OMS SafeHarbor

Connecting Software and Customers

Other Voices: Envisioning a Software Distribution Hub

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This makes me smile.
Mr. Sorofman hasn’t met OMS yet.

Other Voices: Envisioning a Software Distribution Hub: “Today’s approaches are too slow, costly and chaotic to address modern system complexity and IT budgets”

(Via Dr.Dobb’s Architecture & Design Articles.)

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June 7, 2010 at 23:06 pm

Electronic Software Delivery – Best Practices Part 6 – Categorize your Customer

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Last installment discussed organizing your content; free or fee.

This time, organizing your customers is the topic. Having a simple, and documented vision for how your customers will interact with your ESD system is a critical step in ensuring the long-term success of your program. The foundation of this vision is organizing customers into groups based on how you expect them to use the ESD system.

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This is not a market segmentation exercise, per se. What we’re talking about here is use-models. From this perspective you can segment users along the same lines as your content; those who don’t know what they want, and those users who are coming to get what they are owed.

How many of your users will be browsing though your content library, undecided on what files they need or want?

How many are looking to get in and out of your ESD site, as fast as possible, with exactly what they already paid for?

Are your buyers and your users the same people? If not, how will the people who buy your content distribute those assets to the users?

Are the bulk of your users individuals (B2C type) or will you have multiple users per corporate account (typical B2B scenario)?

The only wrong answer in this process is to say “all of the above, equally”. That is a cop-out, and a sure path to disappointing results. Your ESD program needs a defined primary audience and user community. Pre-sales serving of free content, and post sales fulfillment of orders cater to different users at different stages in their relationship with your company. Decide which will be dominant.

Organize your ESD project around how your customers are categorized as they interact with your business. Trying to service every type of customer interaction equally, much like the keychain above, will to lead to a heavy ESD deployment and leave a big hole in your pocket.

Electronic Software Delivery – Best Practices Part 5 – Categorize your Content

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Categorizing your content is the first patch of turf that will directly involve all of your internal Business, Engineering, Sales, and Marketing team members. Get them in a room and build a consensus view of the near future for this topic. You can always change and adjust your categories, but you have to start somewhere.

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Begin by listing the files you are targeting for electronic distribution into two columns: Free and Paid.

Consider the Free assets. Will you allow anonymous access to those files? Will users be asked to register before being granted a download entitlement? Maybe both (optional registration)?

Segment the assets by license agreement type. Are their different terms for Free and Paid assets that must be agreed to before downloading? Are their different types of legal use agreements for assets within each category? Do you use third party or open source components that affect these terms?

Segment the assets by license enforcement technology (keys, time-out logic, dongles, etc.)

Decide if you will continue to support physical distribution, and if so, how the answer to that question affects the format of the assets you are delivering (.pkg vs .iso or .dmg, for example).

Fast-forward four to six months. Updates and patches are ready to ship for both Free and Paid assets. Will you provide incremental or full updates? Is there a difference if they are Free or Paid?

Things can get complicated in a hurry, especially if you happen to be in a company that has more than a handful of applications to deliver. But you’ve taken the step to address content categories early on, so never fear.

Let’s recap: Categorize your content
1. Free or Paid
2. Anonymous or Registered
3. Licensing Terms
4. License Enforcement Technologies
5. Physical Alternatives
6. Update / Patch Methods

Next installment – Categorizing your ESD Customer

Written by admin

April 21, 2010 at 14:51 pm

Electronic Software Delivery – Best Practices Part 4 – List your Users

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Once your new ESD infrastructure is in place, who is going to use it?

If you are about to answer “customers”, don’t bother. That response too easy and too broad.

The list of users that we create in this step is different from project stakeholders. A User is one who will engage the features and functions of the system on a routine basis (double your bonus points if your stakeholder list includes real Users).

Who is responsible for the final approval to “ship” content?

Who manages the part-numbers that for sale and distribution?

Who will submit the files to the public-facing tools?

Who is responsible for creating and approving accounts?

Who are the customer service personnel that will support the process?

List the users, and make sure to add their backups. Plan to involve this group in planning, testing, and post launch audit meetings. As these are the folks who will be using your ESD tools each day or week they are your internal user community. These are the folks getting your product to your customers today, and bearing the burden of any antiquated processes, so its extremely important to bring each of them tangible benefits with your ESD project.

Written by admin

April 16, 2010 at 13:56 pm

Electronic Software Delivery – Best Practices Part 3 – Draw a picture

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You’ve got goals and stakeholders for your ESD project. Now, draw a picture.

Use whatever is comfortable, including the analog pencil and paper. The format doesn’t matter. Ignore buzzwords like UML, Flow, Process, BPM, etc. and ignore getting sucked into fancy diagramming tool choices. Draw the picture however you are comfortable. The diagram will change, guaranteed.

