Launching a SaaS product? Make sure you do this

If you are about to launch a Software-as-a-service (SaaS) product then you are going to need to ensure that you have a realistic strategy. For some reason, developing a comprehensive SaaS launch strategy is not that common, but it should be. In this guide you will find out how to create an effective strategy that will ensure that your release is a success.

Mark Zuckerberg’s infamous motto, eternalised in the Facebook S-1, is to “move fast and break things.” In one pithy statement, he encapsulated the MO of a number of the leading consumer internet firms, including his own. Facebook launched new releases on a monthly, weekly and even daily basis and they know that while this may mean breaking things, sometimes overall it is of utility. IT is becoming increasingly consumerised. In fact, you could say it is totally consumerised, and with this shift we are seeing a number of enterprise tech firms wanting to be able to move with the speed, agility and consumer focus of the leading tech firms. However, this is not as easy as it may seem.

To ensure that SaaS is done with speed is not simply a matter of making your team work longer hours buzzed up on coffee and fed endless pizza. Sure you can keep putting daily stand ups but the reality is that you have one massive overriding challenge to contend with, which is your customer. The thing about customers is that they are impatient, very impatient. They want all the new bells and whistles on SaaS right now and they want them to work perfectly every time. However, they are also very fussy, and they will often instantly become nostalgic for an older version, meaning that there is often a catch 22.

You only have to witness the backlash against Facebook every time they make a change, even when it actually functions, to realise just how complex this area is. While some of Facebook’s users will be demanding the firm revert back to an older iteration others will be demanding even more changes. It is a no win situation in some respects, and when something goes wrong, it is no exaggeration to say that hell rains down.

When you scale up and begin to deal with bigger enterprise customers you will suddenly have to deal with another party, their own in-house IT department. Often there can be a clash of interests and methods between the SaaS development team and the in-house IT department in bigger firms as the in-house crew will have their own way of doing things. One of the major clashes can be on timelines, while the in-house IT department may be ok with an expedited timeline at first, when the rollout process begins they suddenly want months of advance notice and testing time with any new functionality. These are people who operate in a world where Windows 2000 can still be used a decade later and where their users are still on Internet Explorer 6 even after it has been end of lifed. In other words, while the SaaS team are used to dealing with rapidly changing environment, the in hin-housem have to cope with a long tail of software that may drag back into the last millennium, they have clients using different configurations, integrations between their systems and those of third parties, global data centres and release management, the list goes on. These are two different worlds and often they clash. That is why you need a good SaaS release strategy.

SaaS Release Strategy: You Need One

If you are aiming to be able to meet your enterprise customers’ needs then you need to have a release strategy kbxgkpi. As your business grows you will find that it is incredibly difficult to even be able to keep your internal customer-facing staff, those working in services or support for example, aware of all the newest innovations in your products, not to mention the massive issues you will deal with when trying to keep all your documentation and videos up to date.

If you are planning on releasing SaaS iterations every day like Facebook then you will find that you will definitely:

  • Irritate your enterprise stakeholders
  • Confuse your users
  • Annoy your internal team.

However, a 12-month or longer release cycle will:

  • Impede your ability to be innovative
  • Generate massive weaknesses that the competition will be able to attack.
  • Push your own developers away as they aren’t able to ‘ship code’
  • Irritate your enterprise stakeholders
  • Confuse your users
  • Annoy your internal team.

In other words, you are pretty much in the ultimate catch 22, though as you will notice, the short turnaround has less issues than the 12 month cycle. The reality is that there is no easy answer, though there are a number of things that you can do to help you, including:

Always deliver on the set date

One of the keys is to always work to a specific date and always deliver on that date. That way you have something fixed that you are locked into. This needs to be a non-negotiable as well, if a big feature is not ready then it will just have to wait for the next release. A lot of people struggle to work like this but the reality is that if you are constantly releasing then it really doesn’t matter that much if you put something off until the next release. Working this way means that all your internal team and customer groups can plan around your upcoming release.

Pre-release

While it is an anathema to support multiple versions of SaaS it is a good idea to have ‘preview’ releases even if they are only internal ones. If have a fixed date that you are releasing to customers, per above, then you can have a fixed date for your preview as well.

Documentation Waterfall

Often you will find that firms generate false choices, like that you either need to have comprehensive documentation at the time of release and a longer release cycle or limited documentation. However, you can have the best of both worlds but having a documentation waterfall, that is relatively limited documentation at the time of release followed by a steady stream of support documentation over the following weeks.

Great Announcement Content

While many firms put a whole heap of spin into their pre-sales marketing they often do not put anywhere near the same effort into their release announcements. Make sure you have great announcement content, and try to satisfy the customers needs. A good guide is to imagine one of your sales reps using the documentation as a means of showcasing your firm’s abilities, it has to be to that level.

Cross-functional Team

Finally, you need to have a cross-functional team so that everyone knows what is going on across the board. You cannot have a siloed workplace, they need to be communicating across the various teams. That way you can be sure that everyone will be aware of where the rest are at and the release will roll out smoothly.

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