PLANT A SEED APPROACH
Like the Quick and Dirty Approach, the Plant a Seed Approach is for those with minimal time and resources available to orchestrate a full-blown software maintenance re-negotiation process, but it can also be useful for those who will undertake a more comprehensive approach down the road. This approach by itself is usually not optimal for the average software portfolio owner, but it’s better than doing nothing. It’s not as good as the Quick and Dirty approach in that it does not produce immediate (within days) cost savings, but it’s better than the Quick and Dirty approach because it leaves more doors open.
The Basic Premise – The basic premise of the Plant a Seed Approach is to create the impression in the minds of your software vendors that you are looking to adjust your software license structures, reduce fees (both license and maintenance), and in the broadest terms, extract more value from your software portfolio.
How to Pull It Off – Contact the sales rep’ for each of your deployed software vendors. You can make contact by phone, e-mail, or both. Explain to each rep’ that you have been tasked with the stuff in the basic premise above (adjust software license structures, etc.). Then you invite each sale rep’ to join in your effort by providing some necessary information and offering up any creative solutions that come to mind. Indicate that you don’t need an immediate response because you want your rep’s to think about your request carefully. Ask for a response over the next two weeks, and set up a reminder to contact each rep’ after two weeks’ time if they haven’t yet responded.
Questions to Ask – Ask each rep’ to respond to the following questions:
Will you be releasing any major updates or upgrades in the next three months?
Do you have any license structures currently available, or soon to be available, that might be more appropriate for my company’s needs?
Have you taken other customers through a similar exercise, and if so, what were the outcomes?
You may want to add some additional questions, but remember to keep them “open-ended” (not amenable to “yes” or “no” answers). Your goal is to create dialogue, not cut it short.
Why to Use This Approach – Although this may seem like the ultimate Lazy-Bones-Jones approach to reducing your maintenance expense (because it is), there are bits of genius to the approach that might not be obvious at first blush.
- Fresh Approach – Your rep’s may be captivated by the novelty of your approach. They receive lots of calls from customers who use more aggressive spend-management tactics, and often those encounters are very confrontational. You have the same endgame in mind as these other customers, but your rep’s will likely appreciate your decidedly different approach.
- Partnering – In their heart of hearts, most people like to help others. They really do. You are asking your sales rep’s to help you help your company, and most of them will rise to the occasion. Do you remember positive and negative motivational drive states from Psych 101? Well, here you are working to create a positive drive state.
- Expanding Your Options – Instead of following some dogmatic approach that you’ll apply across all of your deployed software vendors (e.g., “must reduce maintenance expense by 40%”), you are asking your vendors for options. They may present options that you never would have imagined, and one or more of them may produce a better result than your dogmatic approach. Don’t forget that you can always apply your dogmatic approach later, if necessary.
- Not Limiting Your Options – Even though it takes very little time or effort, this approach can produce some good results. Basically, you have everything to gain and nothing to lose. Some folks use a version of this approach as a prelude to a more comprehensive approach to be undertaken at a later date, using the information gathered to advantage down the road. Perhaps most important, this approach does not limit your options. You are free to accept or reject any bones thrown out by your vendors during the process. If you gather enough decent bones during the process, you may not need to proceed further with another approach.
What to Expect – After two weeks have passed, a given vendor will respond somewhere between these two extremes:
- “I took a close look at your account, and I had a long discussion with my boss. Right now there is not a whole lot we can do to help with your effort. However, we’re always open to discussion, and if you have some specific ideas in mind, I’d be happy to work with you.”
- “I took a close look at your account, including your update history and support use numbers. I would propose that we make the following changes to your account: switch from the Platinum level of support to the Tin level, exchange your non-tiered seat licenses to our new Flexi-Seat license program, [and so on].”
For each vendor response, you will have to decide whether the initial proposal is enough for you, or whether you want to go for more. It’s all up to you. If you want to go for more, you can do it now or wait until some later date (e.g., as part of some fuller re-negotiation exercise).
So, plant a seed and see what grows!