and as soon as I see another JavaScript framework with similar offerings – I’ll give it a try.

      Needless to say that our firm is developing pretty cool stuff using Flex and AIR, and we’ll gladly take new customers who are willing to use this great technology accidentally developed by Adobe as someone put it . Just look at this demo (press the button Play) of the Trading application that we created for a Wall Street startup: http://www.itbsecurities.com/platform.html. It’s all Flex talking to Java.

      Good luck with your Flex projects!

  3. You hit the nail right on the head. IT salesman are worse than used car salesman in general. Unfortunately the culture of ‘look them in the eye and say what they want to hear’ and then screw them left, right, center and backwards with variations is the prevailing culture in IT. Of course the clients should share some part of the blame, but there is always a way that they manage to shake this off. There is a popular book ‘The no asshole rule’ for office culture – there certainly should be ‘The no Sheister rule’ for IT. Unfortunately, while organizations like Gartner are still given respect by business, the outlook is grim.

  4. “You can’t piss against the wind”, absolutely exact for us too :D, and it is not the first time we have to face up to this kind of angry wind.

    But again, when the wind is over, I am sure the first word reset from all customers (enterprises): Hey you, the salesman, we need a solution that works, not a technique 😀

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