At OMS we go back-and-forth between system diagrams and activity diagrams.

Here’s an example of an activity box diagram we use to help get lubricate conversations about ESD.

Plan == Create == Build == Manage == Release == Entitle == Distribute == Support
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The objective of this step is simply to outline areas of focus that are important to achieving the business outcomes you desire. This is not an implementation checklist, that will come later. This is the umbrella sketch of things your organization will think about (and do) that impact your digital distribution project.

If you prefer, you may wish to sketch the system, or infrastructure for your project. Inside the firewall, staging, testing, Customer facing, Partner facing are four good starting boxes. In other words, the where instead of the what that you will ultimately use. Again, don’t worry about what it looks like, just get it down on paper.

It make no difference, at this point, whether your perspective is process (what) or system (where). Just start drawing. You’ll find that these pictures will become the most used and discussed tools in your ESD project toolkit.

Electronic Software Delivery – Best Practices Part 2 – Stakeholders

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Last week we identified setting success metrics, up-front, as the single most important practice in any ESD program. Identifying the stakeholders who will affect or consume those metrics is the second step to ensuring ESD success.

Depending upon the size of your company, this may involve anywhere from three to thirty (yes thirty) or more people.
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More often than not the first-pass at list of ESD stakeholders is limited to “Marketing” groups, or more specifically, those folks who “run the website”. Effective ESD programs include representatives from the internal organizations that create and produce the digital assets that you will be delivering.

DONE == DELIVERABLE == DELIVERED

Your ESD program and will be affected by when and how the asset is determined to be fit for distribution, or DONE. Once the asset is declared complete (functionally), the process of packaging, bundling, or turning that single asset into a salable and DELIVERABLE product begins. Only after this point do the presentation and DELIVERY functions come to the fore. Therefore you must include people from each of these domains in your ESD program.

Here are some titles ESD stakeholders we interact with

VP, Marketing
VP, Operations
VP, Customer Service
VP, Engineering
Director, Configuration Management
Director, Marketing IT
Director, Logistics
Director, Tech Support
Director, Licensing
VP, General Counsel
Export Compliance Manager
Director, Product Management

At OMS SafeHarbor we consider the stakeholder process so important, that when we engage a customer we specify by name, in the contract documents individuals from IT, Operations, Marketing, Customer Service and Engineering that have agreed to support the project and be accessible to the project/program team.

To build a successful ESD program you need to have your goals firmly understood, and your stakeholders clearly identified. Knowing what you are going to do, and who is going to help you is your down payment on ESD success.

Written by admin

April 7, 2010 at 11:43 am

Electronic Software Delivery – Best Practices Part 1 – Define Success Before You Start

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In the past few weeks I’ve been in quite a few meetings with software companies talking about electronic software delivery. And here is the deal: We can predict the degree of difficulty in forming a mutually beneficial operating partnership with you by asking one question, “A year from now, what successes will be be celebrating”?

Sidebar commentary: Inquiries we are receiving about ESD are up in 2010, in part thanks to our marketing efforts (thanks Darci, Charissa, and Chris!) but also because more companies, spurned on by the 360 business reviews of 2009, are looking for every advantage, and they are now getting to Delivery.

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I never get tired of asking that question, or the responses it provokes. After more than 15 years in the business of helping high-tech companies get their products into the hands of their customers, going all the way back to the floppy disk days, the answer to this question (or the lack thereof) is the most important and most telling.

Your definition of success must be in place before you start your electronic software delivery project.

As much as I dislike the one-size-fits-all implications of “best practices” language, this one-time, I’ll concede. Too often we hear the “our customers are asking for it” response. While the customer demand is undoubtedly true, I can almost guarantee that your CFO won’t fund your initiative based on that justification.

Here are some real, quantifiable, definitions of success that have been used by some of our customers, in no particular order:

Reduce per unit costs versus physical shipping.
Accelerate revenue recognition.
Decrease call frequency and duration to customer and technical support.
Capture metrics on adoption rates for use by sales, marketing, engineering, etc.
Eliminate costly, repetitive, manual processes.
Provide quantifiable sales/import/export tax advantages.
Comply with (enter jurisdiction of choice) export regulations.
Re-allocate talented individuals to core business tasks.

There are more. Not all are necessary. Your objectives are for you to define. But, define them you must. The single most important “best practice” in ESD is to set your goals, up-front, and with conviction. Because, as many of you might already know, your ESD project will involve many more stakeholders and participant than might readily be apparent. You’ll need these goals to keep everyone on the same page, and to make sure you have something to celebrate.

Written by admin

April 1, 2010 at 16:06 pm

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