There Ain’t No Such Thing As A Free Lunch

Why POCs and Customer References Can Steer Companies Away From Making Costly Mistakes

“There ain’t no thing as a free lunch.”  I was first introduced to this classic phrase over 40 years ago, courtesy of the great science fiction author Ray Bradbury, who heavily featured it and its acronym TANSTAAFL in his novel The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress.

But I did not truly appreciate the phrase until I became a software sales engineer at webMethods in 2005. As messaging middleware, enterprise application integration, and EDI\B2B hubs became more commoditized, our company found itself increasingly competing against open source and free versions of products that went to head-to head-against our core portfolio.

What goes on behind the scenes

Even with a truly best-of-breed offering that easily demonstrated value, ROI, and TCO, deals could fall prey to the approach of, “Well, product XYZ may be inferior, but it is FREE after all….”.  We did win more often than not but it usually required a classic 2-man, 3-day POC that accomplished more than our competitors could do in weeks, with large support teams behind the scenes. Even so, losing is always hard to swallow in a competitive and entrepreneurial role.

What’s going on today

Two decades later at Panaya, I am seeing a similar pattern emerging with enterprise testing platforms. The SAP RISE program is trying its hardest to incent customers to move from SAP’s traditional enterprise licensing model to a radically new (for SAP) subscription model. SAP is dangling many a carrot in front of these prospective adopters, including hyperscaler SLAs that would normally cost extra money and a bundle of free tools and utilities to accelerate S/4HANA adoptions, conversions, and innovations.

Yes, most of these free tools are limited use versions and their vendors leverage them to upsell RISE customers to more feature-rich versions that require paid licenses. But these offerings are a great way for new S/4HANA adopters to dip their toes in innovative waters and validate new software products at minimal cost and financial risk.

Or is it? What if the free product leads to slower initiatives and costly go-live errors?

How Proof of Concept Eclipses all

That is where customer references and POCs can trump free software. POCs must include sections meant to highlight the key, differentiating features that competitive offerings cannot match – clearly demonstrating value and product gaps. And when real customers tell prospects about the trials and tribulations of using inferior, yet free, products, a lasting impression is made as to the underlying value of the superior alternative, even if it is offered at a higher cost.

Let’s look into SAP RISE

SAP RISE includes a free enterprise testing tool – with limited use capabilities – from one of Panaya’s key competitors. For companies running their testing in Excel or older testing platforms like Microfocus QC, this free alternative seems to a be a no-brainer. It seems like a great way to transition to a modern testing platform that offers many compelling features that do not exist in their current toolsets.

What Panaya offers in comparison

But when compared to best-of-breed testing alternatives, like Panaya, they do not shine as brightly. Panaya has been voted the top enterprise test management platform on g2.com for fourteen straight quarters! Panaya’s customer references not only attest to its ease of use and powerful features, but many came to Panaya after using the testing tool that came with RISE, ultimately realizing that its limitations are riskier than the cost savings.

Panaya customers run tests faster and require less IT resource to manage and maintain both manual and automated tests. Panaya’s unique AI-powered accelerators allow non-technical business users to build complex functionality by using sentences in plain English. More accurate and faster testing leads to faster innovation streams with less nasty go-live errors popping up in production. Just deserts for initiatives using our products.

Why a free lunch is not the answer

Some software products may be free, but buyer beware. Product complexities and the functional limitations of limited use products will lead to go-live errors that cost money – sometimes a lot of money. Quality testing tools that truly accelerate and de-risk project outcomes are worth their weight in gold, despite the allure of no-cost alternatives. Like Mr. Bradbury said, “there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch.”

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