Finding Value in Subscription Licensing

There are several factors to evaluate when you consider your options.

There are several factors to evaluate when you consider your options.

When subscriptions first came onto the market in the PLM-ish world, the math was pretty simple: Over a three-year period, the cost of a subscription was roughly the same as the cost of a perpetual license plus maintenance for the same period.


When you were offered the choice, deciding between subs and perpetuals was similarly straightforward: Do you have the cash on hand to pay for the perpetual? Do you want the updates and support you get under maintenance, and do you pay for it? Or do you buy once, and then drop maintenance? Perpetual all the way. Or is cash an issue, making low cost the key decision factor? Are you project based, needing to add and remove licenses every so often?

Today, it’s not that simple, as vendors have added content to their basic subscriptions and repackaged products to try to drive buyers toward new product options. How do you decide what’s best for you? There are several factors to evaluate when you consider your options.

Define What You Really Need

First, how do you decide what you need? This can actually be the easiest part of the puzzle, and should be the first and last question you ask. Another angle is: What’s the minimum you need to get your job done? A straightforward CAD-only package may be sufficient for 90% of your workload, so get that at a minimum.

What’s nice about subscriptions is that you can add and drop them as needed, so when you need spiffy rendering or CAE, buy the most limited-time package and you can let it lapse when it expires. Buy it again when you need it. But don’t get caught up in the marketing—keep asking, what do I really, really need?

Focus On Productivity

Second, and another way to consider the same problem: How much is too much? If you can generally afford and must have access to a CAD/CAE package, buy that for the bulk of your users and keep other licenses at the base level. Again, you can usually level up and down over time, but you need a baseline to get work done. Don’t cheap out; enable your team to be as productive as possible.

Carefully Evaluate Bundles

Third, and for this there are no easy general guidelines: Does the added content in a specific subscription level make a real difference in your ability to do your job?

If, for example, you simulate in the cloud and the CAD/CAE package includes credits toward cloud use, do the math and figure out if that’s a good alternative for you. If you do your cloud computing with another vendor, maybe not. But if you want to get started with cloud CAE, perhaps yes. This may be tough to parse—vendors are trying to drive you to use their services and like to bundle products to entice you. Plan out for a year: What are your likely usage patterns and costs? Which options available to you are most economical?

Price vs. Value

This ties to the fourth consideration: price-based packaging. Separately from CAD/CAE-type bundling, this has to do with how you transact with your vendors. Often, there are price breaks for annual subscriptions and they can be tempting, but sign up for a shorter period first to be sure you’re really going to use this package over a longer term. It might actually be cheaper to use CAD-only packages for 9 months and CAD/CAE for 3 months, or to purchase CAD-only annual subscriptions for some users and CAD/CAE for others.

Perform Regular Reviews

Finally, remember that you have choices and know when to cancel, level up or level down. Review your usage patterns and workload every few months and maximize the flexibility that subscriptions and packaging changes offer. Your vendors may have changed their pricing structure since you last looked and created the perfect offering, just for you—keep looking and find the best possible trade-off in price and capability.

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About the Author

Monica Schnitger's avatar
Monica Schnitger

Monica Schnitger is the founder, president and principal analyst of Schnitger Corporation. She has developed industry forecasts, market models and market statistics for the CAD/CAM,CAE, PLM, GIS, infrastructure and architectural / engineering / construction and plant design software markets since 1999.

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