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November 30, 2005 09:40 AM

Categories: Operations and Legal

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MarkM

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Joined: 04/21/2004

We sell a variety of licenses on an annual basis and up to now have logged these in a spread sheet to remind us when to bill annually.

This is getting cumbersome and we almost missed a couple of license fees. Does anyone know of a software package we could buy that takes care of this.

Many thanks

Mark Meakings

Discussion:    Add a Comment | Comments 1-21 of 21 | Latest Comment

November 30, 2005 10:37 AM

We use the Contract management portion of Salesforce.com as part of our entire customer database system. We have it set to send a notification to the internal person responsible for each contract 30 days before each renewal so that we can bill for it. Then when the renewal money comes in, we create a new contract with the settings for the following year. That way we can pull a report of the amounts coming in certain months, etc.

Lisa Moody
JewelCode Corporation

November 30, 2005 10:39 AM

You didn't mention how, or if, you were enforcing the time limits on your licenses, but if you were to use a competent license management system for doing so, it could do such things as publish regular reports of soon-to-expire licenses, or even automatically send a reminder email to your accounting colleagues when a license was close to expiration.

regards,



Dominic Haigh

November 30, 2005 11:54 AM

How many annually renewing licenses do you have?

November 30, 2005 12:24 PM

Many thanks for your feedback.

We have annual licences for intranet versions of our software that we sell into schools and corporations and we have just launched an online learning site for schools in the USA that we hope to build up substantially. So numbers are relatively low at the moment. (I'm working on a PR campaign for the US education sector at the moment).

We do enforce annual renewals. For online customers we can simply switch them off. For intranet versions our software times out on a preset expiry date. We then issue a new install key for the new licence period.

I want a simple system that will record annual licences, remind us ahead of renewal time and give us some stats and help us forecast income. We are small company without a direct sales force.

-Mark

December 1, 2005 2:20 PM

I'm going to be a little bit contrary here and say that if you have only a few licenses at present, manage it with Excel for now. Excel does great date arithmetic. You should be able to enter all of your licenses and the renewal date and back up thirty days from there and so forth.

You say you almost missed some renewals. I'll bet someone didn't look at the Excel spreadsheet. Well, you could do a $3 million PeopleSoft CRM implementation and if no one looked at the "renewals due" report, you'd miss the renewals. The moral of the story is that you need to do whatever you need to do as a CEO to make sure the spreadsheet gets looked at twice a month, or however often is necessary. Maybe the spreadsheet needs some tweaking to make it easier to use.

Don't buy some distraction now to handle a chore that Excel can handle. When you get a little bigger, evaluate Salesforce.com or Softrax or HEAT (etc.). Buy the right software for your company at that time based on all of the considerations. And license renewal tickling will be part of the package.

December 1, 2005 2:29 PM

Those billing renewal packages ... are not a panacea. They are very good at what they do. But, I'll add a twist to Charles twist.

One place I once worked, even though we had one of those packages that could spit out a renewal automatically 60 days before, we had an adminstrative person grab them in the mailroom before they went out the door. Why?

What if there is a dispute with a customer? Imagine how they would react getting the bill in the mail when there is a huge issue that has been escelated up the chain of command?

Is the configuration correct? What if the company has merged with another customer, and the SMA needs to be renegotiated? You woule be leaving money on the table.

I can think of other situations, but it goes back to what Charles said. You need to keep an eye on it (the Excel spreadsheet or a Maintenance renewal system).

---

Robert Dubicki

December 1, 2005 2:44 PM

Let me start by saying that I'm not pushing salesforce.com, I'm just covering the benefit that came from implementing such a solution. I think that this is much bigger than managing license renewals for you.

We only use one license of Salesforce.com, we don't have a direct sales force, it's primarily me. I used to use Excel to track maintenance renewals and it worked great. But I had to look at it every day, just to make sure that I didn't miss something. I didn't get Salesforce.com to manage license renewals. I got Salesforce.com to manage my relationships with prospects and customers. With it came contract management, knowledgebase, web support entry, e-mail marketing, sales force automation, etc.

The side benefits were being able to move out of that Excel spreadsheet and Outlook calendar and a homemade Access database for one thing and another homemade Access database for another thing to one integrated system that reminded me of things that I needed to get done.

It might not be Salesforce.com, maybe even make your own Access homegrown, something that will do the reminding for you, but will serve many of the functions that may not be organized right now. If you are using Excel to monitor this then I wonder what you're using to monitor your customer support contacts, your prospecting, your sales activities (even if it's just you). At $65 per month, having an integrated system for yourself that will remind you of things that need to be done is a lifesaver for people like you and me that don't have the direct sales force or the administrative staff to keep on top of these things for us, etc.

I would only recommend that you get a full system if you feel that several of the things that you need to track are all out in loose ends.

Lisa

December 2, 2005 3:45 AM

We use ACT! for contact management and this has been invaluable for us. It sounds like Salesforce.com is a powerful integrated system that we can move to once we have grown some more.

Meantime, I will look at the Excel spreadsheet some more and tweak it to make it more useful for us and ensure it's checked properly. I feel this will suffice for now and not distract us.

I'm now turning my mind to increasing the conversion rate of annual renewals. Teachers are short of time and it takes them time to re-consider and get approval every year. But that's for the marketing forum I guess.

Many thanks again. It's great to connect with you.

