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AlmostPerfect: How a Bunch of Regular Guys Built WordPerfect Corporation Hardcover – November 1, 1993
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From Library Journal
In 1980 Peterson was hired as the $5 an hour part-time office manager of a small Utah software company. He eventually rose to become executive vice-president and ultimately assume the day-to-day running of the company. By 1992, when he left under duress, WordPerfect Corporation had grown from six employees and $20,000 a month in sales to 4000 employees and annual sales of more than half a billion dollars. This story of the rise of a new industry is reminiscent of Tracy Kidder's The Soul of a New Machine ( LJ 8/81); it describes the roller-coaster ride involved in getting viable, profitable products out the door while worrying about what IBM and Microsoft were doing. Recommended for general business collections.
- Vincent P. Schmidt, SWL Inc., Santa Barbara, Cal.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Computer entrepreneurs such as Steven Jobs and Bill Gates are fairly well known. On the other hand, even though their company controlled almost 50 percent of the word-processing software market at one point, the "regular guys" who built the WordPerfect Corporation are relatively anonymous. That, in fact, may have been Peterson's problem. Part of the three-man team that ran WordPerfect for nearly a dozen years, Peterson owned 1 percent of the company (each of his two partners owned 49.5 percent) and was responsible for marketing and sales. As Gates' Microsoft surpassed WordPerfect's market share, Peterson's partners took drastic steps to turn the company around. They forced Peterson out and replaced him with an executive committee of seven, including, for the first time, a chief financial officer. With the introduction of WordPerfect for Windows, the company has been regaining customers. More hurt than bitter, Peterson tells his version of WordPerfect's story. Recommended for management, small business, and computer collections. David Rouse
Top customer reviews
From that perspective, it's very interesting to read about the evolution of the product through various versions. Of course, the Wikipedia article on WordPerfect has more-or-less the same information, but nothing compares to Peterson's dramatic telling of the to-ing and fro-ing between departments to actually achieve this end.
Unfortunately, this book is no longer in print form. A full text can, however, be found online.
The politics between Alan, Bruce and Pete towards the end, when Pete is forced out of the company, is of interest, but as always there are many sides to the story. The highlight of this book for me was seeing WordPerfect grow.
He says "reliability was more important than price" (p.41). A word processor is a means to an end, not an end in itself. A $1500 product can be less costly than a $500 product that breaks down more, once you include the effect of losses.
Page 60 says the demise of word processing departments in the mid 1980s was unexpected. This happened to key-punch departments a decade earlier. Will Internet E-mail reduce the market for word processors in turn?
The problem of printer support in WP was solved by the use of tables; but this resulted in slower printing. Isn't it better to use separate executable modules for each printer family?
One very important item of their success was their evaluation of their product by consulting with the secretaries who used it. This is much better than an ad-hoc committee of non-users.
His evaluation of other companies (p.100) is interesting. Using a "lines of code" rule alone may result in bloated and redundant code, which can lead to higher maintenance, overhead, and support costs.
His story of the "free Hawaii trip" (pp.131-2) illustrates the difference between "goals" and "objectives". A fixed cash bonus is a goal, a Hawaii trip an objective.
In July 1991 Pete was informed that he "was too hard on people and too many people were afraid" of him. He seems to have ignored this warning. The stress of the delayed release may have been affecting a lot of people. If the VP of Development was giving lectures from a book, could this have caused the delay? Does this show a problem in a "flat management" philosophy? Is it correct for any large company? Can reading a book safeguard a company from Microsoft? Note that this clash of personalities did not occur when WP was profitable. "Victory has a thousand fathers", falling sales has a thousand finger pointers.