Last week's earnings report from RightNow Technologies (NASDAQ:RNOW) highlighted the challenge of shifting from traditional up-front licenses to a subscription model for software sales. RightNow's stock plummeted 17%, and there are ominous signs of disarray in the sales organization.

RightNow delivers its software via the Internet, helping customers manage interactions through call centers, email, chat, and the Web. The company has roughly 1,800 clients, including major firms such as Motorola (NYSE:MOT), DaimlerChrysler (NYSE:DCX), and IBM (NYSE:IBM).

Revenues inched up 4% to $25.7 million in the fiscal first quarter, but the company recorded a net loss of $6 million, or $0.18 per share. That's a greater net loss than the year-ago $440,000 or $0.01 per share.

With rivals like (NYSE:CRM) and NetSuite charging subscription fees instead of requiring customers to buy programs outright, RightNow realized it had to make the switch. Unfortunately, it must now recognize revenues over the course of a year or more, flattening its growth rate.

Companies such as Concur Technologies (NASDAQ:CNQR) have gone through the same transition, and it can easily take a year or so to work out the kinks. Weaning sales people from trying to persuade clients to pay big up-front licensing fees can be a huge paradigm shift.

The sudden resignation of Jay Rising, RightNow's president of field operations, is also troubling. A former bigwig at ADP (NYSE:ADP), he joined RightNow last October. At the time, CEO Greg Gianforte said he was excited to attract someone of Rising's caliber, mentioning that ADP was one of the first companies to offer software as a service.

Does Rising want to leave because he is concerned about RightNow's prospects? Or was he simply not the right fit for the organization?

It's tough to tell, but either way, it'll likely create confusion within the sales team. With the upcoming RightNow 8 product launch and the company's business model transition, it's a lot for anyone to absorb. Foolish investors' best approach is to hurry up and wait to pursue the stock until things clear up.

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Fool contributor Tom Taulli, author of The Complete M&A Handbook, does not own shares mentioned in this article. He is ranked 2,719 out of 25,386 investors in Motley Fool CAPS.