Amazon Prime. Netflix. Quickbooks Online. Subscriptions, subscriptions, subscriptions. It seems like almost every software package out there now has a subscription plan associated with it. Some of them make perfect sense – they provide us fresh new content or service every time we use them, and the month-by-month fees make that economical. Others seemingly don’t… Why do I need a subscription for my budgeting software? My Microsoft Office product? Or, as I read in an article this week, my John Deere tractor’s computer!?
As much as subscriptions services may seem like a trend we’d like to see disappear, they aren’t going anywhere. As technology continues to move to the cloud, the software and tools we use on our computers are becoming increasingly decentralized. That Office product you use every day? It has features that allow you to edit your files from anywhere and collaborate with your colleagues in real time, and that’s all in the cloud. That budgeting software that’s so conveniently available on your computer AND your mobile devices? You guessed it… cloud. And that John Deere tractor computer… well, I’m not sure about that one, and it looks like farmers and lawyers aren’t, either.
The subscription business model is a big win for software companies. Once you have a customer hooked on a small fee, they’re less likely to drop it down the road. It’s easier to get them to upgrade since you’re not asking them for a large chunk of change every few years. And all those servers and staff that make cloud operations possible? They’re no longer a capital expense that you have to figure out how to overhaul every few years – your budget for improvements is built right into your scalable monthly service fees.
Subscriptions are not going away. While we’d all like to buy a copy of Microsoft Office off the shelf and not have to pay for it again for 5 years, we’d be missing out on many of the features and conveniences that we’ve come to appreciate and count on, even if we don’t realize it. Many subscription models do offer business plans that allow you to mix and match levels of service with a fluctuating team as well, so it’s a good idea to think ahead as you engage with these new types of service fees.
Our advice? Look at your business, your team, and your environment. Find the packages that suit you well and that will propel you forward effectively. If it costs an extra 10-15% to move to a subscription model that allows you to use software on all your devices and on the road it may be worth it. Don’t try to cheat the system, but don’t let it abuse you, either. Take advantage of features to simplify and take your data with you wherever you want to go with it.
Written by Chet Cromer for publication in the Business Leader