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Business Software Product Ratings Are a Bad Idea

In the enterprise software space, showing product ratings is not always a great idea.There are a number of reasons for this:

Implementations fail for many reasons and it is not only the product that is at fault. In most cases the cause is a combination of issues such as the end-user not specifying their requirement properly, a systems integrator that did not do their job properly or a budget that overran.As human nature goes, users are more likely to rate a failed implementation than a successful one so the product may in many cases have 1000 great sites but one bad one and that is the one that gets rated.The first product to get ratings will by and large make it extremely difficult for other equivalent products in the same marketplace to get traction. Potential customers will typically be presented with the highly rated products first and this prevents other products, which may in fact be better, from being given a fair chance at the sale.If products are continually beaten by others in the marketplace because of their "first to market" ratings, then there is no incentive for them to remain in the marketplace and as such you loose the developer and your ecosystem looses a potential solution.

This is not to say that all products are equal or that some should not be forced out of the market, but it does suggest that this is not the responsibility of a ratings engine to decide.

As an alternative, the following could be used:

Rich Content:All products in the marketplace should have rich content which properly showcases its features, benefits and successes. This content can include customer stories, public relations, product videos, vertical market solutions, brochures and downloads.Developer Programs:Define minimum standards through your ISV programs that dictate the status required in order to publish products in the marketplace.Developer Profile:Awards, years in business, number of customers, areas of expertise and the developer membership status can be used to profile the developer as an organization.

Although a bit more effort is required, there are many ways to properly provide relevant and rich information to customers so that they can make a quality purchase decision without risking the potential dangers of relying on a rating.

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3 things that will transform the future of a business software vendor

With cloud, mobile, social and big data advances all happening at once and at lightning speed, how will shifts in technology impact the way software businesses are run?Ginni Rometty, CEO of IBM, recently made a prediction that three key areas will change everything. These three areas are:

- Data analytics will drive business decisions- Social Networks will impact on value delivery- Individuals will no longer be aggregated

Here is a look at how these may affect the modern software vendor.

Data Analytics – “business decisions and opportunity creation”

As potential customers use technology more and more in their assessment and purchasing processes as opposed to traditional face-to-face sales relationships, so the use of data will become more important to understand markets, drive content delivery and to predict futures.

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In-App Purchasing – Is it effective for enterprise software ?

While In-App purchasing is a growing and successful sales channel in the mobile consumer world, is it a viable strategy for enterprise software vendors?To keep this article in context, we will define an enterprise system as one where it is in use by a business and there are 5 or more users of the application.Well the jury is out on this … and based on early evaluations, with the different drivers surrounding enterprise software, it is unlikely to be as effective. What is more, if this is done at the exclusion of having a traditional product marketplace, then the sales model is more of a risk than an opportunity to the vendor.Here are some of the reasons why:New deals: For new customers that do not currently have any of the vendors products they cannot do any In-App purchasing as they have no App in which to do it! Where the solution requires a mix of products of the vendor and add-on products, then a marketplace rich in content and information is essential for any hope of selling to this customer.The purchase process: At the time that an application is required, there is typically a requirements process that is completed. Once done, then a search and evaluation exercise will get underway from which a purchase decision would be made and the internal purchase workflow would come into play. This does not augment In-App as a sales channel.Who makes the decision: The user is, in most cases, not the person that will be making the decision about a purchase and is also not likely to be the person looking for new functionality. As such, the In-App adverts are wasted on this user.Trusted advisors: Where the enterprise uses a vendor’s partner for their purchases, implementation and support, they will in most cases turn to them as their trusted advisor for assistance in finding, selecting and purchasing new applications.Volume: Typically, In-App adverts deliver products relevant to the section of the system in which the user is currently working. Any number of products could be available to enhance this part of the system and so the sheer volume and lack of the ability to filter this based on the users defined requirements would render the adverts ineffective. It is likely that the user would still navigate to a content rich marketplace to exercise a selection process.A frustrating distraction: If there is an “off” button, it is highly likely that users will turn off the distracting adverts. If there is no “off” button, then it is likely that the help desk will be receiving a few calls to find a way of doing it.In-App purchases of enterprise solutions may generate some demand by catching the right user at the right time with the right message but given the challenges, would need to co-exist with other sales channels and models and is unlikely to be the model that actually generates the enterprise add-on application sale.

