Business news: software company snubbed

FSBM, a leading Malaysian courseware developer has dropped software maker New Media as its subcontractor. The UK firm was hired to develop sixth form software as part of a major government project but were dumped when New Media refused to make the courseware fit the local curriculum without further payment. The rejected software is now being sold in the UK by Plato Learning as ‘MSS 16-18 edition’ for A level.
The contract, reported to be worth £1.2 million per year was terminated as the company failed to meet targets.

This is not the first time New Media has failed to deliver. As the software supplier to the Science Consortium ‘NOF’ training business, it received a chorus of complaints when it was found that its MSS science software failed to run on school networks. Many schools found it necessary to postpone their ‘NOF training’ as a result. The company received further complaints about the functioning of the Science Consortium website, made promises to fix them and as reported previously, never did so.

Renowned for wheeling and dealing, this is also not the first time that company founder Dick Fletcher has got other people to fund his software development. New Media’s MSS 16-18 A level software was largely funded by Malaysian money. The Multimedia Science School 11-16 software was started with Nuffield Foundation money, and with an odd piece of gifting to the private sector. The product was further developed with funds meant for NOF training. Similarly New Media’s Chemistry Set was developed with a government graft money at the University of Nottingham.

Those who have brushed with Dick Fletcher’s style of business will not be too surprised. Though when business people lie to you, dishonest is a better description of that style. Readers will recall how the ‘Science Consortium’ was based on a gentleman’s agreement and heavily drained of funds by New Media.

Was the software for Malaysia that bad?

Not really. New Media produced hours of student-focussed on-screen tutorials but the problem was that the lessons would be delivered by the teacher. Needed instead was an interactive lecture than a tutorial.
What we learn is that developing software requires exceptional sensitivity to the needs of the classroom. And that means having multimedia focussed teachers involved at many stages of development. There is little value in producing a teaching tool that uses an hour of lesson time when the curriculum only expects you to mention the idea in five minutes. Basically: if software doesn’t solve a problem, don’t make it. Or not unless someone else is paying for it.