Stuart Rowe, the CEO of 28 Hands met with us virtually from London. After several years of working closely with SoftwareKey, he shares his perspective on their company’s use of SoftwareKey Cloud-Controlled Network Floating Licensing (CCNFL). Mail Manager is their sole product, a software tool garnering a user fan base of 55,000 architectural engineering professionals and growing. We’re proud that our Cloud-Controlled Network Floating Licensing (CCNFL) serves as an indispensable component of this best-in-breed product.
A Little Background
Valuing efficiency as CEO’s are apt to do, Stuart began our conversation with the crux of his message to our readers. A summation statement:
“As far as I’m concerned, SoftwareKey runs in the background and we don’t have any problems and that’s what we like about it. It works really well. We’ve been working with the company for a number of years, and we’re very happy with the service.”
Wow, that sure is a welcome testimonial, but we wanted to know more.
We learned that Mail Manager was created over 12 years ago as a response to a request for a documentation tool capable of searching any and all emails transferring between all members of a team. Not until this tool was spun off from an engineering-centric software group into its own company that it started to experience significant growth. Stuart’s background in both e-commerce and retail positioned him perfectly to take the helm along with a core group of 14, thus the clever company name of 28Hands.
The SoftwareKey System was a legacy relationship that Stuart chose not to change. That may sound like an underwhelming endorsement except to know that the decision occurred in the shadow of significant change everywhere else within this mature product/new company. The organization needed to be designed specifically for growing and scaling which required doing things differently. Shifting away from sales staff who wore many hats to that of specialized staff working within distinct areas of expertise was a significant decision on the path to scaling their success.
When asked if he considered changing their licensing provider away from SoftwareKey, he thought back on that time:
“We changed an awful lot of suppliers when we did the spin out, we did. We changed the accountants, we changed the lawyers, we changed the advertising agency. I would go so far as to say that SoftwareKey is probably the only third-party partner that we didn’t change.” His thinking at the time was, “SoftwareKey is working. SoftwareKey is a company that is a very flexible organization and works very well with us. [scalable!] SoftwareKey is accessible when I have a problem.”
CCNFL and Your Customers
How important is CCNFL to their growth we wonder, “Very important” he states without hesitation:
“We have legacy people who work at a fixed PC [fixed, single license], but now whenever we do a new deal with a new customer it’s always on the flexible license, whether it’s a perpetual license or a subscription license. We don’t actually use the fixed license technology for new customers anymore. It’s been good. It’s been a collaboration between SoftwareKey and us.”
CCNFL serves the diversity of their customer sizes:
“We are incredibly broad in terms of the size of the companies [customers]. We’ve got some companies that have got six or seven thousand seats and then we’ve got hundreds and hundreds of companies who have got one or two and then anywhere in between. So the point is that the software works whether you are a centrally administrated IT function that fires out all the updates to hundreds of PC’s at a same time or you’ve one or two that you just download the update off of our website. So all of the licensing works across the whole gambit which is great. We have self-service customers that come to us and buy licenses off us and get going and then we have those who are heavily marketed to and worked with over a number of months.”
“It’s important that Mail Manager works offline. In fact, one of the differentiators of Mail Manager is that you can fire up your PC on the top of Everest and read some emails and then you can take it home and plug it in and sync it with your network.” He provided a more common real-world example, “People ask, ‘Can we use Mail Manager offline?’ For example, in London you’ve got the Tube System (underground public rapid transit), so people will be doing stuff on laptops on the Tube when there’s no network.”
[CCNFL] “It fits with our strategy. It’s more flexible for the customer. It’s much better for a customer to only pay for the licenses that are being used at any one time. Concurrent users. The licenses fit the person more than the machine. You can have Mail Manager on your laptop and work from it, you can have a desktop back at the office, but you’d only be charged for one license. And it opens up a whole world of new analytics to look at.”
"We’ve been able to use technology and sales to make sales as predictable as possible in the next 12 months. Part of the goal of the account management team is to have good visibility really really early as to whether everything looks good and there’s a 90% likelihood that they will renew their maintenance when it comes around in four months’ time.”
“As CEO, it’s important to have enough visibility to determine how happy our customers are. We used to phone customers up and we’d go, ‘Are you going to renew? and they’d go, ‘Yeah’ (exhale a sigh of relief). Whereas now, we know that they’re going to renew months in advance because we’re talking to them, we’re using the data, we’re looking at the license usage and all sorts of stuff like that.”
“That technology [SoftwareKey data] is part of a strategy where they [account management team] use lots of basic information and lots of communication to make sure that we can make sales as predictable as possible.”
When asked how he would counsel others seeking a licensing solution, he says:
“Definitely don’t try to build it yourself. There are good solutions out there. SoftwareKey represents for us a good value. A company like ours is a still a small software company but it’s growing rapidly. So, what you want to do when you’re growing a company rapidly is to make sure that your costs aren’t growing faster than your revenue is. So, making sure that you’ve got really good fit for purpose partnerships in place at a really good price is good for us.”
Stuart astutely offered his perspective about the resistance people may have against switching to CCNFL due to fears of initially seeing a decrease in actual licenses sold:
“But the flip side is it’s just a better product, therefore you’re more likely to win clients with it.”
It’s great getting to know more about our customers and even better to be able to share this with our readers. Towards the end of our conversation, Stuart offered an efficient review:
“So, the licensing bit, you just want it to work.”
We couldn’t agree more.