Free, the new normal

Arvind Parthiban Sr.Marketing Manager - ITSM, ManageEngine "Why pay for helpdesk?"
Arvind Parthiban
Sr.Marketing Manager – ITSM, ManageEngine “Why pay for helpdesk?”

A new inflection point was reached in the service desk technology market space this week.

A free service desk.

Whilst free and open source ITSM technology has been available for quite a while – this is the first supplier I’ve seen to offer a free service desk without limitation on number of analysts (please let me know if otherwise).

What is perhaps most significant is that the vendor, ManageEngine, already has a huge number of customers, is recognized on the Gartner ITSSM quadrant and has the resources to make a dent.

Techcrunch report today that Zoho/ManageEngine revenue is ‘9 figures USD’, growing at 30% per annum.

The entry level Service Desk offering from ManageEngine is now free. The previous ‘standard’ edition offered a Service Desk for up to five analysts for free – now it’s completely free for any size organization. Customers just pay for premium optional upgrades.

The new normal?

This sort of ‘Freemium’ business model is becoming increasingly popular in a world of very low cost or free apps and cloud-based delivery. Freemium is whereby the vast majority of users of a service can take advantage for free and the business can turn a profit from a small proportion that adopt premium upgrades.

For example Spotify the music streaming service has 6 million paying customers versus 20 million active monthly users and it is estimated that only around 10% of LinkedIn’s 200M users pay to use the service.

Will this kill the market?

No, I don’t think so.

Whilst it is disruptive and gutsy move at market share I don’t think it is necessarily going to kill the market. It will certainly mean existing competitors will have to seriously re-evaluate their value-add but it’s not the end of the world. Spiceworks (ad supported) is free and versions of OTRS (Open source) are free. Vendors have been competing against these for years and should know how to articulate their value. Great software supported by, rather aptly, great support.


However I would say that more fragile competitors should be worried. We’re yet to dig into the finer details of the detailed differences between the free standard edition and professional but at first glance there seems to be a lot under the hood considering the price.

Barclay Rae, commenting on the news said:

“It is certainly a brave and audacious move. I think there is no doubt that some core aspects of ITSM tool functionality is pretty much a commodity, so I guess ME are using this as a level to expand their client base and brand awareness, particularly into new markets and market areas.

ITSM still requires some levels of implementation and integration intelligence, along with organisational change etc., so there will need to be some recognition of the need to develop support mechanisms around the free product that safeguard the brand via successful implementation.

I’d expect ME will need to look at developing their support and professional service capability to support this, particularly for the enterprise market.

However this is still a brave and market shifting move – I wouldn’t be surprised to see more of this in due course.”

ManageEngine can presumably offer this for free because:

  • a) The marginal costs of additional customers on a cloud based infrastructure is negligible – assuming the product works ok without hitch
  • b) ManageEngine are betting that a sufficient number of free customers explore paid upgrades and other products in the ManageEngine range.
  • c) The cost of acquiring new customers into the marketing pipeline just got a lot cheaper – albeit at the cost of forgone revenue. Customers can now be convinced with delivery, rather than a short trial or promises, before parting with their cash. Theoretically they might be free customers for years before parting with any paid upgrades. Meanwhile ManageEngine has the all-important resource in the Internet economy – the customer’s attention.

As ManageEngine state in their press release – if it wasn’t already, the basic service desk has just become commoditized.

More info here:

http://www.manageengine.com/products/service-desk/free-it-help-desk-software.html?banner

Do you clog your social media channels with useless crap?

True value or ego massage? '64 % of the people sharing information from others to others did it to get attention, show friendship, show they have inside information, show humour...'
True value or ego massage? ’64 % of the people sharing information from others to others did it to get attention, show friendship, show they have inside information, show humour…’

Do you care what you share or clog your social media channels with useless crap?

In this article Tobias Nyberg explores why people share at all.

Sharing and caring

Is there a way to tell if what I’m sharing actually has any value to others? Do my followers, readers and community peers have any use for the information I share or am I guilty of clogging the social media channels with useless crap?

Out of the 239 twitter followers, 158 Facebook friends, 93 Google+ circlers, 343 LinkedIn connections I have, a very small percentage interact with me frequently when I share stuff with them. How can I tell that they and the ones that are silent find value in my contributions?

Is sharing caring or is it a way to feed my ego?

I asked myself, the Google+ Back2ITSM community and friends of mine this question some time ago since I wanted to try to understand if I bring any value to the community in these areas or if I should just stop spreading worthless information.

The answers were, of course, not simple or even all in the course of what I expected. And just to set some prerequisites straight, I wasn’t necessarily looking for hard fact metrics on value (even if it would be nice), a good feeling about the value takes me close enough.

