Home > Articles > Business & Management

  • Print
  • + Share This
From the author of Products Are Not Solutions

Products Are Not Solutions

A few years ago, a market analyst said that the future of the industry was selling solutions, not products. A large number of companies duly renamed their flagship products solutions and continued business as usual. The addition of the word “solution” to buzzword bingo cards was the only significant outcome.

That's something of a shame, because solutions really are important. No one wants to buy software. No one ever thinks “My company is doing okay, but it would do much better if we had more software.” No one (with the exception of some geeks like myself) really gets excited by the idea of new hardware, either.

Out in the real world, a place I occasionally find myself forced to visit, businesses have problems. Often they aren't aware of the fact that they have problems or, more commonly, of what their problem really is. Business problems are thing like “We are not ordering replacement stock fast enough” or “We aren't communicating with our clients very well.” The solution to these problems often involves deploying some new software, but the software is not the solution, just a part of it.

A business built around Free Software has a big advantage in this market. If you are in this business, your customer is not interested in buying software from you; they are interested in paying you (if they can't avoid it) for solving their problem. Software that costs money is your problem, not theirs, because they'll pay you the same amount whether the solution involves deploying Windows, AIX, or OpenBSD. Software that you can't modify is your problem, not theirs, because you are the one that needs to make sure that the software solves their problem, not some related-but-different problem that the original authors thought was interesting.

If you develop your entire software stack in-house, then it doesn't make much difference to you, but very few companies do this. If you do, then you're probably going to be more expensive than companies that don't because you are selling fewer operating systems than, say, Microsoft, and so have fewer sales to recoup your investment. If you are building a solution on top of proprietary software, then you have to pay the original company a cut for every copy you ship. If you need any modifications made to the software, then you need to get the original authors to make them.

One very simple rule for business is to sell your customers what they want to buy, not what you want to sell. A software company wants to sell software because it's what they know how to produce. Most companies, however, do not want to buy software. They see it as something that detracts from their bottom line. They want to buy things that add to their bottom line

  • + Share This
  • 🔖 Save To Your Account