Managing an ISV in 2019 means dealing with a full slate of challenges. Joshua Stanphill, Business Development Manager, Strategic Accounts for Epson America, offers some insights into a few of the issues confronting ISVs as well as some suggestions for overcoming them.
How are ISVs finding and retaining top talent?
Stanphill: We’ve heard a lot about the struggle in finding good software developers right now, especially in areas where large software companies have a presence. Finding talent takes some creativity in today’s environment of software developer opportunities. Understanding what drives these individuals is key. Benefits such as stock options, vacation, remote positions, and bonuses can be drivers, but influence is also a big factor. Do they have the ability to influence the product and team? Ultimately, they want to know they can use the tools they bring to the table.
Also, I’m a firm believer in having a culture that is collaborative, uses modern software product to communicate like Slack, support products like Intercom, and good product management and roadmap tools. Culture is what drives me, and I believe can be one of the biggest impacts on whether someone moves to your company — and stays there.
Are disruptive technologies threatening established ISV businesses?
Stanphill: I don’t believe that newer technologies are threatening progressive and innovative ISVs. However, I believe we have an environment, where end users are more empowered, have more solutions to choose from, and are able to try new products with less hardware turnover or purchasing requirements.
Being able to spot the trends that are worthy of investment is part of the game here. We’ve seen this with kiosks over the last few years. ISVs like Restaurant365, mitigate the short-term difficulty in growing the integrations count for restaurant ISVs as newer products are added. But long term, this may negatively affect SaaS revenue for the ISV. The balance between supporting third-party products via middleware vs. building out feature sets is crucial.
What this does to the market is to create more demanding end-users. Furthermore, it creates end users who want the most progressive solutions but don’t want the risk associated with being beta testers after public release. Solutions with cloud capabilities, strong offline capabilities, built-in loyalty programs, AI and machine learning to assist with complex management decisions, customer-facing displays, kiosks, integrated online ordering with tokenization options, plus a handful of others are decision-making criteria.
How are ISVs keeping up with the demand for applications on mobile platforms?
Stanphill: The days of being just iOS for mobile have met fierce competition from Android, so many software companies are having to invest heavily in platforms that support both mobile operating systems as they continue to build out their products.
A side effect of mobile offerings tends to lead to less brand recognition for the ISV. It’s an important challenge for ISVs to overcome. ISVs need to ensure that their users know their brand. One strategy is partnering with vendors with hardware solutions that not only are aesthetically beautiful and simple but that also make users aware of who created the applications. Some leading companies are ensuring that the hardware they support helps promote their brands.
What’s your advice to ISVs who want to maintain their competitive position and navigate their companies into the future?
Stanphill: Focus on the customer experience first. Create a memorable environment starting with the conversation and up until the completed transaction. It’s essential to build solutions that mitigate users’ costs and help grow companies — and prove that growth to management. It’s also vital to enable users to access data to inform better decisions around staffing, purchasing and marketing.
The single most important area I see in the POS space is marketing. Having a strong marketing tool that is fully integrated and automated can be the lever that’s needed to grow each account. It seems that POS has always had a gap on the growth side and wants solutions to reside more in the utilitarian realm of fancy calculators with reporting rather than springboards for business growth.
The customer is the center of everything — from customer experiences to customer data and history. Leveraging customer data and a marketing platform are like having an insurance policy for your accounts. Plus, it shifts your focus from only how to help your users manage their businesses to customer experiences and business growth.