There’s no doubt about it – having gone through the perils of software consultancy for years before, building and selling a viable software product can be very attractive and enjoyable.
In software consultancy, you gain a real appreciation for the people you work with, who toll long hours to bring their projects over the line while dealing with utilization demands, resource scheduling and project juggling. Product companies have a different set of challenges and levers (you still work long hours though 🙂 ).
We’ve recently gone through a deep assessment for a Technology Report with one of the leading industry analysts. We had two weeks to prepare for a detailed set of software product criteria and it made me pause and reflect.
Firstly, we’ve come a long way in a relatively short space of time and secondly, I’m glad we committed 100% to the product from the get-go. This leads me into the crux of the blog – what about the ‘Bluffers’? There are a lot of companies pitching to be ‘product’ companies – but, in reality, they “don’t have it in the locker” – so, how do you spot them?
1. The ‘Re-usable Components’ Story
This ol’ chestnut. “Well, we’ve built this set of re-usable components that will fix your problem exactly!”.
In reality, they may have some really good software components. But they’ll take them, roll them into your project, tailor them, then approach next customer, tailor the code again and so on.
All of a sudden, they’ve 10 different versions/branches of the code for each customer – anyone see a problem? It’s not scalable, is unmanageable and becomes a tangled web very quickly. Beware!
2. The ‘Fake It Until You Make it’ Approach
In a SaaS company, we can’t afford this luxury. If we call out a new feature, we have to show it, customers and prospects can access our trial site and see it – that’s how it works and it’s good self-discipline.
If they are pitching a product, you need to see it running and, more importantly, you need to see the configuration screens – this is the litmus test. And remember, they still have to build it – over-promising and under-delivering – you won’t be happy in the long run. It will cost more and take longer than the promises.
3. The ‘Supporting Cast’
25% of a software product business is the software product itself – right at the core of the business. 75% is everything else – the user guides, the website, the support desk, the dedicated R&D team, the online help, the onboarding program, the case studies and so on.
You need to be comfortable with all the elements of the supporting cast as this is where the ‘rubber hits the road’ when you go live.
Don’t get me wrong, software product companies have to start somewhere. But they are either committed or not, and if committed, they’ll have the fundamentals in place and you’ll see it. The ‘halfway house’ doesn’t work – they’ll be eaten alive – either by competitors or their disgruntled ex-customers.
Young, N. (2017). 3 Ways to Spot the ‘Software Product’ Bluffers. [online] Flowforma.com. Available at: http://www.flowforma.com/blog/3-ways-to-spot-the-software-product-bluffers [Accessed 27 Oct. 2017].