One of the greatest obstacles for software vendors considering a professional licensing solutions is the migration from existing/legacy solutions. The introduction overhead of a new system might affect not only the software vendor himself, but also (and more importantly) the existing customer base.
The biggest concern in most cases is having to provide new license keys to existing customers. Ideally, the transition should be as smooth as possible, so that existing installations can continue to function seamlessly, without any manual intervention.
SLASCONE has several features facilitating the transition from legacy systems:
API for importing existing licenses: Existing licenses are typically identified by a unique license code or a customer number or a device id (hardware license). All 3 fields are available in SLASCONE when importing or creating new licenses.
API for initial activation: Initial license activation license is not only possible using SLASCONE license keys (recommended way for projects with no legacy licenses), but also using legacy license codes or customer numbers or device ids.
SLASCONE thus provides a native foundation for transitioning from legacy systems.
QR codes is a well-established means to enabling payments, website discovery and more. SLASCONE enables devices equipped with a camera or a scanner to use QR codes for their activation.
Similarly to traditional alphanumeric license keys, QR license codes can be sent via email to the authorized persons. Alternatively, the authorized persons can log in to their SLASCONE account in order to fetch the QR code.
A fundamental objective of most software vendors is to find partners/resellers that will help them scale their business. Resellers can be particularly beneficial, in many case the only way, for expansion and international growth.
Nevertheless, establishing successful channels is particularly challenging for software vendors:
Enablement/Attractiveness: providing resellers with the necessary support (training, material, marketing) for success. Most markets are very competitive, so you have to be attractive to your potential reseller.
Benchmarks: measuring the performance and ultimately assessing the real added value of each reseller.
Audit/Transparency: making sure that resellers comply with the rules and not jeopardize the product itself. You want to know what and how exactly your resellers are doing with your product.
Process Automation: minimizing administration effort for every closed deal.
Similarly, resellers have their own challenges:
Diverging business models: despite globalization and digitalization, every market has its own unique characteristics. Therefore, a reseller operating overseas might need adjustments in order to be successful in his local market, e.g., a different pricing or a subscription instead of a lifetime model.
Branding: customizing the design of all user interfaces (including end-user self-service portals).
Autonomous License Generation: creating end-user, internal or trial licenses without the interference of the software vendor.
Software Delivery: providing easy and fast access to the software product, its service packs and updates.
Workflow: integrating the sale process into existing back-office systems.
At the end of the day a successful partnership requires from both parties to minimize/eliminate the administration effort of every closed deal. Especially for low priced products, or with low margins for the reseller, this is absolutely crucial.
A professional licensing and analytics solution with integrated reseller support can help both parties be successful.
A surprisingly big number of software vendors rely on software audits instead of a real licensing solution in order to prevent over-usage. I call this the reactive approach. The majority does opt for a proactive approach. Nevertheless, instead of integrating a professional solution, it chooses to develop an in-house solution (let’s call this solution EasyLic). Typical arguments for an EasyLic approach are:
Our developers can handle this
We must keep this critical know how in house
A third party tool might not provide the necessary functionality and flexibility for future changes
An EasyLic approach might indeed be meaningful for B2C software without significant complexity, a fixed business model or a short lifecycle. Nevertheless, for more complex products with editions, regular updates and business customers, EasyLic typically evolves in the following way(s):
EasyLic 1.0 requires a considerable amount of development resources, but ultimately fulfils the initial requirements
EasyLic is based on license keys
EasyLic does not provide maximum protection, since the developers are not security experts and EasyLic is not their main priority
As the core product grows, so do the licensing requirements: trials, pay as you go, partner/reseller, named and/or concurrent users
Administrative and development resources are assigned to license management. Customers have to contact the vendors for trivial issues such as hardware migration or edition upgrade/downgrade
The CTO is frustrated by the fact that precious development resources are assigned to EasyLic, slowing down the progress of the core product
The CEO is frustrated by the fact that new business models cannot be unleashed due to licensing restrictions
I have never been a security guy. I have always been a business intelligence guy: data, data, data, all about data. The entire BI industry preaches: data driven decision making, trust your data instead of your gut etc…
Back in 2010, after having worked for a couple of years as a consultant for a BI software vendor, I was assigned with the company’s product management. This was a completely different field requiring a profound understanding of the company, the market and the customers. I would have to take critical decisions about the development of the product and since we were a BI ISV preaching a data driven approach, I started asking questions and seeking data:
How many customers do we have and which products/editions do they use?
Where are our customers based?
How many customers do we acquire/loose per month (churn)?
How many of them are active/inactive?
How many of them are direct/indirect (reseller acquisition)?
Which product versions (builds) are (not) used?
Which features are (not) used?
Unfortunately, there were no direct answers to these questions. We had no tool or solution for such questions, not even in Excel. Luckily, it didn’t take me long to come up with an idea: Our licensing database!!! Just as so many ISVs we had developed an in house licensing solution for product activation. This was my only chance to get some insights. So I started a small business (or license) intelligence project in order to extract and visualize the necessary information. Ultimately, I was not able to get everything, but a decent part of it. It was not an easy task but I managed to get through. Nevertheless, what happens to the poor CEO/Product Manager/Business Analyst that does not have a licensing database or the necessary BI skills?
This is how the first seeds of a licensing intelligence solution were born in my head… I started realizing that licensing is beyond copy protection and/or product activation, a very powerful tool for product analytics.