Community or Enterprise? An Open Question.

At OSCON in London last week I was reminded of the challenges facing commercial companies who present themselves as Open Source.

Many companies drive the adoption of their technology with a free Community edition- it’s the on-boarding point for the vast majority of developers. But they also need a chargeable Enterprise Edition to generate revenues, and allow the continued development of the product.Ultimately this creates a profit and return for the shareholders.

This is where the challenges begin. What features should you include in your Community edition, and what should you hold back for paying users in your Enterprise version? This is a very delicate balance, if you don’t have enough feature value in the EE then no one will pay for it. On the other hand, if your Community variation is too light (with all the good stuff behind the paywall) then you run an even greater risk: the wrath of a disgruntled developer community accusing you of selling out, and not really being open source at all.

There is a similar challenge  with your developer marketing messages and channels. What works to get hands-on developers trying out your CE may not resonate at all with an IT decision maker or Devops Manager with a budget that you want to get a part of.

All of the companies I spoke with were facing this challenge in one way or another. We agreed there is no one answer to satisfy all developer programs, but a few basic strategy and process steps should help to provide some clarity.

Understand who your target developer or partner is. Even if you don’t do full on developer personas, then at least profile them. And do the exercise twice, once for Community and then for Enterprise, treating them like separate products. Agree a marketing message for each product and group, and crucially know the channels you will use to communicate with each group. Finally, understand your upgrade path. Is it going to work bombarding the initial community subscriber with enterprise upgrade messages? You may be pushing a bunch of benefits she is not the least bit interested in.

Organisations big and small seem to be facing the same challenges with their developer marketing and developer program management. Taking a structured approach to understand both where you are headed as well as where you are today should help all of them. Contact us at Catchy if your developer program is facing similar challenges.

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