There are some basic tell tails to see if you bring value through the social channels. If people follow you on twitter, have you in circles on Google+, friend or follow you on Facebook connect with you on LinkedIn they at least think that you at one point or another brought them value. The problem is of course that most people don’t un-follow, un-friend or un-circle you if you no longer bring any value. They’ll either ignore you or mute you from their streams.

Another thing is if your followers re-share your contributions, you would expect them to find your information valuable to them, and in some cases it probably is. But as it turns out, the main reason people share stuff from others, is to either look smart themselves or in other ways boost the image of them. (See also ‘Suffering with consumption‘)

An old study I found on how word of mouth advertising works is probably possible to apply on social media as well. At least for the sake of argument in this situation. That study shows that 64 % of the people sharing information from others to others did it to get attention, show friendship, show they have inside information, show humour, etc.

There is of course value in that, maybe just not the kind of value I was hoping to bring to the community.

Writing and sharing for your own sake

Some of the people I’ve spoken to about this says that they aren’t that interested in what value to others they contribute with. They write, share and interact for their own sake. And I guess that’s a perfectly fine standpoint as well. It can be a way to collect and sort out thoughts and ideas and put it into structure for use, now or later on. And if someone happens to read it and find it valuable, well, good for them. But will they continue to create and share content if no one ever uses it or find value in it?

Some people believe that value from what you contribute with will come out eventually, for someone, and you won’t probably even know it. So their strategy is to keep sharing what comes to mind (and perhaps what make them look smarter) and then let the information be valuable, or not. I guess that would be sharing without caring.

I’ve also been told that it’s impossible to know if you bring any value if you don’t know what your followers want and find value in. And that is a bit tricky to say the least when you don’t know them at all, or even know who they are besides a screen name.

One method that I’ve found to be more used than others is a pragmatic approach of loosely collecting vibes on the channels on what kind of value you bring. Most of us probably do that but some even have methods of sorts to create an perception or understanding on what social media channels to use because they bring more value (as well as gain more value as it turns out) to their followers. Some people write it down to track changes and to see their “vibe-trends” over time.

In the end, it seem to be hard to measure the value of what you share on social media and it’s hard to even create a perception of the value of your contributions to others. I think it’s safe to say that much of what many people share is valuable for ego boosting though, may it be mine or your ego.

When I share things with the community I would like to think I care about what I share and what the information bring in form of value. But to be frank, sometimes I share value and sometimes I share crap. But even more importantly, sometimes, quite often, I don’t share at all. Because I care what I share.

Stepping Out of The Shadows to Contribute

"Where do I find the answers to my boss’ stupid questions?"

I’m a newbie when it comes to IT Service Management.

Haven’t been around long and don’t have a great deal of experience in this area.

As many of us inexperienced but eager people do, I read blogs, discussion forums, Twitter streams, LinkedIn groups and try to absorb as much valuable information as possible.

And it’s marvelous how people share a great deal of helpful knowledge (as well as a considerable amount of rubbish).

But it has struck me how specialized, narrow and over the top a lot of the discussions are. At least from my point of view.

At first, I thought it was just me not being smart enough. But after a while I kind of realized that most of the people that show up and contribute to the community at all these places really are the cutting edge developers of ITSM.

I like to see myself as the average Joe of ITSM, a practitioner that tries to contribute to my company’s prosperity. I work to change stuff that doesn’t work and I struggle with the day to day challenges that I presume we all deal with at work.

From that point of view, the part of the ITSM community that shows on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and a lot of various blogs don’t offer that much help. I won’t even begin telling you how many debates on details in the ITIL Core books I’ve read the last couple of years, all at very little value to me.

Where’s the information for us who try to juggle things when the consultant leaves the “ITIL implementation project”? Where do I go to find support and encouragement for the stuff that isn’t cutting edge ITSM but every day struggle? Where do I find the answers to my boss’ stupid questions?

The answer is of course in all the channels used by people in the ITSM sphere. That’s where the support and encouragement is and that’s where all the knowledge lives. We just need to drag it out of the people who camp there, because they are all eager to share if given the chance.

It takes some guts to step out of the shadows where we (the common man, those who fear to stick out) lurk about to gain knowledge. But more people ought to. I think the community would gain by having more people in my position asking questions and by all means giving advice on a regular basis. The general opinion is that even we who are less experienced and are short of knowledge are welcome to use the channels for questions and thoughts of simpler sorts and I’ve never been ridiculed or mocked for asking stupid questions.

The bottom line is that I believe that we need to expand the number of people who contribute and that we should do that with the help of lurkers like me. Give it a try, it’s scary at first and you might feel a bit ignored but it will pay off in the long run.

If I can, so can you. And I’ve only just started!