Mark

December 2, 2005 9:50 AM

The easiest thing to do would be to put a reminder in ACT! or in Outlook to tell you to look at that spreadsheet ;).

Lisa

January 18, 2006 4:04 AM

Hi, we have the same challenges, however the real issues we encounter stem from any situation where we're not in contact with the customer enough. Talk to the customers, and renewals happen a lot more naturally for everyone.

February 1, 2006 4:07 PM

I've successfully managed teams of maint renewal folks using tools as varied as Excel, ACT!, Goldmine, Axapta, SugarCRM, as well as homegrown. Somebody just needs to remember to be aware of dates, $'s and any support related issues.

Good luck.

March 3, 2006 3:24 PM

Our software is the same - we put together a licensing database in Access that generates license keys based on start/end dates, modules, count. It interfaces to Outlook to automatically generate an email with the license key attached ready to send to the customer. It also has an automatic reminder function.

This shouldn't be too difficult. Ultimately though, someone has to actually review the monthly license tracker to find out who is up for renewal. Further, maintaining good customer relationships means more than just contacting them at the renewal date. :) :)

Regards,

Vallury

March 7, 2006 7:01 PM

We do all our renewal invoicing once per month. So on the 28th of February this year, I looked at the list (it's in Excel) and sent renewal invoices for any customer whose site was due to expire in the period 1st March - 31st March.

I used to do weekly invoicing depending on who was due for renewal that week, but it got to be too much of a hassle. The monthly process works well. In terms of revenue projections, I do this in Excel but track on a quarterly basis. Let's say a customer signed up on 1st February 2005. I'll then add a row in the revenue tracking worksheet for them, and put entries in for the 1st quarters of 2005-2008. I go through once a year and do projections to extend the last year on my spreadsheet out another year. This process has a limited scale (probably it would start to get unwieldy at 500 rows) so at that point I may just migrate it to Access.

Justin

March 10, 2006 2:11 PM

OK, I'll be contrary to the contrarians :D and go back to Dominic's post: Why you would want to build and maintain your own tracking mechanism in Excel/Access/Outlook is beyond me, when there are so many good, inexpensive licensing systems out there that have this built it. I mean, you guys are all sharp cookies and could probably build your own phone systems and copiers and refill your own toner cartridges and etc. etc. -- but aren't you supposed to focused on generating revenue? Just a different mindset, I guess...

March 27, 2006 12:08 PM

An option from between the aforementioned Excel and CRM extremes:

Our maintenance contracts are written to renew automatically if neither party acts to terminate within a defined period prior to a Renewal Date. If you have the luxury of doing this, your accounting system may have a "recurring transaction" function which could take care of the invoicing. We use QuickBooks' memorized transactions to accomplish this.

March 27, 2006 3:56 PM

Here's another way to look at it if you are working primarily with schools (you could actually get it to work with businesses but it lends itself a little better to schools).

First, public schools budget on a fiscal year (July 1 to June 30). You could pro-rate the balance of the 1st year of the contract for new clients (e.g. if they signed for Jan. 1 they would pay 6 months of the contract carrying them to June 30). Then put everyone on a July 1 renewal date. This way you don't have to track individual renewal dates - everyone renews on July 1. Some schools will like this because it reconciles better with how they run their budgets.

April 5, 2006 11:47 AM

I bumped in to the problem with managing software licenses in my distribution company back in 1998. Since then, my team and I have worked on creating a business system for this specific problem. The system has evolved greatly during the last years and now also includes CRM, leads management (direct and through the channel), a serlf-service partner portal, and much more.

Feel free to email me any specific questions surrouding the problems you are experiencing. I would be happy to share our experiences on what we've found to be working and not.

/George Brontén
Founder/CEO

MemBrain(tm)
World's First SSM System
(Software Sales Management)

http://www.membrain.com
Phone: +46-8-566 106 73
Fax: +46-8-566 106 71
Mobile: +46-709-24 99 95

April 5, 2006 12:04 PM

We've now put much more focus into CRM activities and have a person making support calls at regular intervals that also provide opportunities for upsell and increasing renewal rates.

I like the idea of tying renewals into the budget cycle for schools and will look more closely at this as well.

I'm really grateful for all the input.

BW Mark

April 6, 2006 8:08 PM

There are a number of firms that specialize in contract renewals. I know of a few that specialize in support and maintenance renewals. They have the systems, processes and people to keep renewals on track and even go after late and canceled revenue. Nothing like driving on-time renewals and payments. Service Source and Encover are two companies that come to mind.

April 6, 2006 8:30 PM

This week the AMA had a webinar showcasing an amazing case study of O2(UK) increasing their inbound upsell(renewals and added features) from 2% to 54% using 'microdirect marketing', where biz logic(AI) algorythms drive call center rep responses, based on archival and realtime data.

( http://www.chordiant.com/customers/success/o2.html )

We're already looking into extending some of our AI modules into inbound to help achieve this kind of response...

Joe Hendricks

May 19, 2006 10:38 AM

We have built an Access database that tracks all of our licenses... complete with expiration dates. An app runs on our server every night that emails our customers to let them know that they are expiring/have expired. We also use that database to email renewal notices, and that database controls their login to our online support center... no renewal, no support, and no updates.

Discussion:    Add a Comment | Back to Top | Comments 1-21 of 21 | Latest Comment

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