The freemium model, that is everyday more popular on the web, is now entering the world of enterprise software. What is it about ? Allowing people to use a software for free, with basic functiunalities that are enough for a minimal use, while proposing a premium version, richer, paying, and try to make most users switch to the latter once they’ve experiencied the free one.
The secret of the switch : make users feel they could do even more if they decide to use their credit card and pay. In fact it’s not a business model but a marketing tactics that leverages frustration. Has a good friend of mine often says : “that about showing a very small parts of one’s pants to give others ideas they didn’t have at the beginning”.
So this model in entering the enterprise with the same logic : allowing to start with simple usages for free and betting that, discovering everything that would be possible, organizations will switch to a paying version to host more users, have more functunalities which interest takes time to emerge etc…
Copying a model sometimes works…but translating it is better.
An easy way would be to apply the model that consists frustrating users who will always want more.. But a fundamental difference exists : when I’m on linkedIn or Flickr, when I want to go further with a service, I weight the pros and and the cons and if I come to the conclusion that’s worth the price, I take my credit card and I pay. But is the same in the workplace ?
Allowing people to upgrade themselves ? Unthinkable and not serious. Not only I can’t imagine that people would pay for what’s a corporate responsabilitÃ© but, more, I don’t think that enterprises would tolerate that users won’t be able to benefit from the same functiunlaties not depending on hierarchy but on their own will.
Thinking that people will ask their employer to upgrade ? Bad idea because frustration will be pushed from the end user to the administrator, the first not knowing what’s the cause of the limitation. More, nothings proves that, even if bombarded with requests, the administrator will be able to change anything since he doesn’t have the financial power. And I don’t imagine the administrator explaining that “we’re using a free version and don’t want to pay a cent to make users have more functiunalities”.
Conclusion : the frustration logics works when it impacts the person who can decide and pay or, sometimes, to someone who directly reports to him and can convince him with tangible arguments.
When you want to frustrate a decision make, you have to choose the right limitations. It will be more about scalability, number of licences, integration with existing tools than about practical things that improves the user experience but which benefits can’t be understood by people that have not the same use of the tool. On the other hand, frustrating the users by showing him everything he would be able to do but is impossible at this time is useless and even counter-productive. End users should even not be aware of the limitations, the risk of seeing them puting the tool in quarantine being very high.
When the freemium model is applied to enterprise software, it’s important to know who’s the right person to frustrate and decide of the limitations according to that. On the contrary, frustrating someone who does not have the power to pay to improve his experience is more than pointless: it’s dangerous.