Category Archives: Software Pricing

Why (Direct) Democracy is bad for Software Products

It seems that more and more software vendors rely on user feedback tools and forums (such as UserVoice, which I mentioned in a previous post). The thought, in many cases, is that user votes can drive the product development roadmap in a way that resembles democratic elections: the more users vote for a feature, the faster it gets addressed. Some tools even allocate a limited amount of tokens for users and let them distribute the tokens across feature requests.

This thought process quickly translates to communication with customers. For example, at Webcollage we recently evaluated a software product for our development organization. We quickly noticed that the product did not work in our environment, and contacted the vendor. The response we got was:

“This functionality is not supported in [Product Name] at the moment. However, you can add this suggestion on our forum at [URL].”

A few months ago we received a more annoying response from an otherwise respectable vendor, whose software (during our evaluation) did not work as expected in Internet Explorer 8:

“It looks as though we also do not recommend the use of Internet Explorer 8 and under with [Product Name] in general. If IE8 is a requirement for your development team(s), please be sure to comment on and vote up the issue I’ve linked above. Please let us know if you have any other questions.”

Such a response misses the mark in almost every possible way, from customer relationship management (if a customer is evaluating your software, do you really expect them to take the time to vote up bugs?) through product positioning and documentation (you either support Internet Explorer 8 or not; if you do—please fix issues; if you don’t, that’s fine—don’t include it in the list of supported browsers), product planning (are you really relying on frustrated customers to drive your browser support strategy?), through simple business sense (do you really count feedback from all customers in the same way, regardless of their level of use of your software, level of savvy and their business potential?).

It seems to me that this approach is derived from fundamental lack of understanding of democracy, and why direct democracy hasn’t survived.

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How SaaS and Agile Software Development coevolve as a disruptive innovation

Agile Software Development is continuously gaining momentum in the last decade since the introduction of the Agile Manifesto in 2001. Software-as-a-service (and cloud-based web applications in general) is also gaining momentum in the last decade, roughly during the same period. Is this a coincidence?

Time and again, the technology landscape exhibits parallel fast advancement of synergetic technologies and methodologies.

For example, in the late 90’s, my colleague Elan Dekel has started a company called EarthNoise, offering a video sharing website. Sounds familiar? In 1995, a company called YouTube was founded with a similar idea. It was acquired in 2006 by Google for $1.65b. EarthNoise, on the other hand, went out of business as early as 2001. In the four years that passed, broadband internet access became popular, and so did digital video cameras. The three areas—video sharing, digital cameras and broadband internet—evolved hand in hand to create a new phenomena—user generated video on the web. The ability and desire to share videos online drove increased adoption of broadband internet and digital video cameras (and yielded brand new products such as the now-defunct Flip). The increased consumer demand for broadband and cameras drove down prices and accelerated technology advancement. This in turn increased adoption of video sharing sites. Now, video sharing sites are an inseparable part of our lives.

Arguably, the success of the iPhone is—similarly—largely due to technologies that co-evolve with smartphone advancement: 3G connectivity, Wi-Fi connectivity, touchscreen technology, low-consumption processors and—at least to a certain degree—HTML5.

I would assert that software-as-a-service and agile development methodologies are likewise coevolving and drive each other’s adoption. It may not be obvious, but this creates a spiral effect (or—in Geoffrey Moore’s terms—a tornado) of disruptive innovation that will eventually displace many of the software development paradigms.

Here’s why.

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SaaS Product Planning and System-Related Product Enhancements

Earlier this week I reviewed the short-term product plan with the development team as part of my day-to-day product management role.

One product enhancement on the list was a bit unusual. This enhancement was nothing but installing a standard OS component on our production machines. Why would such a change—operational, operating system related—even appear on the product plan, as tactical as this plan may have been?

It turns out that when we originally added this change request, engineering recommended running a short regression QA cycle to ensure the change would not have an adverse effect. Hence, we figured it should be prioritized vis-à-vis other product enhancement. As such, this change was also bundled into a product release.

While this anecdote may be an exception rather than the norm, we did consciously decide a while back to incorporate product enhancements that are traditionally classified as “system”, “IT” or “operations” into the product plan. This wasn’t obvious, because product plans for on-premises software (where we all grew up) don’t normally deal with these types of product enhancements.

Here’s why this is works well, and why this is part of SaaS product planning:

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