An argument against license enforcement

7 12 2009

This may seem weird as I’ve been talking about pricing and license metric development.  However, we have not yet talked about enforcement. 

To software companies, license enforcement protects the bottom line.  It prevents rampant, “entrepreneurial” software distribution throughout their customer base.  Keep in mind that this discussion isn’t a one-size-fits-all scenario.  A major enterprise software provider may choose to enforce a license differently than a single-user shrink-wrapped software provider.

To customers, software licensing is a way of steering clear of the legal issues surrounding "viral license expansion” that can happen as co-workers share their productivity practices. 

It’s simply risk avoidance – policy triumphing over value to the organization.  IT departments go through elaborate means to “control the desktop environment” of their employees both for ease of management and for license enforcement.

Viral license expansion for fun and profit

If we take away the legal and negative revenue implications of letting a software package roam free-range style throughout an organization, the result of getting more eyeballs on your product can be compelling to both parties.  This is especially true if your software has an entrenched user base in one specialized area of a company, but could bring significant value to other areas of your customer base.

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When Licensing Metrics Must Change

5 11 2009

Everyone knows that technology changes quickly.  So it’s surprising (at least to me) that licensing metrics for software are so difficult to change.  Purchasing contracts, license agreements, and license enforcement tend to lag technical milestones.  Sometimes this is a good thing – for instance, everyone waited out the predicted move to 64-bit servers during the development of the Itanium processor.  At other times, licensing metrics are not compatible with IT practices that develop due to technology – you license per-Ethernet port and they buy per-device.

Consumer packaged goods don’t usually have to keep pace with technical changes.  Cars are licensed per unit, not per cylinder, seat, or window.  In many ways software is licensed “per cylinder” which makes it susceptible to fundamental changes.  Think of the impact hybrid technology or turbo chargers would have on a per-cylinder vehicle licensing model during the current green movement.

What to disrupt when you’re disrupted

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Pricing topics round up

26 08 2009

It’s time to look back at the ground we’ve covered in order to establish the road ahead.  In a series of strategy posts, I talked about the fact that if you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there.  I also said it was important to have a sense of purpose and continue to review the goals that you started with in order to see if they’ve changed.

Let’s review what has been covered so that readers can easily catch up with anything they’ve missed and also to plot the next post.

Human behavior

It’s only natural to look for the best deal.  That’s exactly what happens when you get down to brass tacks with any business negotiation.  Humans treat everything with lots of variables as a game.  We like to play with graphic equalizers because we think we can make our music sound better when we have a greater degree of control over the gain of each frequency band.

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Flexibility is not strategy (part 4)

27 05 2009

Flexibility – it can manifest in many forms and can quietly work against the soundest strategy.  In this, the nearly final installment, I’m going to talk briefly about dissemination and communication based on my experiences.

Many jokes are made at the expense of having consistent representation of a topic.  Being “on message” is corporate obfuscation and doublespeak, but its power can be used for the purposes of good.  Believe it or not, it is possible to be “on message” and also be transparent at the same time.

Bottom line: if you don’t have a communication plan around your new strategy, you’ve got a problem.

Water cooler messaging

Everyone’s reticent to learn the details of a new strategy.  So sometimes a 1 minute water cooler conversation is worth a 60 minute company address or a 10 page document.  Documents in particular have two major problems:

  • They probably don’t speak specifically to the reader
  • They require reading

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Flexibility is not strategy (part 2)

29 04 2009

I mentioned that by remaining open to everything, you risk accomplishing nothing.  The resulting dispersion of resources and effort can cause paralysis (or perceived stasis in your customer base).

So, what if you decide, like Hamlet eventually did after Act 3, Scene 1, to take arms against a sea of troubles, and by opposing, end them?

Come together, check your weapons at the door

First off, nobody is too busy to participate.  This isn’t a one hour lunch time meeting where you order pizza and get through it before your next big conference call.

It is a time for commitment, honesty, speaking truth to power, and putting all the assumptions or corporate mythos into play.

You are in the “cone of silence” and the “truth circle”.  If you don’t trust your players, the process will be undermined and fail.

It has to be a safe environment to air legitimate concerns and defuse feuds between leadership or divisions.  Inside these sessions, you need to show your work and shred a lot of rough drafts.

Sensitive topics will be broached and in the process of tackling these perceptions (real or otherwise) is ugly.  The process is transient and understandings will forged and dismantled many times over.

The objective is to neutralize or plot a solution to counteract threats or weaknesses.  The words and work that are said during these sessions can potentially be used (in or out of context) as weapons that could decimate morale at large.

Mind you, being iconoclastic and cavalier about other people’s beliefs isn’t the same as being objective.  Like any relationship, there may be a role for a neutral third party to arbitrate pointed issues, take down all that is said, and offer guidance to becoming “unstuck” when the topics “rathole” into minutiae. Read the rest of this entry »