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Prix-fixe no more: Why à la carte is the future of software delivery

Recently I wrote an article about à la carte software delivery for VentureBeat , I’m reposting here:

Facebook users have been vocal about Messenger, an app now required in addition to the social network’s main mobile application to send messages. What is the point of separating one brand into multiple apps?

While users initially expressed concern about downloading a secondary app just to chat with friends, this is part of a telling trend: services à la carte.

Software is moving from large, multipurpose applications to discrete services that offer high value every time they’re used.

Facebook isn’t the only company that’s jumped off the prix-fixe ship. Google did it with Drive, splitting its editing capabilities into the separate Docs, Sheets, and Slides. LinkedIn rolled out a standalone Job Search app.

New products like these flood the software space every day, and single-purpose services are the only way to guarantee customers are getting a fully customized experience, with simple access to the features they actually need.

Here are the top reasons why all software providers will ultimately adopt the à la carte, customer-first approach.

1. Deliver the minimum viable product. Companies often brag about the multitude of features they have added to their products, but this often distracts from customer satisfaction, long-term usage, and sales. When it comes to generating value, minimalism is key.

The best software simplifies and speeds the user’s experience. This requires a laser focus on the user’s real needs. The app should contain the core features – and only the core features – required for deployment, offering simplicity with a dedicated, irreplaceable purpose. Winning software strives for direct purity like this.

2. Take more frequent innovation leaps. Lean software makes you nimbler when it comes to serving extreme value to customers. Task-oriented applications require fewer lines of code, lower memory requirements, and less coordination among departments and features, which speeds up the execution process and allows you to enact your ideas more often.

With a purpose-built service, your audience self-selects into a niche segment, making it easier to maintain a deep understanding of your user base. As a result, you can quickly identify and effectively act on their needs and tastes, even as they change over time.

3. Gain multiple entry points into the market. With one feature-packed platform, it’s difficult for salespeople to identify the right type of customer contact to pitch.

From the customer perspective, heavy “all-in-one” platforms are intimidating, as appealing as they may seem at first. Business leaders aren’t familiar with the specific challenges outside their own departments, and are typically ill-equipped to decide whether a monolithic bundle would be useful for their organization at the offered cost.

À la carte software, on the other hand, is easier to understand, adopt and consume, which not only quickens the buying cycle but also amplifies the quality of sales leads.

Take, for example, a human resource platform. If it’s split into discrete services, a company’s HR director can start at low initial spend with one feature, like a staff directory. After experimenting with the standalone directory, HR may decide to add additional services, such as time tracking and employee onboarding.

As the HR department continues to increase its usage – perhaps adopting a benefits portal, performance monitoring and project management tools – other departments within the company might start to engage with the software, too. In this way, a platform can incrementally take hold within an organization, administering pure, feature-specific value at every step.

4. Leverage the full power of the cloud. A few years ago, it would have been impossible to offer software services à la carte. Without a way to deliver single-purpose services, feature-bloated applications were the only option.

In the era of cloud computing, we has a huge central repository to store all information. So single purpose-built service apps can live in the cloud, and users can summon each, instantly and as needed, with no delivery costs or limits to scale.

In time, single-purpose software will win out, offering laser-focused functionality enabled by a powerful, highly connected ecosystem. Solutions that claim to be all-in-one are clunky, complicated, and tough to adopt.

The prix-fixe software menu is dead — and businesses and customers alike will be thankful for it.

I’d love to know what you think. Please send me your thoughts on twitter- @Guy_Nirpaz or post it in the comments section below.

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This article originally ran in VentureBeat, August 31, 2014.

Guy Nirpaz

Guy Nirpaz is a Silicon Valley-based Israeli entrepreneur and CEO of Totango, a Customer Success software platform. A pioneer in the Customer Success field, Guy established the Customer Success Summit and is a well-regarded industry speaker and community contributor. Guy loves people and technology and has dedicated his career to improving the way in which business is done through innovation. Fun Facts: Guy moonlights as the lead guitarist in a rock band based out of his garage in Palo Alto and used to command a tank battalion...as well as having grown oranges.

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