Today, free trials are all the rage in software. Thanks to the explosion of applications ushered in through the smartphone revolution and the desire to “get eyeballs”, many consumer applications offered free trials or ad-based use of their applications. This has created an expectation within the consumer application industry of free use/trials of software applications and most, if not all, application providers now offer a “free version” of their application that either a) has limited capacity, b) is limited in use, or c) is supported via advertisements.
Inevitably, this has spilled over into the enterprise marketplace and many traditional B2B application providers have modified the way they promote and sell their applications to include a similar free or trial use of their applications. Here at GCS, where we build and support a next gen interconnect voice management platform, we’ve seen several CSPs come to us asking if they can “trial” our software for free. We used to say, “yes”. But after many years of experience, we now realize that the right answer is, “no”. No to free trials of our software. Not because we don’t want to do it. Rather, because it's not a good decision for CSPs to do it!
The interconnect voice management platform is one of the central OSS/BSS tools that a voice carrier uses to operate and support their voice business. It’s akin to one of the major organs of the human body. You know: The Brain, The Heart, The Lungs, The Liver, The Kidneys, The Stomach, etc… you get the point. The interconnect voice management platform can either help a carrier be healthy, or contribute to chronic illnesses and pain.
The idea of getting a “free trial” is premised on certain assumptions which include:
1) Trialling the software won’t harm the business
2) The software is so mature that it requires very little up front training and ongoing support
3) Actually trialling the software is a low-level effort that can be easily executed by the carrier
You know that old adage about assumptions? The one that goes something like, “Assumptions make an.." Well that same rule applies here. Of all these assumptions, the only one that a carrier can control is whether or not the software being trialled can harm the business. And the only way they do that is if they don’t let the software touch live customers or live network elements…aka, a test environment. That is the only “control” a carrier has over the impact of the trial. Everything else is up to the vendor. The vendor has to have refined their software to a level of sophistication that it is, pardon the term here, “dummy proof”. Well, in the world of interconnect voice no one has done that.
These systems are complex. Interconnect voice management is a complex operation performed every day by every carrier. Each has different ways, different needs, and different priorities. As such, the underlying platforms have been developed with enough flexibility to support as wide an array of needs as possible. This breadth of functionality comes at a cost of “simplicity” or “dummy proofing”.
So, before you get too married to a “free trial” of a new interconnect voice platform, ask yourself what it is you’re trying to accomplish. And be very wary of any vendor that is saying, “sure we will give you a free trial”. Ask them, “How will they support it?”. “How will they justify investing in it”? “ How will they prioritize issues between free trial customers and existing paid customers”?
The answers should validate what you already know. That you shouldn’t “free trial” interconnect voice software, anymore than you should “free trial” a new heart or a new liver. Don’t treat your interconnect voice management platform like an app on your smartphone. It’s not, and it most likely never will be.