REDMOND, Wash., Feb. 23, 2005 — For independent software vendors (ISVs) that want to develop applications that address business challenges in compelling and valuable ways, two elements are of critical importance: time and money. Many startup ISVs spend a significant amount of time developing the core framework for their solutions, which can increase development time and limit their ability to add the enhancements and features that customers value — and require. In addition, learning to develop on a new platform can steal time from the development process, and buying development tools and add-ons to make the application function at the highest level possible can dramatically impact profitability, which is often an issue for cash-flow-conscious startups.
Microsoft’s platform has been developed to provide a comprehensive and integrated set of technology and services in order to significantly reduce the time required for ISVs to build and deploy complete applications. The robustness of the platform, according to Microsoft, allows ISVs to build higher value, market-driven solutions. The platform also provides a unified programming model that supports most development languages and multiple devices.
To demonstrate the benefits of developing on the Microsoft platform and help ISVs develop applications using Microsoft technologies faster and at a lower cost, Microsoft launched the Empower for ISVs program nearly two years ago. The program serves as an “on ramp” for early-stage ISVs to help them accelerate the development and delivery of new applications to market. In addition, the Empower for ISVs program enables them to qualify for Certified Partner status in the Microsoft Partner Program upon successful completion of their application, providing them with access to exclusive classroom and online training, telephone based account management and pre-sales technical support, and customer referrals through Microsoft Partner Directories. As Certified Partners they will also receive targeted marketing support and materials, as well as access to Partner Channel Builder, a combination of an online tool and structured networking events that allow Microsoft partners to share information, collaborate, and promote their offerings and services to other Microsoft partners and grow their business.
Lance McCollough, president and CEO of ProSites, found the resources provided through the Empower for ISVs program to be exactly what his small start-up software company needed. ProSites, based in Temecula, Calif., is nearing completion of its Web-site solution and online patient-marketing tools tailored specifically to the needs of health care professionals and their patients. As ProSites prepares for its initial launch, McCollough says that his company wouldn’t be where it is today without the Empower for ISVs program.
“We’re a very small organization, and financial resources are very tight,” McCollough says. “The Microsoft Empower for ISVs program gave us the opportunity to get the best tools, resources, and guidance available during a very critical period in our development cycle.”
It is meeting those critical needs for ISVs during the initial stages of their development cycle that has been key to the overwhelmingly positive response from partners regarding the program, says Chris Olson, ISV Marketing Manager at Microsoft. More than12,000 ISVs are enrolled in the program and developing their solutions.
“By reducing costs and helping expedite the process of developing and certifying an application, ISVs can focus their resources on developing those essential solutions for their customers,” says Olson. “The Empower for ISVs program is a prime example of how we are helping new ISVs drive profitability and grow their businesses.”
Providing the Tools to Optimize Development
According to Olson, joining the Empower for ISVs program is simple. First, ISVs must be a Registered Member of the Microsoft Partner Program and must commit to developing one packaged and marketable software application that supports specified Microsoft technologies. ISVs must also sign the Microsoft Empower for ISVs Agreement and pay an annual membership fee of US$375.
Empower for ISVs, a one-year program that can be renewed for a second year, offers a number of benefits vital to many startups. ISVs are provided with up to five software licenses for internal use of various editions of Microsoft Windows operating systems and the Microsoft Office System, as well as a the full array of server products including Microsoft Windows Server 2003, Exchange 2003 Server, and SQL Server 2000 or SharePoint Portal Server.
Participating ISVs receive one Microsoft Developer Network (MSDN) Universal subscription media kit and five user licenses. Each MSDN Universal subscription is a single-user license for development and testing purposes, and includes access to software development kits (SDKs), driver development kits (DDKs) and the MSDN Library. Participants also have priority access to new product releases, updates and beta releases through the MSDN Download site.
In addition to these development tools that ISVs require, ISVs are also provided with training to help them with the application development process. The Empower for ISVs program offers them access to technical support and advice to help them address development challenges they may face. Once their application is developed, ISVs are able to submit the application for testing and certification to ensure that it complies with critical industry standards.
After participating in the program, Microsoft encourages ISVs to join the ISV/Software Solutions Competency — a categorical component of the Microsoft Partner Program — by having the product tested and submitting three customer references.
Partners Recognize Program and Platform Benefits
Kiran Thakrar, president of SoluSoft –a software and services company, based in North Andover, Mass., that provides business process solutions to Global 2000 business and government customers — recognized the benefits. “As developers,” Thakrar says, “we saw the benefits of this program immediately.”
During SoluSoft’s membership in the Empower ISVs program, Thakrar says the company developed iTimeBase, a time keeping application for consultants that is based on .NET technology. iTimeBase, Thakrar says, can track time in a variety of formats, whether it be hourly, weekly or monthly and can accommodate consultants who may touch several projects one day or just one project that can last for months. The data gathered in the application is stored in Microsoft SQL Server and can be used to generate a variety of reports for various purposes, including allowing service companies to generate detailed invoices for customer billing cycles, and enabling managers to monitor time for increased project management efficiency and budget forecasting.
As a small business, SoluSoft found the ability to save on the testing and certification process was critical. SoluSoft, which employs close to 70 people in both its hardware and software divisions, provides services that cover the entire spectrum of document-intensive business process solutions including product, platform, integration, applications and maintenance and support services. “The Empower for ISVs program made the process of testing our application much more affordable,” Thakrar says. “That’s important to a small company like ours.”
He also notes the benefit of working with Microsoft .NET. “It provides us with a consistent environment in which to work,” Thakrar says. “My developers love it.”
And the Empower for ISVs program, he says, makes developing .NET-based applications for Microsoft technologies that much more attractive. “At minimum, it’s twice as fast to develop applications by participating in this program,” he says. “In addition to the licenses we got at a greatly reduced cost, we also received training materials such as CDs and DVDs that are beneficial to our developers, technical support, and training specifically on .NET, where our developers got lots of sample programs.”
McCollough agrees and says ProSites chose to build its proprietary Web engine on Microsoft .NET technologies in order for the company to offer advanced features and functionality. The Empower for ISVs program made the decision to develop on the .NET platform practical for a number of reasons.
First, the ease with which the switch to .NET was made. “In a previous venture we built our core application using a different technology,” he says. “But we ran into limitations and application failures due to those limitations. With the benefit of hindsight we decided to switch to the Microsoft .NET platform and development tools and we’ve never looked back.”
Second, the commitment Microsoft demonstrated to an ISV partner as small as ProSites. “What impressed us most is how Microsoft reaches out to companies even as small as ours to offer the assistance and support needed to grow our business,” he says. “Regardless of our size, I feel like we got the same attention and service you might expect to only be available to larger companies. The people we’ve worked with at Microsoft have all been very helpful and friendly, which makes us feel like we’re part of a team.”
Most importantly, says McCollogh, was the benefit to his bottom line; the program saved ProSites time and cash. “Thanks to the Microsoft Empower for ISVs program we conservatively estimate that we’ve saved more than $40,000 and reduced our development time by 40 percent,” he says.
Looking to the future, McCollough says he believes his company will continue to reap benefits. “To be honest, the program has many benefits and features we haven’t even tapped into yet,” he says. “I believe there are numerous resources and benefits available for every single stage of our business. With Microsoft’s help we are well on our way to building a fantastic solution for our customers.”