Archive for December, 2009

The Year in Review in Software & Services and 90% Software Maintenance Margins

Here is a good short review of enterprise software and services stories in 2009.

What caught my eye was Brian’s referral to 90% software maintenance margin as a bad thing. Brain, most software companies invest significant dollars in infrastructure, R&D and new product development. Healthy profit margins from on-demand services and support are an absolute necessity. Without those margins no software company can attract great talent, investors or even consider any new ideas.

As an example, at Tenrox while 9 out 10 new customers are opting for Tenrox on-demand we still do have and support on-premise customers with perpetual licenses. One of these customers had gone without support for eighteen months thinking the software works great and they do not need our support, updates or innovations. Well something went wrong and they called our service team asking for help. They wanted to pay time and material for us to jump on the problem and fix it. We explained our policy that they must reactivate support, pay a penalty for the reactivation, and get up to date before we can even look at the problem. This customer was quite frustrated and did not take the news very well at all.

As a software company we have no choice but to establish such policies. Tenrox is not a consulting “time and material” provider. The profits and good margins from on-demand services and support are absolutely essential for continued innovation and first class customer support.

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Interview with Microsoft Project’s Seth Patton

Here is an interesting interview with a marketing director at Microsoft Project regarding their product roadmap and strategy.

I guess Seth has not kept up to date with technology trends all that much. If Microsoft’s strategy is to try and drive out independent software vendors (ISV) they are not going to do all that well with their customers or partners. With Software as a Service and cloud computing, best of breed is a clear hands down winner in this market. Just look at the huge success stories of, RightNow, Taleo, and Success Factors all of which are SaaS offerings; there are so many more SaaS and cloud winners out there. I think Microsoft is better off focusing on strengthening its ISV partnership base instead of alienating them with this kind of thinking and interviews. This is not forward thinking.

Here is another interesting exchange in the interview:

While PPM products, Microsoft’s included, contain many of the functions needed by professional services firms, they are still some key functions not available within Project just yet. These include: client billing; dedicated time entry for vendor, client, contractors, etc.; two-way interfaces with payroll systems; proposal tools; and, more. Nonetheless, Seth reminded me that thousands of Microsoft partners are service firms as well as users of Project in client work.

This sounds a lot like the old we have it all ERP type of talk. Well then I guess customers should wait another 10 years for Microsoft to develop these and other capabilities. Or customize the heck out of Microsoft Project to fulfill the gaps they perceive in the solution and to get what they need like these other companies he mentions have.

I still remember the first time I read a brochure from one of these large vendors. The brochure said they do everything under the sun. I got the same impression with virtually every release of Microsoft Project. To this day, all of these products have only fallen behind more, become more bloated, more complicated, and more out of touch with what customers really need.

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