(Note: This article is part of the STORM™ methodology)
As I have mentioned in a previous post, I am working my way through writing a book on SaaS Service Operations. Using the web as a collaborative tool, I have decided to share my work, bit by bit (three chapters, so far) to test it within the community and get live feedback from those who matter, potentially those that would read and recommend it.
Following is the (draft) introduction chapter. I would dearly appreciate your feedback on content, style, typos, grammar and whether you might find such a book an interesting read.
My initial thoughts about the title are along the lines of 'Survival Guide' or 'A day in a SaaS Emergency Room'.
I am not fishing for compliments - it will beat the purpose, and yes, I can handle the truth.
Introduction – or Why am I Writing This Book.
Well, someone has to write it. Numerous words have been exhausted over the years on matters SaaS, but I have seen very little being written about SaaS Service Operations, and there are no books on this subject that I am aware of.
As SaaS is becoming mainstream, it has also become the most visible and mature service in the Cloud stack. Consumer expectations have elevated such that they are demanding fast response times and a service that delivers on the availability slogan of ‘anytime-anywhere’. These expectations do not refer only to the application; but also it is expected of the customer and professional services as well. SaaS companies often excel when it relates to the first ‘S’ of SaaS, i.e. Software, but fair quite poorly with regards to the second ‘S’ – Service.
What started as an experiment of the few and the brave, will soon become the major force in the software market, and what will differentiate one company from the rest is no longer the on-demand allure or the feature set, but the level of service it provides.
I am a war veteran in this respect and have many scars to parade. There are probably very few mistakes that I have not made. Being a descendant of Homo Sapiens Sapiens, I like to think of myself as one who has learned from his mistakes and taken steps to remedy them.
‘Operational Fatigue’ is a term I coined after the umpteenth time I was awoken in the wee hours of the morning to handle an outage that occurred yet once again, after having seemingly fixed the problem two weeks prior. I could have just as well created this phrase after the two hour scheduled downtime to upgrade the service. The upgrade turned into a nine hour nightmare that was finally resolved (a couple of minutes before our major customers started their workday) by some engineering heroics. As always, these were followed by heart wrenching phone calls to the CEOs of our customers to explain what went wrong (again) and why it would not repeat.
No wonder I grind my teeth at night.
Throughout my years of practice in this space I have discovered a number of traits across the industry:
- Most SaaS companies are structured and behave in a similar fashion
- Most SaaS companies lack the discipline, the tools and the practices to provide an efficient and effective service operation
- Most SaaS companies, therefore, end up paying the price of not meeting their SLAs, which leads to customer dissatisfaction, customer churn and ‘Operational Fatigue’
This book is divided into four sections:
- The first section introduces concepts about SaaS, the evolution of the market and why the model is here to stay. Enough has been written about the subject so I will stick to some of my observations without going into a long dissertation.
- The second section contains insights on service operations in an SaaS company. It includes various posts published on my blog (‘Dani’s Perspective on SaaS’), over the past year. It discusses typical SaaS operations, discipline, transparency, outsourcing in the Cloud, metrics, inter-department communications, etc.
- The third section covers Operational Support Systems that might or might not be supported by the product. They include: Billing, On-Boarding, De-provisioning, Integration, Retention Policy, Communication and more.
- The final section is instructional and lays out the principles of my adaptation of ITIL for SaaS Service Operations™ . It explains what ITIL is and why I chose ITIL as a basis for defining the practices of running an efficient and effective service operation. It covers six practices that I have developed and refined throughout the years at various companies with whom I worked either as an employee or as a consultant.
It is not complicated, it is not expensive, nor is there sorcery involved - it only requires awareness and leadership.