By 2001 ArchiCAD had grown well in New Zealand (and had bounced back well after the Asian Financial Crisis in 1998) but as the customer base grew, we needed to look at a better model for funding customer support.
I can’t remember if we charged for customer support with each license sale or not, but what I can remember is that very few customers opted to pay for additional support the following year. We could have taken a hard line – no payment no support – but we felt that would reflect badly on the company, so we wanted to always be in a position to support all our customers.
At the time ArchiCAD was releasing upgrades every 18-24 months and we would undertake a nationwide road show to present the new features to our customers. It was a great opportunity to get face to face and see them all.
We decided to create and launch a Software Maintenance Programme which was reasonably common in enterprise software but a completely foreign concept to New Zealand Architects.
Essentially a Software Maintenance Programme is like a Subscription for Perpetual Software, where you pay a monthly or annual fee and you get all Software Upgrades as they are released (in a sense you are paying incrementally towards each upgrade)
While the payment could be seen as a direct payment towards each upgrade we needed to make sure there was other value, particularly due to the irregular release frequency – for example some customers would feel aggrieved that one upgrade cost them 18 months of payments while another might cost 24 months of payments.
Also, Software Maintenance Programme or Agreement was a rather stale name. We therefore set about creating ARCHICADselect – one of the first Software Maintenance Programmes for ArchiCAD.
While ARCHICADselect has evolved over time, the key components remain the same:
- ArchiCAD Upgrades
- Priority Support *
- Discounts on Training and Services
* We still wanted to support all our customers so we introduced priority for those on ARCHICADselect, initially this was via a dedicated 0800 number but as volumes grew we moved to email support
We also wanted to add that little bit extra so we developed a small suite of tools that we called the New Zealand Tools. These were productivity tools that helped localise ArchiCAD for the New Zealand. We used our in-house developers and created four tools. We were also continuing to sell the third-party Custom Library.
As the whole concept was incredibly new and we would need to educate our customers we had one final piece to help make the launch a success – a free upgrade. Yes, that’s right customers who joined ARCHICADselect for the minimum 12 month term, would receive ArchiCAD 7 essentially free – or paid over a period of time – though in actual fact the payments were actually for future versions.
Anyway, you would think this offer was too good to be true. However, the concept of paying regularly in advance for something not yet released was a hurdle for our customers and from memory about 15% of those customers who upgraded to ArchiCAD 7 did so via joining ARCHICADselect.
Incidentally I was in Hungary the following year for the annual Independent Distributors Conference. Each year at the Gala Dinner was a series of Sales Awards. One such award was for the largest proportion of Upgrades for ArchiCAD 7. Cadimage along with Italy and one other distributor won awards for being the top three in the world. It was noted at the time all three Distributors had launched maintenance programmes. This was only the beginning.