“To see an obstacle as a challenge, to make the best of it anyway, that is also a choice—a choice that is up to us.”
–Ryan Holiday, “The Obstacle is the Way”
Making the transition from a services-only company to a product company is not a trivial task. We faced the obstacle of not having our own product. From that obstacle, we created the opportunity to build the product we always wanted.
Since our inception in 1997, HotWax Systems has offered a variety of web application development services across a range of different technologies. Only relatively recently did we develop and launch our own enterprise digital commerce product, HotWax Commerce.
Our product development efforts were just a sparkle in our eyes back in 2006, when we standardized on Apache OFBiz as our application development framework of choice. We began providing OFBiz custom development services, creating applications for companies including United Airlines, Herman Miller, and many other organizations large and small. Over the past 10 years we have built the best OFBiz development team in the world, hands down.
About four years ago, we got serious about developing our own product, powered by Apache OFBiz. (OFBiz is an application development framework, meaning it is intended for developers to use as a starting point rather than for end users to run as-is.) We took a customer-driven approach to defining our product features, drawing on many consulting projects over the years to create our feature list and product roadmap. That customer-driven approach to HotWax Commerce core product development continues today.
Apache OFBiz out-of-the-box (OOTB) is not end user-friendly. The screens are great for developers, however, who want to understand and test system features as part of the implementation process. As you can see from the screen shot, the OOTB screens show “everything turned on” so developers can see all their options. Take a look at the HotWax Commerce core screen shot below for an example of a production application built on top of OFBiz, ready for end users.
Today, we have a great core product. HotWax Commerce connects the dots between a wide variety of business processes, allowing our clients to unify operations at their own pace. We recognize that the lines between business systems are blurring. E-com, CMS, WMS, OMS, CRM, BI, ERP, WMS…the list of acronyms goes on. In the end, though, the more business processes you can run on one unified system, the better. From e-commerce, all the way through the back office, to the general ledger, HotWax Commerce is uniquely able to add efficiency by consolidating processes on one unified system, thereby replacing the standard tangle of multiple third party systems.
Our HotWax Commerce core platform is ideal for B2B e-commerce, where back end processes are particularly important. For example, our clients can setup their B2B customers in the system and control product availability, promotions, and pricing at the individual customer level. They can also manage orders / returns, warehouse, inventory, and procurement, all in the same unified system. HotWax Commerce core is also great for B2C e-commerce where needs exceed the sophistication offered by SaaS e-commerce providers. Customizable capabilities like multiple storefronts, multiple languages, multiple currencies, and complex promotions make HotWax Commerce core a more efficient and powerful e-commerce option than the standard competition. Finally, we also have customers who do not use HotWax Commerce for e-commerce storefronts at all, and rather use it only for back office and ERP functionality like warehouse, inventory, and payments.
HotWax Commerce Core is available in two distinct pricing models:
- The first is SaaS, and is generally offered with smaller companies in mind. Our SaaS offering delivers more power and sophistication than any other product on the market at this price point. Setup is fast with minimal fees, and ongoing charges come in the form of revenue sharing. We can create completely custom B2B and B2C user experiences, giving clients full control over the brand experiences they are creating. We can also offer 3rd party system integrations, though they are rarely necessary given the payment, tax, shipping, and other functionality that is already available in HotWax Commerce core. Also, clients who begin with SaaS can move to a perpetual license model as business evolves. No re-platforming necessary.
The other is the perpetual license model. The product itself, including complete source code, is available for an initial 1-year license fee (which includes limited support as well). We then work through a complete client implementation, which is based on a set number of hours and calendar time. Once implemented, the system belongs to the client, who can do anything they wish with the system. After year one, the annual license fee renewal is completely optional. A current license brings access to platform upgrades, bug fixes, and enhancements. But even if a client chooses not to renew the annual license, the system remains for them to run, customize, and otherwise leverage indefinitely. This is a big advantage over other competitive options. HotWax Commerce core offers freedom from usage-based fees, freedom from per-server licenses, no limit to number of users, and no mandatory recurring license fees.
A derivative of the perpetual license model is the accelerator model. The accelerator is just like the perpetual license, with the addition of customization services. Usually, this means the client keeps their dedicated implementation team on board for an extended period of time in order to develop custom functionality, extend existing functionality, integrate with legacy systems, and so on. For example, a client may want to run multiple businesses on HotWax Commerce core. After the initial implementation, our dev team can stick around to help onboard the additional organizations. Other examples could be a multi-phased legacy system replacement, a client with a digital subscription product that needs to be further integrated with their e-commerce system, or an organization that simply wants to keep our dev team around to help them operate and adjust their system over time.
As we continue with this transition from services-only to product, we will keep our eyes and our minds open. Our open source heritage leaves us inclined to empower our customers, and disinclined to ape the proprietary software status quo. These pricing model options represent our commitment to bring our product to market with a focus on the client. We will continue in this client-centric direction, and we’re excited to see where it leads!
Mike Bates founded HotWax Systems in 1997 and is our chief executive. His career in web application sales, marketing, design and development spans two decades, and he is a long time open source software advocate. He has led high-profile web software projects for numerous national and global brands and has taught web development courses at the graduate level. Mike joins other HotWax employees and advisers in periodically posting thoughts here related to HotWax Commerce, OFBiz, digital commerce, and other topics.