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This is a viewpoint I've started to realize recently about some companies that I have worked for. They had their own software product that they developed in-house but most of the focus was on building an in-person sales team to push their product to businesses throughout the country. I figure that companies that are exclusively "online", meaning that their revenue source comes from online transactions where there is no "face" of the company to the customer would have a different work culture.

Just curious if anyone has worked for both types of companies and notices a difference. I myself am hoping to get more into contract programming and figure that companies that don't have to employ a sales-force and things like that would be more focused on technology and maybe even willing to be flexible on partial telecommute, etc

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Yes, the way the product is sold has a huge impact on the development process.

In one company I worked for, the product was sold as a "service", meaning all the software ran on our servers and clients connected to it via a web interface. In this company, updates were pushed to the "live" site sometimes within minutes of a bug being found.

We did try to stage our updates as much as possible (for example, we would advertise the fact that 3pm on Tuesdays was the "maintenance time" and the site might down during that time) but in reality, laziness or expedience would get the better of people and some of the guys would never wait for that time to do their updates: they'd go live as soon as they were ready.

On the other hand, in another company I worked for, we sold our product pre-packaged to "enterprise" customers (governments, banks and so on). In this case, even a simple bug fix could take months to get to the customer site because they'd never go out without a round of in-house testing and they would usually get bundled into "service-pack" style releases.

This was a much larger company as well, and while I sometimes felt rather stifled by the enormous amount of process that went into every release, it was pretty important that anything we released to the customer was good... when you're a bank, even a short down time can cost millions of dollars.

However, in terms of the actual work environment, I found the latter to be rather more relaxed and flexible. When your release schedule is in the order of months, working from home a few days a week, or taking extended leave isn't such a huge problem. It might also have to do with the number of people working there (i.e. one person out of 50 is not as big a detriment as one person out of a team of three).

But the downside is that there's also the temptation to stagnate somewhat, in terms of you get a little too relaxed, perhaps...

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It Depends - How the company makes its money is going to have some impact on the company in that a company that relies heavily upon IT and software development for its main revenue stream is going to treat its developers much better than a company that primarily sells widgets and just has a small IT staff to maintain the internal systems. Likewise, who the company works for is going to have an impact on things. If a company works mostly for governments and its employees need to have security clearances then they are going to behave differently than those that work for a record company in Hollywood. Likewise, more "mature" companies (i.e. IBM) tend to have a different corporate climate than those companies that are fairly new (i.e. Google).

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There can be some big differences even amongst dot-coms though. I've worked for a couple and the differences in scale and process were rather huge as the first one never even had sales of $1,000,000 while the other's quarterly revenue was over $100,000,000. The differences were substantial yet the first dot-com was the older company, it hadn't matured in quite the same way. In one company, a push to production was done almost any time while in the other case it is carefully scheduled, planned and organized weeks in advance. In both cases I was part of the in-house development people that made the site perform whatever function was needed so my customers were internal initially and then the public as things got a sign-off to be released into the wild.

Now, I've worked in a couple of other types of businesses so I've seen other kinds of work too. Some places are closer to that start-up of, "Just make it work now!" mentality and others are more formal when it comes to process so that the mentality is more of a, "Let's make this work well for everyone, okay?" Where I am now is rather formal about how things get done which has its advantages and disadvantages. Every company has some kind of sales force unless you are the government, but maybe I'm a little cynical on this.


Sometimes IT can seem eerily like the old Wild West where cowboys try to run things, which at times can work but often causes a lot of trouble. Having tons of freedom can be good and bad depending on what one wants to do with it as given enough rope, you can either tie up the bad guys or hang yourself depending on what you want to get done, know what I mean? Hopefully that doesn't cause anyone any nightmares as I'm just trying to show that there is a range of how things can be handled. Maybe I should put a mature subject matter warning on some of my posts. :)

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"In one company, a push to production was done almost any time while in the other case it is carefully scheduled, planned and organized weeks in advance." This makes me shudder thinking of my current job... definitely am learning that revenue streams and number of employees, etc can make a big difference, for the better, in terms of their culture. As far as sales force, I guess the way I break it down is companies that use media / marketing campaigns heavily / internet marketing, etc versus those that rely on cold call type of deals where basically no one knows what their company is beforehand –  programmx10 Dec 15 '10 at 23:26

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