As “software as a service” (SAAS) becomes more prevalent, software development companies must find ways to keep their customers engaged and revenue flowing.
Before this model became mainstream, customers paid large upfront fees to license and install software on their own servers. The fees were often substantial, making customers less likely to switch to other software and providing the software companies a budget for future enhancements. Enhancements were released a few times a year, or in some cases even less frequently.
But now, customers pay monthly subscription fees, and the fees are usually small compared to purchasing the software. The low cost makes it easier for customers to switch, so companies may no longer have a stable user base to provide “guaranteed” development funds. So in an effort to keep customers engaged, companies update their products frequently to keep them feeling fresh and expand their feature set.
So What's the Problem?
This new update practice has three main flaws.
First, many software companies are releasing new features at a fevered pace, sometimes as often as weekly. And many of these new features change how the tools look and how they work.
Second, it seems companies have thrown market research out the door and now just present new software concepts to see what sticks. We are becoming guinea pigs, vetting the viability of the new features and wasting a lot of time doing so.
The third problem – and it’s a big one – is that software companies are not properly testing, documenting, and communicating updates. Software updates cause features and functions to stop working entirely.
When user interfaces change, software doesn’t work correctly, or features pop up without explanation, end users suffer immediate setbacks. They must determine what is different, how it affects their practices, and how to keep their business moving. Time and money must be spent to retrain employees and implement workarounds.
What Can We Do?
Someone in your organization must take the initiative to communicate to these software companies and to outside consultants to help steer SAAS firms to a model that works:
Answer surveys you receive from the SAAS provider. Give details of what is working and what isn’t. And complain if updates cause you lost productivity.
Keep informed of when and what is changing. SAAS firms provide product roadmaps – review the roadmap and be prepared. Particularly pay attention to features and functions being removed. This can have a huge impact on your firm.
Sign up for first release programs. You can limit who in your company sees the updates first, then these employees can prepare others before the full release occurs.
Sign up for email alerts that will inform you of upcoming changes.
Monitor the SAAS performance dashboard to see if they are experiencing technical difficulties so you are prepared for the influx of support calls.