SaaS Blurs Traditional Software Startup Roles

SaaS business models are proven and and gaining wide adoption. However they come with new issues: shorter release cycles, blurring of development team roles, and the need for new internal reporting and management controls now that you are responsible for the customers application infrastructure. Your development, support, sales, and product marketing folks must change how they monitor customer usage and satisfaction and reach a working consensus on customer feature requests and bug fixes based on different metrics now that you control not only your own application but your customer’s infrastructure.

Gone are the days of annual release cycle. For many companies, very fast releases are the new standard. Picking the best software release cycle impacts your customers, team, and management. These changes impact the team traditional roles and responsibility. No longer can development throw it over the fence to QA or documentation. No longer does marketing write lengthy MRDs. The team changes to balance the quality, usability, and time to market objectives.

As Sean covered in Iterating Towards Bethlehem: Michael Sippey at SVPMA 8/2/2006

“Let’s build a product” evolved into “Let’s iterate a service.” SixApart determined that the right periodicity was a release every two weeks. This means that three key processes must proceed in parallel:

  • Define and Design
  • Build and Test
  • Release.

The keys to making it work include keeping the roadmap and schedule on a wiki, using lightweight specifications and FogBugz, and staying committed to gradual improvements over time. […]
This concept of making the transition from a software product to a service (or Software as a Service — SaaS) that’s on a two week release cycle will be a theme for this blog: we will explore in more detail why it brings significant business advantages and requires just as significant a set of changes in a startup’s development process.

After attending some sessions at CINACon earlier this month, I blogged about the “Benefits of a Saas Business Model.” If you are interested in taking part in a round table discussion on these issues, please join us Tuesday, Oct 30 for a SaaS Roundtable: Managing Rapid Release Cycles.

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