A big barrier to all the good changes that networks communities can bring, is the speed at which the gatekeepers and validaters allow their world to be changed. The fact is that there are a lot of project management professionals slowing the uptake of SaaS PM solutions, Lawyers concerned about security and holding up the use of collaboration tools, and accountants wedded to their traditional apps and avoiding having to even think about the new breed of connected and connecting business applications.
It was interesting then to read a post over on the Xero blog the other day that quoted from the Chartered Accountants Journal (and if any publication were to be a stick in the mud, backwards and change averse crowd – this it’d be it). Keith Newman wrote that;
The traditional view of Chartered Accountants, glued to the desk and only accessible by appointment at their premises or over the phone is being challenged by changing customer expectations and sophisticated new technology. While many small businesses may still be happy to drop off a cardboard box of bank statements and accounts once a year, smart companies are looking for more value from the person who watches over their finances
Of course writing it in a trade magazine, awesome as it is, is a different story from actually convincing the professionals at the coal face to change their ways. The fact is they feel threatened, the don’t want to face the pain of learning and they have no real incentive to change.
It’s for this reason that SaaS vendors selling into these sorts of markets have to get smarter. A vendor for instance with a project management solution should be making connections with new PM graduates and showing them the benefits of their solutions. They should be offering free training in their software and, most importantly, wherever possible they should try and ease the transition pain from one solution to another.
While it seems counter intuitive to spend time converting one customers data file onto your system (The Long Tail theory totally works on low (or nil) marginal cost – this sort of custom help blows that theory out of the water), the viral effect of having a key evangelist outweighs the costs involved. After all, as with physical viruses, viral uptake of a product first requires a welcoming host, after which multiplication can occur is a self-fuelled manner.