“Every company’s greatest assets are its customers, because without customers there is no company.”
When a vendor is seeking growth (and that’s most!), they focus on building up a strong customer base. As Michael LeBoeuf states above, an OSS vendor’s greatest asset is its customers because of their relative scarcity. It makes sense that a vendor should be doing everything in its power to win new customers.
Let’s say you’re a vendor who has been remarkably successful in signing up lots of new customers. Hat tips to you! Growth is assured right? Not so fast. Sustainable growth is only going to occur if you can service those new customers. Unfortunately this is where I’ve seen some vendors come unstuck.
The second part of their strategy was either an afterthought or flawed – the part that involves building up a team that is expert with their specific technologies. Their flaw has been based on the assumption that once the customers are found, the experts will be available for hire. Unfortunately every vendor’s solution is just too specific for even the world’s best to simply walk in and start delivering the solution to customers immediately.
These experts will get up to speed quicker than most of course, but they’ll still invariably need the support of the existing vendor team members that are experienced with the inner workings of their OSS. The experts also tend to come with a price-tag and are in demand by other organisations. The vendor’s existing team members become stretched across the new customers and bringing the new hires up to speed.
If you’re envisaging a growth phase, you have to balance your two scarcest assets – your customers and your experts. Expertise on your particular solution only comes through finding new resources and providing them with an apprenticeship. The balance on this see-saw works the other way too, you need enough valuable customers to support the additional expense of the new resources.
How’s your apprenticeship scheme coming along?