Table of Contents
Welcome to the third issue of sohodojo's Rants and Raves newsletter. Our first two issues were heavy on 'stake in the ground' explanations of who we are and what we are doing. We introduced the fundamental ideas about the nanocorp and our vision of an emerging dimension to the Internet-based small business revolution. (If you missed these grounding issues, you'll find them at our newsletter archive.)
In this issue, we finally get down to a little ranting and raving...
In our last issue, we told you about the BIGGEST CHALLENGE of nanocorp management. It's the 'Few Heads - Many Hats' time and resource management dilemma.
Since a nanocorp is a tiny, diversified corporate conglomerate, there are MANY parallel sets of LOTS of role-based hats to wear for EACH nanocorper. In our 'ruthlessly small' businesses there is no possibility for 'throwing more bodies' at a problem. EFFECTIVE SYSTEMS AUTOMATION is vital.
We related how Jim spent five days kissing every downloadable project management and similar software solution 'frog' he could get his hands on. We confessed our surprise that the two front-running offerings were Java-based.
As former hardcore Smalltalkers, we have a laundry list of things that we don't like about Java. These issues are largely programmer productivity and career satisfaction issues of a personal nature. Here, we are assessing Java as a solution delivery platform. Our interests are as users, not as developers.
Netmosphere's ActionPlan and Project Home Page shine...
It was no contest in terms of which currently available software solution most closely fits our requirements for a nanocorp time and resource management system. Netmosphere's ActionPlan and Project Home Page make an exciting product offering.
We are aggressively putting the downloadable, 30-day trial ActionPlan and Project Home Page to immediate use at JFS Consulting, our nanocorp. We were pleasantly impressed with the point-and-click simplicity of the installation of what is admittedly a non-trivial distributed software solution. Netmosphere clearly has its development and deployment hats on straight.
With its hierarchical decomposition of projects and tasks, ActionPlan fits the intuitive nature of how most people plan and implement team-based, evolutionary projects. In this regard, Netmosphere's ActionPlan is not unlike many project management solutions which use an 'outline processor' approach of indent-nested tasks to decompose complexity.
When you add tight integration to Netmosphere's Project Home Page product, the features in Netmosphere's favor start to out-distance the competition. Project Home Page conveniently generates project-specific websites to keep each of the various audiences interested in a project dynamically informed. This feature alone is intriguing for our Internet-enabled 'Open Business Model' approach to nanocorp management.
But the SINGLE BIGGEST FACTOR IN FAVOR OF NETMOSPHERE'S OFFERING is its explicit support for both ROLES and PEOPLE. As intuitively obvious as this modeling distinction is, it is amazing that no other project management software solution we evaluated made as clear and clean an implementation of this important aspect of project planning and implementation.
While direct assignment of people to tasks is supported, ActionPlan encourages project planners to model task assignments to roles. At project implementation, the project manager is provided an interface to assign persons to roles in fulfillment of a task's resource requirement. One-to-many proportional assignment of actor-persons to a task's role assignment is supported. And for large enterprise applications, task-role assignment based on an LDAP skill-based resource pool directory service is supported.
Bottom line? The Netmosphere folks get it.
The features that distinguish ActionPlan as our front-running nanocorp management solution convince us that the Netmosphere developers are both thoughtful designers and competent implementers. Let's just hope that the Java-based UI framework they depend upon gets a whole lot better about implementing the look and feel of its host operating system's native user interface widgets.
We look forward to showing and telling you more about our experiences working with this exciting solution.
Runner-up Koeslon weaves an interesting tale for the future
Our runner-up award is in recognition of potential rather than from hands-on experience. We believe that executable business modeling technology will be the foundation on which successful nanocorps are built. So it is not surprising that we clicked with the content of the Koeslon BusinessThreads website.
We have a long-standing interest in role-based executable business modeling software technology. Currently, we pursue this interest with a focus on ZOPE, the Python-based server technology. (For more, see the ZOPE, Mirror Worlds and executable business models section of Sohodojo's forums.)
We'll forgive Koeslon that its product, too, is Java-based. But given that all Koeslon job postings conspicuously suggest that either Java or Smalltalk backgrounds satisfy experience requirements, you get the impression that Koeslon founders, David Bolene and Frank Ennis, have their heads in the right place.
BusinessThreads is an executable business modeling technology based on a demand-response and value exchange meta-model. According to their website, BusinessThreads' frameworks accommodate role-based executable business models like those of interest to us, here at sohodojo.
But alas, this Austin-based start-up does not yet have a 'try before you buy' downloadable implementation of their solution offering. So we cannot speak from hands-on experience. Initial exploratory discussions with co-founder Frank Ennis are promising, however. So we look forward to reporting further developments along this thread.
Unfortunately, Moore's Law does not apply to software. It doesn't keep getting better, faster and cheaper. More to the point, the industry standard pricing model amounts to little more than de facto discrimination against small business, in general, and nanocorps, in particular.
Enterprise software product pricing routinely incorporates minimum seat requirements and/or site licenses. The net effect is that fewer seats cost more per seat. When both minimum seat requirements and site license price breaks are part of the same product pricing model, small businesses are hit with a double whammy.
Run the numbers with us on our intriguing Netmosphere software solution. A minimum five-user starter package, software licenses plus required support subscription, costs $3,050, or $610 per user. Ten and 25-user packs bring per user pricing to $516 or $372 per seat, respectively.
But when you take into consideration that JFS Consulting, our nanocorp, is committed to never being larger than its two founder/owner/employees, our cost is a staggering $1,525 per user for the same Netmosphere product!
The rationale for these price breaks used to be the 'single point of contact' efficiencies in support and maintenance. But with the rapid implementation of web-based and e-mail tech support, this explanation does not stand up.
Are very small businesses somehow less deserving of access to software technologies to improve their business? Should small businesses have to pay a premium of several multiples on a per seat basis for the privilege of using the same software that their slightly larger competitors use? We think not. And we think there is a simple solution.
Enterprise software vendors, adopt the nanocorp exemption
We understand that the conventional software pricing model is intended to provide leverage when dealing with lucrative, large corporate customers. If it's working, keep it. But please, enterprise software vendors, consider adopting 'the nanocorp exemption' into your product pricing plans.
If a prospective customer's ENTIRE WORKFORCE is SMALLER THAN YOUR PRODUCT OFFERING'S MINIMUM NUMBER OF SEATS REQUIREMENT, offer a pricing exception to bring the very small business' per seat pricing in line with your basic per user pricing.
Applied to the Netmosphere example, we sure would be happier paying $1,220 for this solution rather than the $3,050 required under their current pricing model!
Come on software vendors, wake up and reconsider. Nanocorps and other very small businesses can be a valuable component of your user community and marketing strategy. Treat us fairly and with respect and you will likely be pleasantly surprised at our contribution to your business success. Continue the de facto discrimination and we both lose.
As always, thanks for reading this issue of sohodojo's Rants and Raves newsletter,