ISVs face a multitude of challenges as they develop effective, secure solutions and keep them updated and relevant. But the ins and outs of running a successful business can be just as challenging as getting a bug-free application to market.
Jerry Moy, Business Development Manager for Epson America, who manages their ISV accounts, shares some of the most common ISV business challenges that he’s observed and some insights on how ISVs manage them most successfully.
Keeping Up with the Industry’s Changing Needs
Moy says he sees differences between ISVs who are successful and those who aren’t. “The more successful businesses are not only innovative but are fully engaged with the successes and failures their customers and competitors experience,” says Moy. “It is extremely important to communicate with existing and potential clients and determine which solutions they choose and why.”
To keep your finger on the pulse of the industry, ISVs may depend on user groups for feedback, but engaging users can be as simple as reaching out on social media. Moy says he has the greatest success the old-fashioned way. “You can really get people to open up face-to-face,” he says. “Socializing one-on-one is when the truth comes out.”
Of course, it’s not always possible to find time to visit each customer, but by attending trade shows or other events, you can arrange one-on-one time with users, in an environment where you’re likely surrounded by your competitors. “By listening to input from as many users as you can, you can really see the impact of the direction you’re taking with your products,” Moy comments.
Keeping Up with the Competition
Another challenge ISVs face is trying to get a product to market quickly and checking all the boxes to keep up with the competition. He adds, “realistically, some ISVs do some things well, other things fairly well and some poorly. “Instead of just saying you do it all, it’s essential to engage after the sale to ensure your customers take advantage of what your product does best,” he says.
It’s important to get ideas to market in a timely manner, but speed isn’t the only important factor in success. “Sometimes the most aggressive competitor is going down the wrong path,” he says. “Move fast once you determine the right direction.”
Finding and Keeping Talent
ISVs are also in a fight to retain skilled IT professionals. Moy says this can be a particular challenge for ISV startups that are beginning to grow. Startups may not be able to offer a salary and benefits package that can compete with larger companies or provide the work environment that millennial engineers are looking for. “Everyone is modeling their businesses after Google — even the smallest software companies — and it’s expensive,” Moy comments.
To all ISVs, Moy advises, “Avoid complacency. I’ve seen top talent move from one company to another, and the main reason was that the company didn’t satisfy their natural thirst for challenge. An organization that tends to rest on its laurels will create boredom and lack of motivation — and top talent will leave.”
Working with Offshore Developers
The challenge of finding IT talent leads some ISVs to outsource development. Outsourcing to offshore companies, however, can create its own set of issues.
It’s essential to make sure that the services offshore companies offer will meet the needs of North American businesses. “With the exception of the handful of larger ISVs, many specialize in only a specific type of solution. For example, specific types of hospitality businesses require localized solutions with features that address challenges unique to them and their clientele,” he says. An offshore development team may make it harder for the ISV to develop a product that aligns well with specific workflows. The distance and difference in business culture may not always align with local strategies.
Moy says working with offshore developers also requires reliable, effective ways to communicate with the team and share information promptly.
Becoming Your Resellers’ Preferred Solution
Moy attends a number of ISV partner conferences throughout the year, and he sees the same dealers at show after show. He says one challenge that ISV executives face is finding ways to encourage partners to sell their solutions from among several options.
“When I ask partners how they decide, they answer, ‘Whatever’s easiest,’” says Moy. He says partners will gravitate toward the product that’s most simple to present and close, with the shortest sales cycle and the best support. “Margin may be better with another product, but it may not be worth their time,” he says.
In addition to removing as much friction as possible from sales, implementation and support for resellers, ISVs need to communicate and educate their partners on their solutions. “Show them that your products may not be as hard to sell as they think,” says Moy.
The Top Challenge ISVs Face
Moy says the biggest challenge many ISVs face is deciding whether to be a leader or a follower in the market. “Innovation is moving at breakneck speeds, but leading is risky,” says Moy. He says some people with new ideas are reluctant to develop them, waiting to see what other players in the market will do and collect evidence on whether the idea is worth an investment. Startups may not have the luxury of waiting — bringing new ideas to market will draw a lot more attention to their brands than developing an application similar to what well-known companies are selling.
Regardless of the maturity of your company, Moy advises making thoughtful decisions about the right time to be a market leader and the risks you will take.