Creating the Product our Customers Want

Understanding Our Customers

The way open-core software is built and delivered is changing the way enterprises bring it into their environments. Sales organizations are likewise adapting to this new buying behavior.

Much to everyone's delight, we no longer need to live in a "pushy sales tactic" world and in a way, a semi-sad way, we don't live in a "treat your prospects to rounds of golf and expensive dinners to get the deal" world. Not to say building relationships isn't valuable (because it's insanely valuable), but people buy products that work, that are priced right, and that they can easily evaluate before buying.

Why is this happening?

The proliferation of platforms.

Organizations have many options to choose from, and vendor lock-in is quickly becoming a thing of the past with the rise of cloud-agnostic technology. Legacy all-inclusive software isn't as enticing because the customer loses flexibility and extensibility. One system can't possibly solve all issues.

Companies are commiercialing open-source tools into successful enterprise products.

In the first quarter of 2019, two companies (Confluent and Databricks) have reached unicorn status on this very model; taking open source components, commercializing them and helping companies rapidly adopt and scale.

"Confluent is the newest in a string of companies to reach tens of millions in revenue, big-name multinational customers and a unicorn valuation by providing services, support and management tools around free, open-source technology." - Forbes

The one-size-fits-all approach in the enterprise software space may be a thing of the past, and stories like the above are the early proof. Because we're in this shift where large organizations want to bring certain functions in-house, not completely rely on vendors to build and manage their software, and then customize the software to fit their needs, open-source software is getting a chance to take down some long-standing incumbents..

More industries rely on digital / technical products to conduct business.

Banks, insurance companies, higher education organizations, CPG manufacturers are all relying on modern technologies to conduct and grow their business. Because of this, more companies are distributed, and their organizations need to collaborate even though their people are scattered across the globe. Because more vendors exist, exponentially more outbound sales calls and emails are sent to these distributed potential users.

There is more turnover within organizations, people hardly spend decades at the same company

Knowledge can't be locked into one person's brain or in a 'black-box' solution, since job security and power doesn't reside in holding knowledge to yourself or in being the gatekeeper to one large installation of software. Knowledge also needs to be distributed and readily available to current and new employees.

All in all, businesses are moving faster, using technology more, ramping up new people more frequently and wanting to be more self sufficient…especially when it comes to 'the new oil' in data. Books and even entire courses are built around the idea that data is the most powerful and valuable resource in today's business world. No need to beat a dead horse on that :)

What did we do about it?

We changed our views of how we see the use of our enterprise product (self-installed in a customer's cloud). Initially, we didn't love the idea of letting companies trial enterprise software because it's installed in their environment, meaning they could install it and run away. Eventually, we realized that wasn't necessarily the right view. In the open source community 1. the software will change every few weeks and updates won't get shipped to rogue users and 2. that's just not how the world, at least the open source enterprise software world, works.

With Airflow being (relatively) new to most everyone, trials tend to be a requirement. The thing is, the above made it hard to get trials, which made it even harder to charge for trials, which we felt we needed to do. This drove us to dive deeper and figure out what our customers really want.

We took a chance with a few well known organizations, and it paid off. We helped with install, provided access to the platform, and supported engineers as they got ramped up. This created value and then together we created a deal that fit. Our trials give organizations ranging from new to Airflow and having nothing in production to those that have scaled environments a taste of what our platform can do. We get it installed, guide the first few DAGs and solve any infrastructure issues that are keeping them from fully evaluating the product.

We didn't stop at just trials, though. We understand that while organizations want to get their feet wet, some companies are ready to dive right in. Some even want a fully managed service and a 'safety net' when things go awry. So we built product offerings to match what our customers need. We have custom solutions, standard solutions, support on open-source Airflow, training, etc.

We've built it out because if a company wants to use Airflow, and they aren't contributors to the project themselves, why would they want to go it alone?

Our newest offering is the "Enterprise Quickstart" program. For six months, we will support all things Airflow, provide access to our engineering team who are supremely experienced with Airflow, provide best-practices, and even on-the-job training. After Quickstart, not only with the company have a great understanding of what Airflow can do, but they'll understand what the environment should look like, how things should be sized, and what support they'll need.

Holding our ear to the street, we heard what our customers want and need, how they want to buy, and their steps to evaluate. We'll continue to do so because as the Airflow core project, Astronomer, and the modern data engineering community as a whole evolve, so will the humans behind them.

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