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Archive for December, 2007

On Demand – Software as a Service (Saas) 101

December 28, 2007 Leave a comment

Some information I gathered from the web about SaaS

Insights:

  • Consumer applications can be done less expensively and get to market faster. The feature requirements, integration and customization requirements are also usually less demanding for consumer applications.
  • It takes 70% to 100% more capital to fund a SaaS company to a liquidity event than a traditional perpetual license company. It also takes 2 to 3 times longer to get there. However, NBVP believes the extra time and money is worth it and pays off in higher market cap values.
  • SaaS companies move faster than big companies. They can introduce new features instantly versus waiting for the next major release. Think years
  • Some companies are changing their sales compensation models and metrics to level the playing field. They might give quota credit for 24 to 36 months of the subscription and pay commissions as the revenue comes in. Or they might just pay commissions based on 18 to 24 months of subscriptions.

 Advantages

  • Fast time to value (days/weeks instead of months)
  • Ongoing free upgrades
  • Top-to-bottom support (how many times have you heard from an on-premise vendor “upgrade to our latest release” or “the issue is due to your customization”?)

Risks

  • Attrition – Stickiness – to easy/cheap to switch
  • Power outage

SaaS Maturity Levels (taken from Wikipedia)

  • The first level of maturity is similar to the traditional application service provider (ASP) model of software delivery, dating back to the 1990s. At this level, each customer has its own customized version of the hosted application, and runs its own instance of the application on the host’s servers.
  • At the second level of maturity, the vendor hosts a separate instance of the application for each customer (or tenant). Whereas in the first level each instance is individually customized for the tenant, at this level, all instances use the same code implementation, and the vendor meets customers’ needs by providing detailed configuration options that allow the customer to change how the application looks and behaves to its users.
  • At the third level of maturity, the vendor runs a single instance that serves every customer, with configurable metadata providing a unique user experience and feature set for each one. Authorization and security policies ensure that each customer’s data is kept separate from that of other customers; and, from the end user’s perspective, there is no indication that the application instance is being shared among multiple tenants. As multiple customers’ data share one instance at this level, one customer’s data can be logically/virtually separated from that of other customers. That is multiple customers’ data may be saved physically into same data file. However, through the virtualization of an application, one customer can never see another customer’s data.
  • At the fourth and final level of maturity, the vendor hosts multiple customers on a load-balanced farm of identical instances, with each customer’s data kept separate, and with configurable metadata providing a unique user experience and feature set for each customer. A SaaS IV system is scalable to an arbitrarily large number of customers, because the number of servers and instances on the back-end can be increased or decreased as necessary to match demand, without requiring additional re-architecting of the application, and changes or fixes can be rolled out to thousands of tenants as easily as a single tenant.

Examples:

Links

My two cents: strive to own and to enrich the customers’ system of record to ensure stickiness.

Categories: Method, Software

How to – project managment a la Web 2.0

December 27, 2007 3 comments

I see a place for a tool or multiple tools bringing some of the Web 2.0 style to software development project management. At this point we are still using the good (now old) wiki for collaboration and project status monitoring (through project dashboard).

Over the holiday I made an attempt to structure one; composing it from multiple pieces.

This is how the project dashboard looks like:

project-dashboard.jpg

 Components:

  1. Use Netvibe (or other feed aggregator tool) as a dashboard
  2. Use 37Signals, Basecamp the on-line tool for running projects (to-dos, milestones, file sharing, messages)
  3. Create project blog for adding information about the project

Web 1.0 compatibility:

  • I had an unresolved issue with feeding information to the development wiki (Atlassian Confluence) – authentication

Would be nice:

  • Add Twitter
    • Useful when working from home (or on the way if hooked to cell phone)
    • I can use it to write project log or some points for a weekly report
  • Facebook look and feel:
    • Share Webex presentation/demo recordings, UI mock-up
    • Wall to wall communication
    • Cause – running initiatives/objectives outside a project
    • Poking
    • Build tools to support
  • Ning  -I’m yet to try this but if I got it right then:
    • Create network per project/initiative
    • Manage both Inner circle and Outer circle – Inner: dev+QA+PM+Tech Writer, Outer: Tech Support, Services, Sales (and pre)

Probably the shortest way to get there is if 37Signals will Web 2.0 their Basecamp application or maybe Atlassian wiki will step up but I don’t really care I just want to interact with my little social software development network in the same way I do with my friends.