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A Cloud Product Strategy Is not Enough

While the promise of new and large revenue streams for business software vendors is driving huge investment into developing cloud strategies it seems that there is much being overlooked in the process.

Building the cloud product strategy is just the starting point with a number of areas being sorely neglected and which will come back to haunt technology executives in the near term

As a part of a comprehensive roll-out, the following represents some of the items that should be addressed …

Most vendors will have existing legacy customers that will take time to cross over to cloud and there will still be a substantial demand from new customers that wish to stay with on-premise solutions.

The challenge here is how to build a hybrid sales channel that caters for both cloud and on-premise customers and where the customer can engage in an individualistic way.

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Are You a Dog - The Internet Does Not Care

So you are a small or medium sized software vendor and with tough competition out there you need to be perceived to be bigger and better to close more deals.Well if ever there was a reason to embrace the web trend for SMB software, this is definitely one of them. Business is becoming more and more comfortable with finding, selecting and procuring solutions on-line. The argument about traditional sales processes requiring trusted advisers to hold the customer’s hand from start to finish is becoming myth rather than reality … although many software vendors still find it hard to believe that the world has moved forward.Sure, in many cases, there is a need for the channel in both the sale and implementation of SMB software but they are getting involved much later in the sales cycle and customers are looking for products that do not require the same intense levels of channel or direct involvement as was needed in the past.We just have to look to the stellar growth that many “new age” SMB software providers like Xero, Box, Intacct, Salesforce.com and others are seeing to understand that the demand is there and that SMB software vendors need to embrace the trend and move their businesses in that direction.So, apart from product, here are a few pointers that should be considered to help make your business more competitive.Get active with SEO: If you want to be found this is essential and it does not have to burden you unduly. There are many great tools out there that are inexpensive and easy to use and with minimal time and effort will enhance your profile immensely.Give your website a revamp: This is the first perception that a prospective customer will have of your business. Use an open source CMS system, add a standard off the shelf professional template, convert your existing content into your new CMS and you are up and running.Add new quality content: More than 75% of an SMB's purchase decision is based on the information available on which to base his decision. By providing both quality and quantity content, the potential to sell grows exponentially.Implement an ecommerce solution: There are many studies that show how a multi-channels sales approach and a frictionless purchasing process can substantially increase sales. By implementing an ecommerce solution you can both add a new sales channel and simplify the purchase process for the customer.

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Yosemite, Mountain Lions and Software Vendors

Yosemite, Mountain Lions and Software Vendors I recently visited Yosemite National Park and was at awe with the immensity and beauty of it all. It was also a touch daunting at the thought of how big it seemed and how small I felt against it.I then came across an article in the Yosemite Guide publication, which got me thinking (please read the article “What should you do if you meet a mountain lion?” attached) … In our insignificant world of enterprise software we have our behemoths like SAP, Oracle, Microsoft and IBM. They are all-powerful and will be around forever, taking control of the world below them. You just have to look at the struggling HP to see how these entities can survive massive disruption.These organizations could be seen as the Mountains of Yosemite.However, our world of business software has Mountain Lions who can hunt and by being agile, smart and hungry can find a space where they can flourish and build great success. By embracing change and in many cases creating disruption of their own, they carve out of the rock a sector that they can own and grow. Some great examples of this would be Salesforce.com, Box, Xero, Atlassian and Splunk.Then there are the small un-funded software businesses with great people and ideas but are still finding their way. These businesses can be successful by following in the footsteps of other startups and by transitioning from the “hunted” to being a Mountain Lion. These small businesses need to do everything they can to be perceived as being stronger than they are. The web has delivered to them the best opportunity ever to “fight back” and to be seen as a relevant entity.By using the ecommerce (subscription billing, marketplaces, portals), social marketing (LinkedIn, Twitter, Blogs) and web hype (“if it is on the web it must be true”), any business can create a presence and attract new opportunities. Just look at the explosion of subscription and mobile solution demand and it is easy to see how a small software vendor can take advantage of a disruptive environment.Besides creating great products, smaller software vendors can use technology to grow their own businesses and should be actively embracing those web tools that can help them achieve it.Of course many of these ideas will still fail because not every idea can be a winner and because not everyone can effectively execute but even those that fail can still have their moment of fame through the web.From a different perspective, for this exact reason and from the consumer perspective, they have to be careful how they select their “web” suppliers … but that is a different topic.

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