Thinking About Commercial Products

I put up a SharePoint Designer extensions project up at CodePlex earlier this year and even though it’s really quite limited in scope, I estimate that it’s been downloaded by 40 to 60 (possibly even 100) companies in just about two months.¬† That indicates to me that there’s a market for that solution and if I were to successfully commercialize it, that could translate into a goodly amount of beer ūüôā

My background is actually much more in product development and I know what is required to bring a top-notch product, as opposed to a CodePlex hobby project, to market.¬† In my past life, I was responsible for product R&D for all software products.¬† The difference between then and now is that I’m a consultant now working for an (excellent) consulting firm (Conchango).¬† Previously, I had an entire company behind me and in front of me, selling and supporting the products we brought to market.¬† Today, I’d be alone.

I have several product ideas in mind, but I think the easiest would be to create a commercial version of the above-mentioned CodePlex project that uses that as a starting point and extends it further.  My fuzzy off-the-cuff thinking is to charge something like $100 for an unlimited developer license and $500 per production web front end.  I think I would also give away the source code.

If you have thoughts or experiences that you’re willing to share, please leave a comment or email me directly.¬† I’d like to hear opinions like:

  • Is it all worthwhile?
  • Practical suggestions for marketing, collecting money, distributing.
  • Pricing.
  • Support.
  • Any other comment you’d like to leave.

It’s "easy" to come up with product ideas and to implement them, though many dozens of hours of work are required.¬† The other stuff is not as easy for me.

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2 thoughts on “Thinking About Commercial Products

  1. Ian Campbell
    Hi Paul,
    I’m a contractor in UK but¬†have written a number of Sharepoint¬†add-ons that are available for download and purchase,¬†some have been¬†available for a few years now.
    As Sharepoint goes mainstream I think its actually getting harder!
    You learn loads and its fun, but its tough to make a living out of it.
    Product idea and development is easy.
     
    Some tricky bits;
    – People want things for free! I convert <10% of downloads to sales.
    – Sales and Marketing.
    – Delivery and Payment.
    – Setup.
    – Demo and Live Licensing model and code to enforce it.
    – Logging and debugging for support.
    РSharepoint can be configured/installed in Soooo many differnet ways. you have to test/support  all of them.
    – Support, support, support. Once you release a product you will be inundated by people with descriptive questions like ‘Its not working’. No offence but most times the user is pretty stupid and¬†nearly always¬†the problem is nothing to do with your code, but something¬†completely¬†unrelated.¬†Even so¬†it¬†can take hours /days to¬†figure this out and you have to do it remotely. The cost of servicing support calls will soon wipe out¬†the $100 purchase price.
     
    My thoughts…if¬†you could sell a product without any support it would work.
     
    Otherwise you need a killer app or you need to charge more.
     
    Good Luck.
    Reply
  2. Matt Taylor
    Hi Paul
     
    I’m in a very similar situation to yourself although I’m an independent, I even recently completed some consultancy on behalf Conchango in the UK. I’d be really interested in any feedback you get from this post as I too have a desire to market products (yet to be written) around the WSS/MOSS platform. You hit the nail on the head, product ideas and implementation is indeed the "easy" part.
     
    Best of luck,
     
    Matthew
    Reply

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