MoneyWell Saga Episode 1 – The Syncing Menace

When we, Scotty, Matt and Sam, took over MoneyWell just under two years ago, we felt that we would have a new major release out in about six months and you would all think we were heroes and the world would be perfect. So what went wrong?

In the beginning, we found there were thousands of unanswered support requests in the support system going back several years. We decided that by going through every one of them (and answering them), we could work out what issues people were having and work out where we needed to take MoneyWell.

The most common response we had from people was a genuine delight that MoneyWell might now have a future accompanied by an apology that because of its lack of support for so long the user had understandably moved on to another product to do their budgeting.

The next most common response we received was just a simple thank you that we had taken over and the product that people loved and enjoyed now had a chance of both survival and improvement.

Then, of course, there was the elephant in the room, syncing. Moneywell had once had Dropbox syncing, but when the Dropbox version 1 API was closed down, Moneywell Sync had just stopped working, and for many, that was when their relationship with MoneyWell had come to an end.

Once we had been through all the user support emails and been in touch with as many people as we could we had a pretty clear picture that Moneywell could best be described as a product once loved by many, but now only used by a few (compared to its peak). Because Moneywell’s users had no idea of its future, they couldn’t recommend it to their friends and colleagues, so almost no new users were coming into the MoneyWell fold.

So here we were, the excited new owners of a product that had only a small number of users, albeit very dedicated users, and almost no sales.

It was clear that in its current form MoneyWell was not a financially viable product and for it to have a healthy future it needed a significant overhaul that would both excite its existing users and entice many new ones.

At this point it was early 2019, we were about three months into this new adventure, and it had become evident that merely patching up the current product might help in the short term but doing that would make the long term sustainability and stability of MoneyWell a lot harder.

It was also clear that the revenue Moneywell was producing and realistically could generate during any major renovation project was nowhere near significant enough to fund such a project, so we needed a plan bigger than just MoneyWell.

The plan we came up with is that some of us would spend time working in contracts to develop apps for others and the profits from those contracts would be invested into supporting the rest of the team working on a significant update and reworking of MoneyWell.

We thought working this way it would take about a year to develop the next major version and in the meantime, we would continue to support and provide bug fixes for the current version of MoneyWell.

This was the plan we set off with in the early spring of 2019 with the target of a fantastic new release in the spring of 2020.

By early 2020 it had become obvious that the renovation project was not only behind schedule but probably about twice the size we had anticipated. Moneywell is an old product and just like working on old houses renovation tasks have a habit of getting bigger than planned. You hope to remove the plaster from a wall and replace it, but when the plaster is taken off, it turns out the whole wall needs to come down.

It was at this point that we made our biggest mistake. In the spring of 2020, we panicked. We felt we couldn’t just keep going with the renovation and needed to get something out. We put the renovation on hold to return to the existing MoneyWell and started to try and patch it up with a new sync system and other fixes so that we could get something out of the door. It was the wrong move. We spent the spring and the summer producing what could only be called a Frankenstein piece of software that would have been unreliable and left users underwhelmed and disappointed.

At the end of the summer this year we were stressed, exhausted and not enjoying what we were doing. We had a time of reflection and allowed ourselves to come up for air. We saw the error of our ways and decided it was time to come clean.

So here we are at the beginning of the fall of 2020. We have scrapped the Frankenstein edition and returned to our renovation accepting that there is still a significant amount of work to do but when done will be the right thing.

In the meantime, we are belatedly bring full dark mode support to the existing MoneyWell as well as ensuring that it works well on the next release of macOS called Big Sur. We will also ensure that the current release of MoneyWell will work well on any new Apple Silicon macs released later this year. We will also continue to fix bugs and ensure the product keeps working.

The renovated major upgrade to MoneyWell will arrive when it is ready sometime in 2021 along with an all-new version of MoneyWell Express for the iPhone. It will contain a whole raft of improvements and for many most importantly support robust and reliable syncing. Once done we will begin to assess what is needed next such as new fully featured iPad app and support for Android devices.

We should have probably communicated a lot more along the way, but we are where we are, and you now know what is going on and can make your choices. We accept that some of our wonderful users who have been hanging on for as long as possible may reach the point of not being able to hang on anymore. That will make us sad, but we need to make sure that MoneyWell once again becomes a product we can be proud of and has a base on which it can grow for the next ten years and beyond. We love MoneyWell, and it is what we want to spend all of our time on and to do that it needs to become a product for the future, not one of the past.

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