Angry partners claim MYOB using customers as guinea pigs.
The bug-ridden release of accounting software vendor MYOB’s flagship program AccountRight has raised questions about how much testing of the program was conducted before its release in November.
MYOB disputed the accusations with the claim that the software had been developed “over over a number of years and has undergone several technical previews, alpha releases and beta releases”, said Dale Dixon, product strategy manager, global product management, in a statement to BoxFreeIT.
But MYOB partners interviewed by BoxFreeIT and scathing comments posted to MYOB’s public forums by software developers claimed the company had skipped internal testing phases given the poor quality of the software.
“I don’t believe that it went to a proper testing regime. I was involved in initial testing in December in the year before and a lot of the bugs I reported were still there,” said Clive Williams, an MYOB certified consultant.
Williams was one of a select group of accountants chosen by MYOB early last year to beta test AccountRight 2011, known by the codename Huxley. He started testing the beta program in January 2011 and reported bugs he found to MYOB.
But Williams said he couldn’t tell whether he was reporting bugs that had already been found by other testers.
“They were acknowledging the bugs but not giving feedback or giving beta updates. You couldn’t see what they had fixed. The beta ground to a halt” in March, Williams said.
In a five-page forum thread titled “Is MYOB in Good Hands” which drew a response from MYOB CEO Tim Reed, Williams yesterday listed four bugs he had reported 10 months before the software went on sale which were still present despite two software updates. These included fields in invoices left blank and the inability to import recurring purchases and complete invoices from the previous version.
MYOB initially embraced third-party developers as a good resource for doing the early stage testing, said an independent developer who asked for anonymity because he said MYOB had threatened to terminate partner agreements with other developers for speaking out about the botched release.
MYOB moved the testing to accountant partners and stopped using developers who had given largely negative responses, said the developer, who has worked with MYOB software for 10 years and was involved with very early testing of Huxley.
The accountants “are not software testers”, said the developer. “You didn’t have to be a smart person to see what was coming.”
None of MYOB’s third-party developers, accountants or other partners contacted by BoxFreeIT were paid for their time spent testing the product.
One MYOB partner asked why the vendor had spent a reported $75 million over three years developing its platform for cloud software, of which Huxley is a core component, and yet made no fanfare over its launch.
“If a business was to invest that much money in a new version there would be a massive media campaign and there’s been nothing,” said the partner. “I think they were using their customers for the testing without even telling them. It’s deceitful and deceptive.”
Changing priorities led to strategic blunders
MYOB add-on developers and consultants involved in the beta process claimed that priorities changed over the course of Huxley’s development which led to rushed and ill-considered decisions.
MYOB had released previews of a new software-to-software connector for AccountRight to replace the ageing ODBC driver, said David Ballantyne, a veteran MYOB add-on developer. The connector, called an application programming interface (API), was well written in Microsoft’s latest programming language and could send and receive information to cloud applications, Ballantyne said.
But MYOB had not checked whether the API would work with Microsoft’s desktop Office suite which was written in an older software language. Consequently the software vendor had to “postpone” the API several months before AccountRight was due to be released, Ballantyne said.
“We are focusing on higher priorities than API at the moment, however it has not been dropped,” responded MYOB’s Dixon.
“MYOB had no option other than to release a new version of the ODBC driver in order to maintain compatibility with Microsoft Office,” Ballantyne said. The rewritten ODBC driver was still not working three months after AccountRight 2011’s launch.
MYOB had not committed to a date by which the driver would be fixed, which meant the latest version of AccountRight would not work with any third-party software.
MYOB has put out two service packs to patch the software and promised a third at the end of the month. However, Williams was pessimistic about whether MYOB had managed to implement proper testing processes or that the bugs he had identified a year earlier would be fixed in the next service pack. The second service pack was withdrawn hours after it released last month because it introduced new errors to invoice formatting.
MYOB CEO Reed responded in one forum post that “the release was tested and went through the process that was outlined. The scope of those tests, however, were insufficient and that is what we’ve worked to rectify to ensure a better outcome going forward.”
“As MYOB has not fixed reported bugs from 12 months ago do you think that the process is working?” replied Williams in his post.
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