08 November 2011 Community - Satisfying Software Licensing For All

In the beginning of 2009, when Business Solutions had been selling software licenses for nine years, we experienced a growing feeling that we did something wrong. Our applications for Office, Exchange and SharePoint were fine, and our CEO Peter saw a great development potential in them. However, we saw problems with the payment model we used at that time: buy a license and then add a support contract if you wish to use the services after the first year.

Unknown users with traditional one-time payments
We sold a lot of licenses, and many of the customers continued to use our products and were known to us. But there was also a big, anonymous group out there who once had bought a license but whom we no longer had any contact with. Were they still using our product? What were they thinking about it? Was it helping them the way they had hoped when they bought the license? For whom were we actually developing our software?

Right to support and upgrades
Another issue was that all organizations were not prepared to pay for support and upgrades of their application. Instead they used old versions as long as possible to avoid the cost for a support contract. It did not feel satisfying to know that users were not having the best possible versions of their product, but we found it difficult to give free support and upgrades without finding a source of income to finance it.

The Community model
After many discussions within the team we decided to transfer to a subscription system for the use of our products. We would create a Community of user organizations, and Members of that Community would always get support and free upgrades. That way we could make sure that users of software from really had got the very best we could offer. Community Members would also have the right to unlimited use of all products. More users and products would create a stronger bond between and the Community Members, and that was exactly what we wanted to achieve.

The crucial question
Finally, in November 2009, we took the big step. We all felt certain that the Community model would be better for all parties in the long run, but it was still not an easy decision. Would customers be prepared to pay month after month or year after year for the right to use a product?

Peter, the creator of the applications, had confidence in their value to the users. But Sigge and I were worried that we would lose customers. And we did lose some ‒ old customers who did not want to transfer to the subscription system and potential new ones who only wanted to make a one-time payment. But we got other customers instead, customers who appreciate the security they get as Members of Community.

Improved customer relations
Today, after two years, we are happy we made the transfer. We have a solid base of Community Members, and that means we feel strong when planning for the future ‒ ours and theirs. Now we cooperate with the users in a much better way, because with the Community Members there are never any discussions about support contracts or the right to upgrade.

Instead we all work together towards a common goal: to solve problems and constantly enhance the Microsoft add-ons so that they even better meet the requirements from the Community Members. We say a warm thank you to all who have shown trust and faith in the team and in our products by joining Community!

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