Value, Ease-of-Use, Joy-of-Use

I work a lot with emerging enterprise software companies.  I have come to believe that every emerging enterprise software company needs to have a “free” version of their product (which is an anathema to most enterprise software companies – no matter what the size). My reasoning is that a free version of a product makes sure that the company knows what it takes to make a product that they can sell:

Value: Value doesn’t just mean that you have a product that solves a problem; it means that you have a product that solves somebody’s problem.  In other words there is a specific person that will benefit from using your software, and it provides them with enough value that they are willing to do what it takes to obtain and use your product. A free product makes sure you really understand who benefits from your product – because if people won’t use it for free, do you really believe that they will pay for it? A free version enables you to validate whether:

  1. You provide enough value relative to the effort involved in getting the product to work (see point 2).
  2.  You understand who really benefits from the product, and you are trying to convince the right people to use it.

It used to be that a proof-of-concept was enough to demonstrate value, but the consumer internet has changed people’s expectations.

Ease-of-Use: It may be that your product does provide real value to somebody, but the effort to achieve that value is just too great. If they need a services engagement to install and configure the product before they can derive any real benefit in their job – you are in trouble. It is OK to rely on services for a complete enterprise wide rollout, but it isn’t OK that no one benefits before that.  A free product ensures that you really know that someone is benefiting enough from your product (not to mention invaluable, direct product feedback).

Joy-of-Use: This is the nirvana of software. I don’t think that in an enterprise setting you can achieve Apple’s level of joy-of-use, i.e. where people play with their iPhone just because it is fun. For enterprise software I see this as an apropriate combination of 1 and 2, where a product provides enough direct value to someone’s work that they will spend effort needed to obtain and use your product. That is a good enough level of Joy-of-Use for “enterprise work”.

Value, Ease-of-Use, Joy-of-Use – It isn’t easy (and I have probably have heard almost every reason in the book about why it can’t\shouldn’t be done), but if you can’t figure out a free version of your product that delivers all three, you should be worried about whether the paid version of your product can actually make it.


6 Responses to “Value, Ease-of-Use, Joy-of-Use”

  1. Max J. Pucher Says:

    Jacob, not that I disagree. But large enterprises work differently than the average consumer. In the enterprise world what I found was that things that are free are neither valued nor do they receive any attention. See how little impact the Open Source movement had in large enterprises. We run on Linux, but no one wants it.

    Ease-of-use and Joy-of-Use are important but as you do not have a single user but several thousand with very different skills and needs you can’t have a single GUI that will perform the same way for all of them. Plus the value in the enterprise comes from actually executing business, which means that the software has to integrate and it has to be secure. Both things mean that it can’t be that easy to install and use and work has to be done (ideally without programming) to give each user the most effective and simple user interaction that doesn’t require training. All things that DO NOT COME FREE!

    When our first forms designer (in 1990) for AFP was a $1000 we could not sell it. I raised the price to $12000 and suddenly it was considered serious software and we were able to support and improve. It is not a mass-market. We even ask prospects to pay for a scoping exercise that defines what they need because they don’t know. Then we ask them to pay for a proof-of-concept installation in which they can test if the software and the solution fulfills their needs. That should include acceptance tests with all the end users. When we did this for free we had a lot of work and no business as prospects were not committed without spending money.

    But in principle you are right too as until they actually make a decision to buy and install the software it is for free. And then they still have the option to run the solution in-house or hosted. But it is not free in the sense of not spending money at all. Even if you get OpenSource you need to either hire or train people to install and maintain it. Yes, maybe Cloud will replace OpenSource in the medium size enterprise and possibly even in larger ones.

    But I yet have to hear someone say that Salesforce is COOL or EASY to use. There the simplicity of Cloud replaced user-friendly as a criteria. I propose that you can’t have both in enterprise software. Maybe the Mobile-Social-Cloud will do some of that, but the data and integration issues won’t go away.

    • Jacob Ukelson Says:

      Hi. My main point is that creating a free version of a product is a valuable exercise for the startup.

      Providing a “free version” makes the vendor really think through the “product” vs. “services” split of their offfering, and really understand who is the customer. It also requires understanding what is enough value to a customer to be interesting, but can be delivered in such a way that free makes sense (i.e. minimal integration).

      • Max J. Pucher Says:

        HI Jacob, creating a free version to enter a market place is a good approach. I just question it for the enterprise market. There is no ‘customer’ in the normal sense because most decisions in enterprises are not made by the users but by some management committee and a lot of it from a technical IT perspective and not a user perspective. If you don’t integrate a solution in the enterprise it won’t be able to deliver value. I would really like to understand what kind of software you had in mind if you say that it requires minimal integration and still delivers value.

      • Jacob Ukelson Says:

        I am thinking about products that can use existing data as a starting point for analysis. The right way to do it is through integration with existing systems and live data, but one way of providing a free version is using “reports” as the data source – static data that the user has easy access to.

      • Max J. Pucher Says:

        Hi Jacob, even existing data you need access to and if you can’t execute a kind of transaction or process there won’t be any business value with the activity. Reporting is cute and it may help with some business decisions, but in my experience to create reports that really are useful it is necessary to understand the data and make them plausible to the business user. Not much of that happens out of the box. If you have some real world practical samples that work the way you see it as beneficial I would like to hear. I am not saying it is impossible, I am just saying that enterprises are different to consumer markets and ‘free’ may have limited benefit for selling and understanding a solution.

  2. Ron Gidron Says:

    Agree! (and sorry for the short response but that all I have to say 🙂

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