Products or services?

A man without a smiling face must not open a shop.”
Chinese Proverb

It seems logical that OSS vendors want their products to reach a critical mass, whereby they no longer rely on their own marketing efforts alone. They want to reach a point where other people / organisations are selling their products.

There appears to be two main avenues to this objective:

  1. Free distribution that allows customers to self-serve (and hopefully purchase premium products or services)
  2. Solution integrators (SIs) who learn the vendor’s products and install them for customers

The second approach is an interesting one that sometimes becomes a dilemma for OSS vendors. The SI model can only work if the SI can become highly skilled at implementing the product. Since there are relatively few OSS customers out there, the SI might only have the chance to commission a vendor’s solution a few times each year at best. In many cases the SI is unable to develop the level of knowledge that that the vendor has, which  can lead the vendor to consider bringing installation services back in house.

There aren’t many cases where OSS vendors are great at products AND services. Their mode of operation is generally better suited to one or the other. So if yours is a product company foremost, you need to put a great deal of planning into how you’re going to develop the SI channel.

You need to find a way to systematise the knowledge transfer via mechanisms such as:

  • Training packs
  • Easy installation and configuration (as well as collateral to support these goals)
  • Virtual machines or sandpit environments for the SI to learn

It’s just another way of increasing the pool of resources that are skilled at using your products, in much the same way as described in “The worst job in OSS

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