Users: The Hidden Opportunity in SaaS
Get ready for an obvious statement: things have changed a lot over the last 30 years of IT.
How did IT used to be organised? How it is now?
Long ago, when a company wanted a new system is that they would look around, or more likely use a consultancy to help them decide. A ‘computer system’ would be selected and the vendor would ‘put it in’. This could literally mean buying in physical computers as well as software. Traditional IT would be installed and maintained by a third party and perhaps you would have an on-site technical person or IT manager who would make sure that things worked day-to-day and also be able to escalate (and also who to escalate to) in the event of a problem.
In the event of serious problems it was a call back to the vendor to get a resolution.
This was Software Delivery in the long ago.
Software was often tied to specific hardware, updates were slow, changes were expensive to make, difficult to arrange and systems were hard to fix when they went wrong. If you wanted anything specific changing for your company then that would require additional development which would cost extra money.
So whats the difference, what happens nowadays?
Traditional IT is increasingly being replaced with commodity Software as a Service (SaaS) offerings and of course public cloud has sped this transformation. Commodity hardware or BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) has meant that you can access company IT services from anywhere and on many types of devices. Additionally software services can be bought on short term contracts and even on a credit card. The current mode of IT services is anarchy in comparison to decades previously.
This freedom comes though, at the cost of users having to deal with more third parties and more intermediaries.
The onus is increasingly on the individual user to be aware of what to do with certain systems.
As a user of a modern system, you have to be ready to google stuff, find things out, be self-aware and help yourself. This also impacts how we, as developers and operators of systems, present our software to the world. We have a responsibility to make things clearer and more obvious. We have a responsibility to document things well and provide a mechanism for support in case things break.
So the user gets more freedom, shorter contracts, increasing speed and choice when implementing systems but relies more on the product to provide high quality, well-documented and well-supported software.
The user has to take more responsibility, has to bring more knowledge in-house to ensure that they know what their systems are doing.
The smart SaaS product manager can use this as an opportunity to make their product stand out in the market. A product can differentiate itself by making sure that this truth is acknowledged and that users are not only attracted to great solutions but also well supported at an individual level.