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Quicken's Quality Meltdown - Revisited

A few months ago on this forum, I started a thread on "Quicken's Quality Meltdown".  It asked how Quicken could have botched some of the most basic features in its decade old flagship product [to Intuit's credit, the worst of the problems have gone away after four or five patches].

Here's a great essay by a former Microsoft Money developer that goes along way to explaining what the problem may have been:  http://tinyurl.com/3e3xr  [msdn.com]

He describes a major Feature Arms Race with Quicken, and a botched strategy to turn it into a web "property."  Fascinating reading.

J. Peterson
Saturday, July 03, 2004

Fantastic article. Thanks.

Dennis Atkins
Saturday, July 03, 2004


During the first part of the article, he says that part of the downfall of Money was the extreme competition with Quicken. Then he suggest that the competition "didn't serve consumers."

How fucking arrogant is that?!

If my history serves me correct, Intuit was publishing Quicken before Microsoft. Microsoft jumps into the market, attempts to beat the daylights of the competition and dominate. Instead of delivering the coupe de grace to their victim, as they are used to, they actually find themselves *gasp* competing! Oh no Mr. Bill!

The article is insightful, but I find the hint that it was really unfortunate that MS had to compete laughable. His disclaimers about competition notwithstanding.

Huh?
Saturday, July 03, 2004

Well, it's partly true.

Quicken and Money went on a downhill arms race: who could add the most glitzy and unusable features as quickly as possible, so as to garner review points. Real end users be damned.

mb
Saturday, July 03, 2004

Heh. This puts Microsoft's  Inductive User Interface thing in a whole new light, doesn't it?

http://msdn.microsoft.com/library/default.asp?url=/library/en-us/dnwui/html/iuiguidelines.asp :

"This article describes a new user interface model called inductive user interface (IUI). Also called inductive navigation, the IUI model suggests how to make software applications simpler by breaking features into screens or pages that are easy to explain and understand. This IUI model is emerging in various Microsoft projects, most notably Money 2000. "

Chris Altmann
Saturday, July 03, 2004

He says that competing with them feature for feature (as opposed to a generalized and abstract competition in the PF sector) was a mistake because the competition was making their software worse not better.

See the point is that if your competition is going downhill, its not a good plan to be following them.

Dennis Atkins
Saturday, July 03, 2004

Very well put Dennis.

Michael Dell (in Dell Direct, his book) made a really good point: follow your customers, not your competitors.

If you're following your competitors, you will ALWAYS be behind.

"to garner review points. Real end users be damned. "

That is a BIG problem. Reviers aren't always a good representative of the customer.  I.e., Reviewer may want things the customer doesn't care about and vis-a-versa.

Mr. Analogy
Saturday, July 03, 2004

Aren't reviews tied to the check list? We often
have to create features just to satisfy check lists
that must come from somewhere.

son of parnas
Sunday, July 04, 2004

I won a copy of Microsoft Money at a raffle.

I installed it.

I could not make any sense of it.

It wanted to link to accounts when all I wanted was a way to record expenses.

Now I use a spiral bound notebook.

frustrated
Sunday, July 04, 2004

"Aren't reviews tied to the check list? "

Yes, but that checklist doesn't always come from a USER.

Case in point:  we were just reviewed by a canadian medical journal.  The review pointed out that one of our programs was too difficult for the "target population" of people with expressive language difficulties.  Yes, the PROGRAM DESCRIPTION said it was for people with RECEPTIVE (comprehension) difficulties. So they obstenately misinterpreted (or ignored) the recommendations of who the program is for and then said "it's not appropriate".

Can't complain too much, they rated our other programs pretty well.

My point is that the reviewer had a checklist that made no sense for a user.

Mr. Analogy
Sunday, July 04, 2004

I'm using Ace Money to manage my finances.  Like about 90% of the population, my finances are pretty simple, and Ace Money lets me track things with a minimum of effort/time.  Find it at http://www.mechcad.net/products/acemoney/ .  Recommended.

Should be working
Sunday, July 04, 2004

Quicken 98 worked for me for a long time, despite it's one unbelievably stupid bug: If you entered a check in the register without a check number, but then went back and added the number, it would deduct the amount of the check from your account twice.

But if you closed the program and re-opened it, all would be right.

Eventually I needed more functionality than it could provide, and upgraded to Quicken 2003.  Much improved, except for this little bug -- you can't update your 401(k) vesting percentage.  I'm stuck at 75% and can't change it to 100%.  You go into the edit screen, enter 100, click save, and nothing  -- it stays at 75%.  I just have to remember that I have more money in the account than what it says.  *sigh*

The annoying thing is that this is a pretty basic thing to get right -- present an edit screen, save the new values.  Something that an automated test tool would know about.

But when you're in a feature war with your competitors, "Quality" is a feature that will not sell to the customer.  You need some other gee-whiz feature ("Track your pet's investments!") to sell the consumer, to entice them to buy or upgrade to the latest & greatest version.

example
Monday, July 05, 2004

Want a laugh?  Go to groups.google.com, and look at Quicken bug reports from, oh, say 1996.  Then search for those same bugs from 2004.

Same bugs.  Quicken hasn't come out with a useful new feature in about 5 years... it's all marketing-driven shovel-ware web-enabled crap.

Grumpy Old-Timer
Tuesday, July 06, 2004

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