Thursday, March 21, 2013

Wishful thinking: Enterprise licensing and deployment platform

Having worked for enterprise software company, I have seen many times where brand new software license gets shelved and never to be deployed.  I say "never to be deployed", because by the time customer decides to deploy either there is a new version of software available, or the product gets merged with some other product, older product as sold effectively getting EOLed.  Surprisingly this actually happens from time to time.  Hence enterprise software sales person talks about separating selling versus delivery.  Buying does not necessarily mean it will get rolled out immediately.

This happens for several reasons.  Having to spend the left-over annual budget at the end of fiscal year, looking for a solution and buying it before the year end.  Not having internal resource to train, deploy and manage the software once it has been purchased.  Incorrectly estimating the number of users who will be on the system.  And even the purchased system not solving the right problem.

Good enterprise sales person is one who can identify these opportunities and take advantage of them.  It takes uncanny skill of understanding budgetary cycles, political power distribution and knowing which button to press to get the biggest deals closed without slipping the deal.  In practice many enterprise sales people can separate selling versus delivery so well that they can sell something without having the actual product.

But this presents a challenge for the customer and product manager.  It's a challenge for customer because customer does not have all the information to make a right decision for themselves.  Customer often buys more seats than what is necessary, or buy them in a way in advance without having the internal resource to manage the deployment.  It also creates challenges for product managers because getting many products sold does not necessarily mean users are using them.  Having the slow feedback loop is bad because it hampers faster iterations.

Why not create a tool that enterprise customers and enterprise software companies can use so that users can be deployed incrementally rather than at the wholesale level?  The tool will figure out licensing, takes care of all user provisioning and licensing.  As roll out grows, additional user license can be purchased and added without having to buy all the users ahead of time.

The tool will provide product managers reports on how the software is getting used.  It will track each page and widgets on the page to see how user is interacting with the product, and generate usage reports that PM can use to experiment with user.  It will also provide a nice accounting sheet showing monthly active user counts and billing statement for the customer.

Having a tool like that will cut down the licensing model development time and enforcement of licensing scheme.  It can potentially be win-win for both customers and enterprise software company.

Now try selling this idea to enterprise sales team.  That's where you'll need a real good sales person.

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