Licensing is a unique experience for every organization, with distinctive business goals and custom business process. More often than not, the challenge to making licensing work is far from a technical problem; it is a business integration or project management problem. To be successful, software publishers need to adopt a top down approach: defining their software licensing vision and then fine-tuning their license enforcement and management processes and technologies. Consensus must be built, processes must be defined and technology must be aligned with these objectives. This is where I come in. With over 18 years of experience building, managing, and evolving some of the world’s most complex licensing ecosystems the least I can do is share some of what I have learned!
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.
A common argument against DRM is that it punishes paying customers without successfully preventing piracy. Legitimate users are restricted from freely using the content or software that they rightfully own, while illegitimate users can still download the very same content, and use it without restrictions – and without paying the publisher.
Often when talking to customers I find the conversation of licensing focused solely on ensuring compliance – that is to say, making sure that their customers don’t run afoul of their license agreement. That’s like buying a Ferrari and never getting out of 1st gear. Business intelligence is one of many over looked major benefits of a properly configured licensing and entitlement management system. Most would agree that reports from ERP systems are generally not flexible enough nor tailored enough to give Product Managers the information necessary to make intelligent decisions around the future of their product roadmap and packaging strategies. To fully realize the potential of your licensing system it is important to remember the business benefits of tracking the customer use of the license. At a basic level, as a product manager, I want a licensing system to provide me the necessary information to make these decisions:
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.
It’s not surprising that within the circle of licensing system vendors, one of the topics that comes up time and again is whether hardware-based (dongle) or software-based licensing is better. At SafeNet, we don’t understand the question. We provide the best-in-class solutions as all software, all hardware, or uniquely, as a hybrid licensing solution.
The list of pro’s and con’s regarding one solution over another is meaningless without understanding the context in which the solution is to be applied. I’ll try to correct the misinformation that’s out there about dongles. You can judge for yourself if you think I am biased, but since we offer every flavor of solution (dongle or soft), I don’t have anything to gain in this fight.