Five Shades Of Grey… How software buyers should be compliant without being submissive

“Don’t let the salesperson persuade you that his company’s opinion is gospel truth – it isn’t."

3. At what point does an enhancement become a new product?

“We know we’re paying maintenance so we can get “product upgrades”, but it is unclear exactly what that means,” Jones explains.

He believes software companies reinvest their maintenance revenue into development and acquisitions, packaging some of the results as new products that you can buy if you want to, and others as enhancements that you get at no extra cost when you upgrade.

“How should they decide between these two?” he asks. “It’s not defined anywhere.

“What’s a fair balance between the two to represent value for money from maintenance? 80%? 50% 5%? No-one knows that either.”

4. Does my contract allow me to collaborate with customers?

Most software contracts grant you a license to use the software, but according to Jones, “solely for your internal business purposes”.

“What does that mean?” he asks. “Isn’t an oxymoron? Surely business is external, by definition?

“Increasingly, our business processes involve external collaboration and engagement, with customers, suppliers, distributors, agents, etc.

“We all need to be able to use our software and/ or data for joint endeavours that support their business and ours, but the contracts appear to forbid this.”

5. Under what circumstances does one person need two user licenses?

Another grey aspect of collaboration scenarios, according to Jones, is the principle of one-person, one-license (OPOL).

“Suppose you allow me authenticated access to your network to collaborate with you, via an Oracle database, say, or via Microsoft Sharepoint,” he speculates.

“I’m using the software, so I need a user license – that’s clear. But what if Forrester uses the same software, so I already have a user license that Forrester has bought and assigned to me?

“Surely you don’t need to buy me a 2nd user license? Every user needs a user license, I have a user license, WTP? It seems reasonable to assume that OPOL applies, but few contracts say clearly whether or not it does.”

Grey Situations…

With these grey situations, just as with marital disagreements over the activities in the aforementioned film, Jones believes businesses need to have an “open, honest, adult discussion” about the wider relationship.

“Don’t let the salesperson persuade you that his company’s opinion is gospel truth – it isn’t,” he adds.

“Try to show how the vendor’s attempts to enforce a warped (in your view) interpretation of this particular issue will damage your firm’s perception of it, and hence limit its chances of winning future business.

“Otherwise the salesperson will focus only on the short term revenue he can extract from you if he stubbornly holds to the official line.”

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