2009-02-24

Customer Relations

In the type of work we do, in any economic climate, we have to consider our customers first. It is their faith and goodwill that selects us to provide our services to them and their satisfaction with our services that gets our bills paid on time. Their repeat business is, in addition, dependant upon our ability to understand their needs and their business model and ply our trades in a way that maximizes their profit while minimizing their liability and effort.

There is nothing special in that business approach. I doubt we were the first or will be the last organization to embrace it. Incredibly though, these simple, seemingly common sense based tennents, appear to be totally alien concepts to software companies. Where service based firms have clients, software firms have Revenue Streams. Where service firms strive to become seamless, dependable, and effective extensions of their clients capabilities, software companies seek contractually enforced Lock-In.

It has been this way for some time, but now, in the current economic climate, these contrasts become inescapably distinct. IT professionals, from CIOs to Systems Administrators, are all looking to aid their companies in both finding and assisting new clients while cutting costs. To our clients which have hit hard times, we meet them with creative options for getting their work done at a reduced cost while yet still increasing the number of value of services provided. As far as our two major software suppliers are concerned, it's business as usual.

All of our software suppliers, Autodesk, our ERP vendor, et al. have held fast the line. Our ERP vendor, I must admit, did offer to bend a bit on their lump-sum terms and offered a quarterly payment option. Autodesk, however would not bend in the slightest with regards to pricing, terms, or structure. Even worse, as a hedge against losing recurring revenue streams, Autodesk is engaging in even more bullying tactics like trying to disallow license resale and invalidating licenses that are out of maintenance. This despite last year's U.S. District Court ruling against them.

Our Autodesk reseller though, Advanced Technologies Solutions (atsicad.com), bent over backwards to make the deal work for us. ATSI cut their margins, sought out their own 0% quarterly payment option, and offered value added services such as additional training. They displayed an understanding of our needs and wants and took action accordingly.

The software publishing industry just doesn't get it. I do believe however that the combination of their attitudes, a poor economy, and the proliferation of quality unockable Open Source software will prove a perfect storm causing a sea change in the way many of their "Revenue Streams" use, acquire, and indeed generate software in the future.

Software should be a tool like any other. You should not be chained to it any more than you are super-glued to a hammer. I wonder; would the late Peter Drucker applaud their ferocity, lament their short-sightedness, or identify and champion the opportunity for Innovation and Entrepreneurship