Brace yourself – we are leaving the world of perpetuity and moving into a constant state of evolution! End-users are in the driver seat now and what they want they are going to get – if not from you, then from one of your largest competitors or a small start up that is willing to sell them the services they need, for the price they think is fair. You can have the most sophisticated, feature-rich offering on the market, but if you can’t offer flexible pricing and licensing models you will never reach your maximum potential! So what does it take to be agile?
These days it seems like there are multiple opinions about the decision making process of CIO’s as it relates to software license acquisition, management, and their respective budgets. Multiple industry participants will wax eloquent on what the current generation of CIO’s will choose as their next move as a software acquisition strategy. Will they try to implement some sort of Software Asset Management tool to help them tag and track software which they have licensed (and as the argument goes, thereby reduce their expenses by only paying for what is being used if their contract allows for that), or will they go to a SaaS model where pay-per-use becomes a standard service model that achieves the same goal, albeit quite differently? View this article for one take on the CIO decision making process: http://www.siliconrepublic.com/strategy/item/17491-the-cloud-is-more-secure/
At the highest level, there are two core ways issues with service agreement compliance will end up costing you, the service provider, a significant amount of money:
The software industry is in the midst of a dramatic shift. No software publisher big or small will be left unaffected by enterprise and consumer end-users’ growing preference to consume their software as on-demand services. According to industry-leading analyst firm IDC, by 2010 nearly 65% of new product from established ISVs will be delivered as SaaS services and nearly 85% of net-new software firms coming to market will be built around SaaS service composition and delivery. As a software publisher, the question you should be asking yourself is not how to avoid the cloud – but how to navigate a migration to the cloud for all or some of your applications as quickly and efficiently as possible. In a recent presentation, Saugatuck Technology’s Mike West made it quite clear that every aspect of an ISV’s business will be impacted by a shift to SaaS, from business planning and management, technology development and operational processes, and even corporate culture.
You can’t be in a leadership role in the technology industry and not be involved at some level in the debate between pay-as-you-go and lump-sum type revenue models. Without question – lump-sum dominates the technology market space – for software – and for features-on-appliance (i.e. software). But the emergence of SaaS has opened up the debate.
The debate is quite heated. Opponents of pay-as-you-go say things like “it’s too complicated”, “enterprises won’t go for it”, “software vendors can’t convert to it”, “it’s a fallacy to think that SaaS uses pay-as-you-go”.
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:
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.
There are many virtualization related debates underway right now (even as you read this!), but one that I recently came across seemed to stand out above the others. It was all about who should be dictating the direction software companies should take to tackle software licensing and virtualization. Treating that topic independently, there are essentially 3 players involved:
As the head of new product development at SafeNet one of my key areas of focus is around bringing to market the types of tools and services ISVs need to help them manage the shift to the cloud – as you can imagine this means that I spend a lot of my time keeping an eye on what the industry is buzzing about!