Categories: Method, Software

QA – Offshoring, OnDemand what’s next?

December 22, 2007 1 comment

When I need to learn how certain system works I start by investing some time at the lab with the QA team.

The best software knowledge and expertise lies in the mind of the testers. They end up being the best resources helping developers, tech support, services and other testers (and me). They spend so much time with the system, first trying to make it work, then using what that works to test other functional areas and then breaking it again till they become so intimate with the system that even the ones who built it looses in argument about how it really work (vs. how it should work).

As a development manager I include testers in any discussion from requirements anlaysis and throughout the entire project life cycle. Their input is invaluable and is helping to protect developers from getting in trouble. Btw, I don’t appreciate introverted testers.

The purpose for this preface is to  show my concern about how the business treats this function. Testing is expensive and even big investment in automation that is crucial for scaling development (across OS, web/app severs, locale and databases) does not eliminate the need for the human touch and feedback.

So far the corporate came with solutions such as off-shoring; exporting this effort to places where labor is cheaper or contracting to cap expenses. Now I learned of a new way to deal with the QA cost: uTest- On Demand (SaaS)testing service. This time exporting the system of record. uTest also plan to offer a new pay-per-bug service where two type of test engineers could contribute to the quality of a system and earn money: expert and others.

From my experience working with large enterprise software organization I learned that some protect themselves from new buggy versions of the product by running their own QA team building and executing full regression test suites that even include automation. I wonder if they end up trusting a (SMB) vendor that use this kind of service.

I like to have both people and methods close but we’ll have to wait and see which method prevail.

Categories: Method

Knowledge gain – week of 12/21/07 – mind work

December 22, 2007 Leave a comment
  • If you can abstract a problem raising it to a higher level you can find solution from different disciplines
  • “What if?” is a great way to start a brain storm discussion or just for getting the imagination working.
  • The first step for dealing with self constraints and presumption is to become aware of them.
    • The best way to raise awareness is through discussions or writing.
    • I’m still looking for more ways.
    • Asking why x n times can help getting to the root cause of why are we still doing this this way?
    • Process, system or communication break down is an opportunity that exposes fixation – learn from it
    • New manager, new team member, new workplace and any other change is another opportunity for self learning. 
  • I just read that Russia looses 100 people by the hour. Not sure where these people are going to but it made me think about countries in the same way I think about companies. Retention is a global problem in any level. You need to treat your people fairly, give them a sense of purpose and show good record of success because there are lots of competing option out there.
Categories: Method

Hot IPO – NetSuite

December 21, 2007 Leave a comment

The OnDemand market is soaring and folowing Salesforce.com a new CRM OnDemand(SaaS) company had a succesful (so far) IPO -NetSuite ticker simbol: N

One warning: this is not VMWare.

Categories: Software

DocZone – OnDemand XML content managment solution

December 20, 2007 2 comments

DocZone- XML-based environment as a SaaS solution

Advantages:

  • cost - tools ownership
  • cost – localization is expensive
  • Re-usability – XML format supporting both offline and online help

Functionality:

  • authoring
  • managing
  • reusing
  • localizing
  • publishing content

Risk

  • I hope that they have good backup plus code escrow service

This On Demand service make sense to me. This is an area that needs improvements and cost reduction.

Categories: Method, Software

Knowledge gain – week of 12/2/07 – VC

December 3, 2007 Leave a comment
Categories: Method, Software
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