Enterprise commerce technology is in a fascinating adolescence.
Just like a teenager, developing from a child into an adult, today’s enterprise commerce tech has some amazing, new, powerful capabilities. It also has an uncanny way of tripping over its own feet — but it’s OK! With a little love and guidance, your digital commerce strategy will develop into a well-rounded, hardworking, unified commerce solution.
Let’s take a look at three of the most common commerce conundrums, and explore their solutions.
“Software license language should be simple and straight-forward. If you need your attorney to explain it to you, it’s bad.”Mike Bates, HotWax Founder & CEO
1. Complicated Licensing
Let’s start with understanding the software license.
Have you ever talked with a teenager who dramatically over-complicates even the simplest topics? Same thing happens with most software licenses.
If you buy the software and run it in LA, and then you open an office in DC, may you use the software there too? Get comfortable while you process the five-page essay of an answer.
Who owns your data? Are recurring annual license fees mandatory in order to run the system? Are you limited to a certain number of users? A certain number of processors? Say you accidentally exceed the limits — what are the penalties?
Solution: KISS. Keep it simple, Sally.
Software license language should be simple and straight-forward. If you need your attorney to explain it to you, it’s bad. You might even consider looking for a product with no mandatory recurring fees, no limits on number of users, no limit on number of processors, and that you own indefinitely.
Innovative companies are bringing these kinds of license offerings to market to disrupt the entrenched, old-school players who benefit from making the licensing language as befuddling as possible. Look for someone doing it better than the usual suspects.
2. Prohibitive Costs
Next, let’s talk about dinero. Coin. Cheddar.
It’s true that you get what you pay for, but only to a point. For example, if you are fortunate enough to be able to send your teen off to summer camp in a new pair of shoes, be thankful! That should be money well spent. But please don’t send her off to camp in a pair of $3,500 Louboutin pumps. That, dear reader, is an irresponsible waste of money.
I’m assuming you’ve moved beyond the $9.95/mo store-in-a-box. Now we’re talking about enterprise software that may span everything from procurement to fulfillment, order to cash, and everything in between. In software, with these kinds of systems, beware the “million dollar handshake.” That’s a term I picked up from a Gartner analyst, and the term works because it’s true. In enterprise commerce software, you can spend anywhere from $250K to $1.25M and get pretty much the same damned thing.
Solution: Take a look at the source of the problem.
The software is complex and sophisticated by definition, so historically only large traditional software companies were up to the job. This left them free to charge whatever they wanted. Talk to some of these companies and you’ll see that it’s like the wild west. No rules, crazy variations in pricing depending on all kinds of subjective factors. It’s a total hustle.
That is changing. Once again, innovative small companies are accomplishing product development feats that eclipse those of the big, traditional enterprise vendors. Find one you like and go for it. Look for a company that has been around for a while, is self funded, and has a vision for itself beyond just being purchased by one of the big guys.
3. Secret Proprietary Code
Finally, secretive and possessive much?
Like a teenager with a diary, proprietary enterprise software vendors guard their secret code with great passion! Much of the time, that code manifests a lot like teenage poetry. I know of whence I speak! Alas, I wrote some hideous poetry myself back in the day, and I understand the desire to keep it secret.
But that doesn’t work well with code. Fewer eyes on the code base means more chance for errors in the code itself, along with greater likelihood for design flaws, poorer interoperability, and a host of other handicaps.
Solution: Open source.
Find a product that grants you full access to source code once you buy. This way, if you choose, you can review and modify the code in-house as needed. More importantly, it means that lots of other people will be looking at the code, reporting bugs, suggesting enhancements, and otherwise making the product better than it would be if it were kept secret.
As Brandeis put it, “Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants; electric light the most efficient policeman.” With enterprise commerce software, the open source itself lets in the sunlight, and the open source users act as the electric light. Your software vendor should not have anything to hide from you if you’re going to entrust it with your business processes.
Come October, I’ll have three teenagers. This makes me an expert. Also, I’ve been selling and delivering enterprise software since I was a teenager myself! (Picture a blue-haired 19-year-old, a $4,000 laptop, a 28.8k built-in modem, and 32 megs of RAM.) Thus, I feel I am uniquely positioned to draw parallels between these two wonderful, powerful concepts.
With enough love and care, you too can navigate them both, and your life will be a lot richer for the experience.
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