Dan VanLuchene, Co-founder and Partner at Integrated Engineering Software is in an enviable position. Ten reliable products, twenty years of operation, a rock solid customer base of structural engineers, and a tight, automated system to keep it all humming. It wasn't always this way. His growing business had become painfully hampered by an antiquated licensing system.
In 2012 Dan started the search for a third-party solution for two predominant problems. First, their existing system not allowing network licensing was problematic. Second, they needed to address unauthorized use of their software products. As a whole, their industry was not fraught with theft, but, "We sensed some cheating going on." says Dan. With products ranging in price from $600 to $5000 and as high as $10,000 for a suite, it is important to have security in place. Parallel to Dan's search for a licensing solution, IES was also looking for a customer relationship management (CRM) solution.
The company needed something that would be able to support the existing license business logic and software maintenance renewals, essentially taking 20 years of historical data and placing everything under a new umbrella. Additionally, their existing shopping cart was rudimentary. Dan recalls, "It was essentially an online form that required manual validation by someone in our office."
A solution was needed that supported:
- C++ unmanaged code and C# managed code
- network licensing
- time limited trials
- individual licenses
- shopping cart
- maintenance plans
- ability to have suites
- international business
- theft protection
Initially, Dan found three potential solutions and quickly ruled out two, leaving the SoftwareKey System as the standout candidate around which he would build a full-scale trial evaluation. He realized that the other two contenders had too many limitations which meant they didn't qualify for that step.
From the trial forward, it was rather smooth sailing. In recalling his approach, Dan said, "This project was really important for us. I expected the implementation process to have a steep learning curve, but it was nice that there were really no surprises along the way." Dan dedicated a portion of each work day to the implementation process spanning a two month period. There were two people from IES who intermittently accessed two senior members of the SoftwareKey architecture and development teams for advice and tips on best practices.
The five-star customer support provided by Team SoftwareKey was deeply appreciated. During some weeks, there were daily calls to tech support. Dan remarked, "I thought they might get sick of us." To the contrary, Dan and his team were met with professional support every time. Once, when Dan felt that they may have hit a wall, he reached out to Concept Software Founder, Mike Wozniak. With satisfaction, Dan recalls, "It was absolutely great to be able to have access to Mike when we needed it. Not only would he tell us what they could do, but they would actually do it!"
Here is a look at the most noteworthy customizations made for IES, within standard SOLO Server functionality:
- A tailor-made shopping cart order processor plugin was designed and implemented to allow IES to market network versions of their software products. The plugin provides the IES customer with the capability to specify the number of seats they wish to purchase under the auspices of a single network license (and accompanying single activation).
- New database fields were added to the various interfaces on an as-needed basis to facilitate "name association" flexibility, allowing the IES customer (and IES administrators) to associate each purchased license with a specific individual within the customer's organization. These "name associations" can be easily updated to accommodate license re-assignment, as may be dictated by changes in personnel.
- To fully optimize the time-sensitive processes affiliated with software maintenance subscription renewals offered by IES, a nightly batch job was implemented to generate advisory e-mail notifications, informing affected customers of approaching subscription expiration dates. Notifications are also sent to selected IES personnel for follow-up purposes.
- Exclusively for IES, special logic was added to the SOLO Server rules engine to enforce a rule which requires IES customers to purchase a quantity of software maintenance renewals which is equal to the number of licenses originally purchased by the customer. This rule ensures that the customer always purchases exactly what they need to guarantee uninterrupted use of the software. It also allows IES management to accurately forecast anticipated revenues from each customer upon renewal.
- Another exclusive modification was made to the SOLO Server recurring billing engine to support a complex business requirement which leverages discounts based upon multiple quantity purchases for varying software products in the IES online store.
- Upon migration to SOLO Server, IES wanted to import a database of existing customers and their respective software maintenance expiration dates as part of a strategy to move towards the automation of timely software maintenance renewals. Team SoftwareKey engineers added support to the payment plan processor to convert IES customer profiles as needed to successfully incorporate them within the automated maintenance billing configuration of SOLO Server.
Dan couldn't be happier with his decision to go with the SoftwareKey System, "This system has been very good for us. I made a few webinars to demonstrate for our customers, how to use the new licensing system. Eleven months into using the system, everyone is satisfied that all our target needs are met. Our internal staff quickly acclimated to the new software, and customers are liking the interface." He further stated how important that is, "Whatever happens on the SOLO side is a reflection of us." Their customers particularly like the self-service feature which allows them to seamlessly transfer their software licenses from one computer to another. Thanks to the numerous SOLO Server features that manage customer records, IES has not yet needed to invest in a separate CRM system. Further, the real-time reporting features within SOLO Server allow them to quickly gather actionable data to make relevant decisions for operation and marketing strategies.
The primary reason Dan recommends The SoftwareKey System is due to the enormous latitude it offers for customization. With deep confidence and emphasis, he encourages others towards this solution because, "IT IS VERY ROBUST." He considers his relationship with Team SoftwareKey a high value asset for his company.