I try not to count them, but I think I have been in the enterprise software business for about 35 years. And if it is more, please keep it to yourself. One thing I know is that we are all too old for a sandbox.
The buying and selling of software for businesses has changed little over the years. Trade shows and site visits create leads, salespeople call, demos are scheduled, and proposals are written. Sometimes customers ask for a period in which they can try the software out, like a test drive on a new Honda Accord. And as they say, “not that there’s anything wrong with that.”
I am all for trying before buying. Just don’t ask me for a sandbox.
The term sandbox evolved in our industry to mean an instance of the software that the prospective user can have access to and “play in” with dummy data. Here is my issue: No one should play with enterprise software without appropriate orientation, some training and a set of realistic scenarios. I am sorry, but this is not Candy Crush, this is business software for specific processes.
I am on a crusade for how we in the enterprise business applications market buy and sell software. I want EVERY PROSPECTIVE BUYER to use the software first. As a SaaS solution, we can create a new instance and provide credentials in minutes. HOWEVER… our pilots, for which we do not charge, include three full orientation, training, and Q&A sessions. We make parameter changes to the environment to mimic the customer’s needs. And we have an expert available 24/7 to jump in and help the users during the pilot period.
Excuse my English, but this ain’t no stinking sandbox. I don’t want users to play with the software; I want them to experience it in real-life scenarios. And I want to use the pilot period to collect information on any parameter changes that will be needed to transition into production use.
This way, a pilot project provides the benefit of accelerating the actual project. It provides momentum and a head start, so after the decision, it is not a matter of starting over. The PILOT is just the first phase of the PROJECT!
To me, this is how the current generation of modern business applications should be bought and sold. And the reason may surprise you. As a vendor, if my software is not a great fit, I actually do not want you to license it. This is SaaS software, with an annual subscription, and if it isn’t right for you, you will get frustrated, require a lot of support and chances are you will not renew your subscription.
No. I am looking for serious buyers willing to invest the time to exercise the application thoroughly. For those buyers, the sky’s the limit. No cost for the pilot, a choreographed experience with training, check-ins and unlimited support — a one-on-one session every day of the pilot if you want!
So there will be no sandboxes. Sandboxes are for children. If I have it my way, in the future we will all be buying and selling enterprise business applications as adults, with comprehensive pilot projects as the basis for the decision. Even if it takes until I have been in this industry for ANOTHER 35 years 🙂
Ken is the general manager of North American Operations for Agatha.