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Thoughts on Software Support and Development Engineer supporting a Product

Supporting SaaS I’ve felt confusion about about what I’m supporting — is it a product or a service? The answer is that if its sold as a product then it is product and the sales, support, and customer must all treat it as such.

I ask a SaaS salesperson what they are selling. They say they are selling a product. They sell the following products: “(A) solution” “(a) platform” “(an) experience”, “(an) access”.

I do subscribe to the idea that people are willing to buy a product, not pay for a service. This view makes it smart to sell something as a product. When supporting something, it should be supported as it was sold, so therefore it should also be supported as a product.

Making a comparison to food service. At my local premium coffee chain store I buy a coffee. But I’m really paying for the service of brewing, serving and selling me hot coffee in a cup and the polite service and attention. But in my mind I think I’m just buying “a coffee”. In other words I’m paying for the premium service but I think I’m paying for “a coffee” — a product.

So with SaaS the customer in their mind is buying “a platform” but they are really paying for a delivery service and data hosting and service availability etc etc.

Anyway I have to support what I, what my company, sells. If I sell the following “products”: “(A) solution” “(a) platform” “(an) experience”, “(an) access”, then I have to support these.

Here’s where confusion can creep back in. None of the four above mentioned are a single thing that can be pointed to with one’s finger. SaaS is a system of networked software and hardware. So I need to support this system of networked software and hardware, of which I have direct access to only portions of it. I need to ask my DevOps colleagues for help to access the other portions of it for me, to fix it for me.

Furthermore if my salesperson at any time advertises/sells my product as a service “…you don’t have to worry about infrastructure, we host everything in the cloud…”, then that plants the seed for the customer to later approach me to support the product as a service.

Supporting an application that was installed from an install CD onto the customer’s own computer/server is different. I supported such a software, along with a printer and barcode scanner that I (my company) sold. More of the pieces were owned by the customer. The customer could only get updates by either us sending them a new CD or by downloading the installers from a download link that we sent them in an email. (no option for automatic download and update was available)

It was clear that the customer owned the entire solution on premises. It was more clear that they were responsible for using, operating and supporting it themselves because they owned the entire solution– the hardware pieces and all of the software pieces (including database and server) were all on their own premises.

Circling back again to Saas — I have supported SaaS. The idea comes in that I (my company) is seen as owning part of the solution. I (my company) control the service and the data and the database. If there is any connection trouble to the service or the data or the database, it appears to the user that they don’t own the solution. The instant they can’t access the service they realize a feeling that this isn’t a product that they own.

What’s the bottom line? I need to support the solution as a product. As a solution. As a platform. I need to keep the “ownership” of the solution/product/platform *on the customer*. I can do my all to support the customer using this, the product/solution/platform that they own, but fundamentally I must support it as a product.

Why? for my sanity. And my company is selling it that way. They bought it so they own it. For an instance of (a subscription to) SaaS that is sold as a product, then it is a product, and the sales, support, and customer must all treat it as such.

Edit: This post was previously published at: w̶i̶e̶l̶d̶l̶i̶n̶u̶x̶.̶c̶o̶m̶/2016-05-12-support-software-as-product.php
[2019 edit: Moved to: https://investorworker.com/2016/... .html.]