Software is Hard: Episode 4,901

I don’t care what software you build or how you deploy it, the lessons and pitfalls described by Jason Fried in this post apply to you:

SaaS: Change starts easy and then gets really hard

Definitely worth a full read, but here’s a key nugget:

In the traditional software world, new releases were bundled up into distinct versions. And it was up to the customer if they wanted to upgrade or not. If they didn’t like the opinions of the new version, they could stick with the old, familiar version. If the new version didn’t solve any new problems they had, they could keep using the version they already had.

Not so with SaaS. When updates are deployed, they’re deployed instantly for everyone. That’s not always the case – sometimes you phase in a release – but for the most part the end game is the same: This is new and it’s making its way into the product. This means customers often don’t get the chance to opt out of changes in the SaaS world.

. . .

This is why change gets really hard as a SaaS product matures. Existing customer expectations are some of the strongest forces pushing back at a company with new ideas.

Even the best software, some might argue iOS or OS X fits this claim, is not immune. To make good software, you have to break some eggs. Or something.

Find the comments.




  1. Similar example recently, the release of FF 10 isn’t compatible with OBIEE. That upset quite a few people at one of the clients. We had to tell them to go back and use IE. Wow.

    Didn’t Mozilla make a decision recently to update early and often and turn on automatic updating by default? Can’t seem to find the article, but I remember reading it (probably posted by you). 

  2. But traditional on-premise software doesn’t really leave the upgrade choice to the customer.  Enterprise software often requires upgrades to maintain supportability.  My iPad is still on iOS 4.x (mainly because I am lazy/busy) and it’s becoming difficult to stay on that level because more and more software requires iOS5 — the “Update all” doesn’t work anymore.

  3. Yes, Mozilla switched to a rapid release cycle for Firefox. 

    Interesting challenge for enterprise software vendors.

  4. Yeah, I’m not touching that one 🙂 I think by choice he means that you can stay on an older version for a while, losing features and support, but ultimately, you have to upgrade. No choice w SaaS, ever, just changes one day.

  5. So, yes Mozilla did switch to rapid release, and IT pros pitched a fit. Mozilla initially told them to pound sand (or equivalent), but they bowed to pressure and now have a long-term support release every so often.

    One thing you should know, you can find all old versions of Firefox on Mozilla’s FTP site, just Google it. You can run different versions concurrently, just make sure to create a new profile for each version and ensure the profile manager launches every time. I do this to ensure I’m looking at the exact thing users on old versions are, much easier than supporting older IE versions.

    Again, Google for details. 

  6. Also, you can find those older versions and install them on new profiles. Just ignore the updates to stay on whatever version you need.

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