Paul Galvin's (old) SharePoint space [SharePoint

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Thinking About Commercial Products

I put up a SharePoint Designer extensions project up at CodePlex earlier this year and even though it’s really quite limited in scope, I estimate that it’s been downloaded by 40 to 60 (possibly even 100) companies in just about two months.  That indicates to me that there’s a market for that solution and if I were to successfully commercialize it, that could translate into a goodly amount of beer 🙂

My background is actually much more in product development and I know what is required to bring a top-notch product, as opposed to a CodePlex hobby project, to market.  In my past life, I was responsible for product R&D for all software products.  The difference between then and now is that I’m a consultant now working for an (excellent) consulting firm (Conchango).  Previously, I had an entire company behind me and in front of me, selling and supporting the products we brought to market.  Today, I’d be alone.

I have several product ideas in mind, but I think the easiest would be to create a commercial version of the above-mentioned CodePlex project that uses that as a starting point and extends it further.  My fuzzy off-the-cuff thinking is to charge something like $100 for an unlimited developer license and $500 per production web front end.  I think I would also give away the source code.

If you have thoughts or experiences that you’re willing to share, please leave a comment or email me directly.  I’d like to hear opinions like:

  • Is it all worthwhile?
  • Practical suggestions for marketing, collecting money, distributing.
  • Pricing.
  • Support.
  • Any other comment you’d like to leave.

It’s "easy" to come up with product ideas and to implement them, though many dozens of hours of work are required.  The other stuff is not as easy for me.


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2 responses to “Thinking About Commercial Products

  1. Matt January 2, 2008 at 5:15 am

    Hi Paul
    I\’m in a very similar situation to yourself although I\’m an independent, I even recently completed some consultancy on behalf Conchango in the UK. I\’d be really interested in any feedback you get from this post as I too have a desire to market products (yet to be written) around the WSS/MOSS platform. You hit the nail on the head, product ideas and implementation is indeed the "easy" part.
    Best of luck,

  2. Ian January 2, 2008 at 8:11 am

    Hi Paul,
    I\’m a contractor in UK but have written a number of Sharepoint add-ons that are available for download and purchase, some have been available for a few years now.
    As Sharepoint goes mainstream I think its actually getting harder!
    You learn loads and its fun, but its tough to make a living out of it.
    Product idea and development is easy.
    Some tricky bits;

    – People want things for free! I convert <10% of downloads to sales.
    – Sales and Marketing.
    – Delivery and Payment.
    – Setup.
    – Demo and Live Licensing model and code to enforce it.
    – Logging and debugging for support.
    – Sharepoint can be configured/installed in Soooo many differnet ways. you have to test/support  all of them.
    – Support, support, support. Once you release a product you will be inundated by people with descriptive questions like \’Its not working\’. No offence but most times the user is pretty stupid and nearly always the problem is nothing to do with your code, but something completely unrelated. Even so it can take hours /days to figure this out and you have to do it remotely. The cost of servicing support calls will soon wipe out the $100 purchase price.
    My thoughts…if you could sell a product without any support it would work.
    Otherwise you need a killer app or you need to charge more.
    Good Luck.

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