Software Subscription – Future-Proofing Your ‘Open’ Investment

Every aspect of dental technology is moving faster than it ever has. New materials, implant systems, faster and more accurate scanners, milling machines etc….little, if any aspect of the profession is stagnant. So why should your software be?
Dental technicians have always been caught in a push – pull relationship with everyone. Dentists try to pull technicians along a certain path wrt materials, processes etc. Technician try to push dentists into embracing new techniques and products. Technicians try to pull suppliers to deliver innovative solutions to day to day problems and suppliers are pushing ‘the latest and greatest everything’ onto technicians. Software is caught up in that same type of relationship. Software development is probably the most dynamic aspect of any profession and even more so in dentistry. On one side, the push-pull relationship exists between developers and end users so that innovative, faster and easier to use functionalities are implemented. Whilst on the other side material suppliers, implant companies and milling machine providers are introducing their own innovations into the mix which can only be utilised when the software infrastructure can handle it. Software suppliers must develop and innovate to stay in line with fast moving pace of this profession.
There is no doubt about it, nobody likes paying for software let alone paying for software upgrades or subscriptions unless you can see the value in your investment. In the same way nobody likes paying for health, home or car insurance – until you need it. Then it’s the best investment you’ve ever made! Hopefully you’ll never need that insurance policy but when you do, it’s there. You can look at software in the same light except the probability of you needing it, needing upgrades and getting value from your investment is so much higher.
There are three main licencing models that suppliers of software adopt when it comes to upgrades:
1) Per Upgrade: This approach normally means that you pay a certain figure initially and there is no obligation to make any other payments. You are typically entitled to access upgrades within a certain time frame or within the major version that you have purchased. Thereafter, you have the option of accessing further upgrades if required and you pay a figure normally 20-40% of the original purchase price of the software as an ‘upgrade’ fee. It is common practice that if you skip any upgrades, you are required to back-purchase those upgrades should you wish to purchase any future upgrades. So for example, you purchase version 1.o you are normally entitled to upgrades 1.1, 1.2 etc. Version 2.0 becomes available but you don’t upgrade. Then version 3.0 becomes available and you want to upgrade, many software suppliers will not allow you to skip version 2.0 so you need to pay for this as well as version 3.0. Not only are you paying for this version that you didn’t want, you didn’t even get to avail of any of the improvements that it contained. Also you may not have had access to the training or technical support that you needed when versions 1.0 was superseded. Money down the drain!
2) Repurchase: This approach does not have an upgrade option as such, you buy a version of software, use it for as long as you want and when you want to access the newest version of software, you abandon your original licence a buy a new one at full price (perhaps with a little reduction).
3) Subscription: This licencing model is becoming more and more common particularly in niche areas where the demand for continuous development is high as it is for CAD/CAM for dentistry. The software is usually purchased at a lower fee than would be typical of licence type 1 and the user will pay an annual software subscription fee which is again usually lower than type 1. This annual fee is compulsory and entitles the user to all ongoing software upgrades – for bug fixes, minor version upgrades and major version upgrades. The annual subscription fee usually covers training and technical / application support from the supplier / developer. There is usually no end to a subscription based licence therefore there is usually no end to the relationship that you as an end user will have with your support company. For situations such as CAD/CAM where there is hardware supplied by the same software developer, even when hardware versions are superseded by newer versions, older hardware will continue to be supported by all software upgrades.
As CAD/CAM technology became available to dental laboratories, the initial product offerings were delivered by material supply companies, milling centres and other such suppliers within the sector that used CAD/CAM to drive other revenue streams. More often than not, the technology was delivered in a closed or locked manner. The software could only drive their machines running their materials or you could only export files to their milling centres. The software was updated only when it needed to be – the central product was not influenced by other outside factors so innovation of the software was not the primary objective. This model is still in existence but is slowly dying as the profession becomes more educated and aware of alternatives and as other suppliers develop more open and widely accessible solutions.
A truly open system is one that allows you be in control of what you can or cannot do. It must offer you access to the widest range of implant libraries and enable you to use the materials and milling machines or services you want to use. It must offer you the ability to avail of all of the latest and greatest software developments, fastest algorithms, simplest workflows, bug-fixes and compatibility with all the other amazing innovations arriving on the market on a near daily basis. Upgrades for new computer hardware, new operating system must always be available to you. You need the peace of mind that you have access to a partner that understands your business and your needs and a support team that is 100% focused on taking care of you. You need a partner that is not distracted by other products or services. You need a solution and a partner that will move with you and help you move your business in the direction you want it to go.
At ESM Digital Solutions, we have been delivering scanning services and 3Shape technology to laboratories and clinicians across the world since 2007. We now only supply 3Shape scanning and design solutions and as this is all we do, we know your needs, we are focused and we have the experience and knowledge to help you get the most out of your investment. We believe that 3Shape’s product range offers you more than any other system and your annual subscription means that you will enjoy a long a supportive relationship from one of the only truly open partners delivering a truly open system in a truly open manner. Let ESM help future proof your investment and your business.
Call us on (UK) (020) 8816 7840 and we look forward to learning about your business and helping you get the most out of everything this great technology has to offer.

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