Software: Limited only by Imagination

I have been challenged with a lot of different and complex puzzles over the course of my career. But I must say that I have often found software to be the most challenging of them all. This is because with software there is nothing physical to tie you down (yes, it has to run on something but these days that’s not too restrictive). Your only limitations are the imaginations of product development and sales people. In my experience that is no limit at all!

Just look at cloud computing. There’s lots of hardware sitting out there waiting to be called upon at a moments notice. But it’s the software that enables you to add capacity on demand. It’s the software that makes you able to share a platform development environment. And of course “software” as a service started the whole cloud computing revolution.

And just look at the number of applications available today. It boggles my mind when I go to the app store and browse. There are lots of very creative people out there building software to do things I would never have dreamed possible.

From a business perspective, what makes software so challenging? If the software is put out in cyberspace for free and it’s “buyer beware” so you don’t provide any support, then software is pretty simple. But the minute you decide you’d like to make some money off this good stuff you’ve developed, that’s when the complexity begins.

There are lots of things to think about once you decide to sell your software (the reality in the quote above). Beginning with deciding what feature sets you are going to offer, through figuring out your pricing and licensing models (more on this in future blogs), to considering your fulfillment methods while protecting your intellectual property and ultimately setting up technical support and renewal methods (after all you want to keep that revenue coming in, right?) there are a large number of operational business processes involved in keeping it all running. For the finance people in the crowd, there is revenue recognition and tax to worry about too. In addition, if you’re offering your software as a service, then there’s the whole platform and 24X7 global operating considerations that can have a significant impact on your brand if not done right.  Here’s another perspective on the difficulty of the XaaS business, Even the Tech-Savviest Struggle with Cloud Based Business Models.

Remember those development and sales people? While you’re thinking about all the stuff in the last paragraph, they are busy changing the license models and coming up with new ways that they could bundle things together to make it easier to buy. And the list goes on. I am so impressed by the people who create at such a rapid pace. Imagination is an awesome thing!

For those of us who are trying to keep an operational model functioning at the speed of software innovation, it makes for a pretty complex and ever changing jigsaw puzzle. It is never boring and that’s what I like most about it!

Do these sound familiar to you? What other challenges have you faced in running a software business?

Graphic credit: The world of imagination is boundless (via Behance)

© Ellen Terwilliger 2012