Should you Build or Buy a Licensing Solution?
Independent software vendors face the question of whether to build or buy a licensing solution.
At first, you may need only a simple licensing model. You’ll say, “Hey, we’re a software company. We’re smart. We know what we need, and my guys can whip this thing up over the weekend.” OK, if you limit the scope of the development project to only the functionality that you know you need initially, then you could build a passable licensing solution. But that approach ignores future needs. Ultimately, “build or buy” is more a business question than a technical one. Do you want to set out on a course to build and maintain in-house solution as your customers and markets change?
Future-proof your licensing
To paraphrase a popular bumper-sticker – “Change Happens.” A home-brew license manager must be designed to account for change – not just changes in operating systems and development environments, but also changes in end user preferences for licensing models and deployment platforms. For instance, did you envision the proliferation of tablets ten years ago? Did you predict the increasing use of software in-the-cloud? How about license subscriptions?
Widely used software license managers, like RLM, are designed to address a wide set of platforms, languages, vendor licensing policies and end user deployment preferences. The added breadth of a commercial license manager helps you to respond quickly to competitive pricing threats and to address sales opportunities that require “funky” licensing terms – without waiting for your development team to enhance your home-grown software licensing solution to accommodate the necessary changes.
When you design your own license manager, your customers are the sole “guinea pigs.” They are the only ones who can help you find bugs and improve performance of your licensing software. By using a third party license manager, you benefit from a huge user community banging away on the licensing software, ensuring maximum reliability across a more varied set of usage conditions.
Who’ll draw the short straw?
If you decide to build your own software license manager, who on your team will write it? We often see software engineers eagerly take on the challenging task only to discover that it’s not as easy as it looks. Even more common is the dilemma of the “pigeon-holed” engineer who, after completing v1 of the licensing software, desperately wants to move on to a more interesting project. But instead he is stuck maintaining the licensing system he wrote because he is the only one on staff who knows how it works. Argh! I wonder how long he’ll stay at his company? Who wants to inherit his code knowing that newly introduced changes could cause unintended consequences that could be disastrous to your reputation?
Licensing Experts are truly Rare Birds
The Reprise License Manager (RLM) was designed by experts who have been in the trenches for over two decades. They know what works and what doesn’t for ISVs and their customers. They are passionate about this technology niche, and take pride in solving difficult licensing challenges with relative ease. If you “buy” rather than “build,” these guys become your in-house licensing experts… who won’t leave you high and dry.
Core Competencies – Time-to-Market – Opportunity Costs. These well-worn phrases remind us that we should stay focused on what we do well. Your development effort should be directed toward making your innovative products more robust and competitive. Developing your own license manager distracts from that focus – it will slow your progress and will result in longer release cycles causing you to potentially miss some important sales opportunities. When you choose a 3rd party license manager, the time you save could be used to widen your competitive lead and to integrate licensing more tightly into your CRM or Order Management system.
You want to support not only standard licensing models, but you also want to leverage your customers’ knowledge of licensed software to minimize their learning curve with yours. End customers are willing to tolerate a few different license managers, but not dozens. If your license manager is significantly different from others, your prospective customers may reject your solution.
Stay nimble. Stay focused. Choose a software licensing solution provider who knows what works well, and will remain your long term trusted partner. Don’t be lured by the hope of saving money by writing your own. Today, 3rd party software license managers are affordable for companies of all sizes. In the long run, a third-party solution is the best business choice.