A Focus On Strength: Understanding the Value of the Software Community

I had initially intended a different post for today…but, after several offline conversations based on the last two days discussing Commerce Modules, I have been convinced to change course. In the previous posts, I talked about the ability for a Commerce Module to enable a simple, quick, secure addition of supplemental software to a payment application. That set of statements has prompted discussion on the unique value that the software community provides.

Let’s begin with a bit of my personal background…

I have worked in, and with, the software community for the last 14 years. During that time I have written, deployed, supported, sold, and marketed a variety of software solutions. Barring current responsibilities, this has included large scale financials packages, development tools, retail management solutions, scientific tools, and a variety of data warehousing tools.

With one, glaring, exception I have never worked for (or heard of) a company that describes their software as “worst in the industry”. Similarly, you don’t read about software solutions being marketed as “just as good as the competition, but missing several key features.” This is due to several factors…marketing clearly being one…but it is, primarily, driven by the fact that Software Companies invest their time & resources into something that they believe in.

Often, and I am speaking from my own experience and recognize that yours may differ, this belief is generated by prior pain. The genesis of the software comes from an interaction, or realization, that there was a tangible problem that must be solved. This could be major enough to create an industry…or minor enough to provide features that are considered beneficial. But the software is built…for a reason.

This, then, is the value of the software company.

The issue that they are solving is one that they are uniquely positioned to address.

Are all Software Companies going to succeed in their efforts? Not hardly. A large percentage will fail…just as a large percentage of all small business fail. But those who do succeed will have a unique relationship with their customers that others will not.

Which brings us to the topic of APIs. The power of the API is oft thought to be speed of integration…and that is a component of the equation. But more important is ensuring that the service behind the API is available to a wide range of Software Companies and developers. These organizations, in turn, take the API and integrate that service into their application.

But what does this mean?

It is not, solely, about reach. It is about specialization. The software community knows their users…and is presently solving their needs in a way that the service provider simply cannot.

The value of the software community is simple.

Specialization.

The integration of your service into software that is, daily, solving the needs of customers…
that you will not (otherwise) have the opportunity to capture as consumers of your service.

Reach.

As the software company is solving pain, they obtain a loyal set of users…
that you will not (otherwise) have the opportunity to capture as consumers of your service.

Innovation.

As a less tangible, but no less important benefit, proper engagement with the software community enables innovation on behalf of your service. Perhaps this is best addressed at some point in the future.

Do you desire to have your service consumed widely by a loyal group of customers? Then you had best have a solid plan for consumption of your services by the software community.

What’s your perspective? Agree? Disagree? Anything to add? Critiques? The comment form is below…

July 29, 2010

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