Power Tools and Software Assurance

Brian Harry

I love our Power Tool program.  I really enjoy the opportunity to deliver stuff that people are wanting every few months.  I also really like the very positive feedback we get on them.  I’m always looking for the next “killer” Power Tool feature that we can build. One of the lingering questions that has never been answered and we mostly ignore is “How are Power Tools monetized?”  Right now, it kind of works like this…  Power Tools generally support the latest release of TFS.  So one of the benefits of buying the latest release is a new stream of Power Tools until the next TFS release. The biggest lingering question is what about Software Assurance?  People who purchase Software Assurance are paying “extra” to make sure they get all the latest updates at no additional charge.  Many times, over the last few years, we’ve asked ourselves, “Should the right to use the Power Tools be tied to Software Assurance?”.  From the customer’s perspective, it would make them feel like they are getting even more for their money.  From our perspective, it would increase the likelihood customers would buy SA. Why do I care if customers buy SA?  Well, of course I like the revenue but it’s more than that.  We make decisions all of the time about how to release things, what to charge for them, etc.  When customers are on SA, it makes these decisions much easier.  We can simply release them to all licensed customers and not worrry about it.  Otherwise, we’re left debating whether we should hold onto it for the next “big” release.  A great example is the features we put in service packs.  Every feature we put in there becomes one less feature in the next paid upgrade – meaning less stuff we can make a big deal about when the product ships and use to encourage people to upgrade.  However, if everyone is on SA, it’s easier for us to accept because we can convince ourselves that people paid for it by having SA. For these kinds of reasons, my goal it to have all of our customers on SA – then I don’t need to spend any time worrying about how we are going to monetize things and I can spend all my time thinking about the next set of features we are going to get in your hands. Anyway, there’s no action right now.  However, I wanted to let you know this issue is on my mind.  The thing that brought it back to the top was a recent conversation with one of our sales people about a conversation with a customer who didn’t want to buy SA and one of their reasons was that they get Power Tools without it and therefore they couldn’t see sufficient value.  I’m going to continue to think about this issue and try to figure out how to have my cake and eat it too.  One idea that has flitted across my brain is releasing Power Tools to SA customers “first”.  Perhaps we give SA customers access to Power Tools 3 or 6 months before non-SA customers.  I don’t know… If you have thoughts you’d like to share, I’m all ears.



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