Two recent events caused me to stop and consider whether piracy could be considered good for business.
The first example involves a children’s book. You may have heard of this particular book as it’s causing something of a stir. “Go the XXXX to Sleep” is written as a humorous book (a “Children’s book for Adults” per the author) that focuses on the difficulties some parents face when it comes to getting their children to sleep.
What’s remarkable is that it managed to grab the number 1 slot on Amazon’s bestseller list – a month before release. However, what makes it even more remarkable is
BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China) offer tremendous growth upside for many companies. Independent Software Vendors are no different. This fact leads to familiar conversations happening inside many software companies. “We need to enter the high growth markets. However, we have no licensing or our current licensing is not designed to focus upon piracy. We don’t want to invest all that effort only to end up giving our product away”.
In speaking with our larger global customers I’ve noticed a troubling and difficult conundrum when it comes to software licensing trends. Firstly, ISV customers in established, advanced economies are demanding greater granularity and flexibility than ever before when it comes to how they implement and use software. In most cases the ISV’s are more than happy to oblige. Closer alignment of pricing and value creates happier customers, less discounting and more achievable up sell opportunities for the future.
For many years I sold a Software as a Service (SaaS) only application. When selling to organizations there was kind of an unwritten rule. Small to medium size businesses would be resourced strapped and culturally more open to the idea of a SaaS application. Larger organizations would have dedicated IT resources and potentially feel threatened by outsourced applications. The conclusion was simple – the SMB market was much more fertile while when selling to larger organizations never forecast above 50% no matter what unless you heard from the CIO him/herself that they would be ok with a SaaS application.
One of the inherent dichotomies for software vendors exploring new pricing models is: Who do you talk to? The common response is “Discuss this with your existing customers – they know best” There’s only one problem with that. Your existing customers have already most likely validated your current licensing processes – via the act of purchasing your software. To put it another way, when they looked at your pricing and licensing models they most likely found them to be agreeable enough (or at least not a big enough impediment) to moving forward.
The risk then as you explore new software licensing and pricing models is that you poll your existing customers only. While they’re an important constituent they should not be the only constituent. You need to look at the potential customers who did not buy your solution. Find out why they decided to go in another direction.
First of all, I’d promised myself I would not write about Apple just based on how popular the topic is. Obviously, I’ve broken that promise. What strikes me most though about Apple’s current success is how it seems to go against the currently espoused play-book for success. Secondly, does Apple’s focus on hardware actually result in better software development practices?
In my role I meet with many hardware and device manufacturers. One theme is very consistent: Historically, we ignored our software as it was only really there to facilitate or drive our high value hardware sales. Now though we are looking to monetize our software as we find hardware is becoming commoditized. They want help from us to help them protect, manage and deliver their software. As I mentioned, this driver is one of the most prevalent trends in our overall industry today.
At a recent event for SafeNet Amy Konary made an interesting comment based on analysis performed by IDC. On average end users of enterprise software felt as though they utilized only 30% or so of the availability of that application. That is, they were not getting benefit from up to 70% of the software’s features and functionality. (Amy please forgive me if I don’t have those %’s exactly right but it was in that range) The conclusion reached from this observation is that software should be better dissected so that people only pay for the pieces they want.
The conclusion seems logical enough but I’ve struggled with it ever since. Firstly, if it’s true, why have rational economic buyers still purchased software en masse? Many financial analysts believe that software spending was one of the first sectors to bounce back from the recent economic turmoil.Secondly, are there any other normally functioning markets that have similar traits? Lastly, why do end users on average only use 30% of the available capabilities?