Ryma Tech, makers of FeaturePlan, was founded a decade ago to (so I am told) bring to market a tool that implemented the Pragmatic Marketing Framework. Last week we learned they are going out of business. Except in certain circles, the news has not been widely distributed. (As of this writing there is still nothing on their website.)
This news and rumors of layoffs at other long-established vendors confirmed for me, though, real changes that are at work in the software industry -- changes that, ironically, many product management tools have failed to respond to. Product people want lean and simple tools that do one thing well and are focused on making people productive right away with an intuitive and configurable UI.
As readers of User>Driven know, I am at work on a tool like this called Reqqs. This is not just my self-serving interpretation of events, though. Here is a sampling of quotes from here, here and here on Ryma's passing.
Its biggest problem (my opinion) was that it missed the SaaS and Web 2.0 wave by about 3-5 years
I think they could have succeeded if they had put more emphasis on usability and less on complexity. Sometimes simpler is better.
FeaturePlan was slow, and cumbersome to enter and find things. People got lazy and started building a backlog on their own PCs.
Personally, I want to be in the business of managing products, not managing a product for managing products.
I used MS Excel posted on a collaboration site and was very much more effective in managing features.
My colleagues were worried that this tool needs custom integration that might be too expensive. At the same time, their demo was focused on features that did not matter to us.
Their sales team was more worried about selling expensive consulting services to "customize" (i.e. make somewhat useable) the product.
For a company supposedly knowledgeable about Pragmatic- they did not follow the Voice of the Customer methodology. Their product concept was decent - but the execution was not.
At the same time and despite these sentiments, many loyal customers and partners are sorry to see Ryma go:
I have had the privilege of getting to know several of the members of the RYMA team and I want to wish them the best as they move to the next phase of their careers.
I'm sorry to see them go. We've been using FeaturePlan for about 7 years. There are lots of products that are good at requirements tracking and management. Very few that are a tool for the front-end of Product Management: synthesizing customer problems into features and requirements.
Could Ryma have pivoted and continued meeting the changing needs of product managers? Given time enough and an openness to customer feedback, maybe so. Ryma's CEO (new this year), Michel Besner, had a pithy response to that question.
I guess 6 months was not enough to turn the company around ...
This does not have to be the end of something, though. Perhaps -- in the spirit of Joseph Schumpeter's creative destruction -- it can be a new beginning for the industry, for the employees of Ryma and for the product community.
What do you think? Post your thoughts in the comments below.