Diminishing returns

Many moons ago, the tech sector would gel around a big product launch, like the next version of Windows. But in the era of over-the-air (OTA) continuous updates, especially on smartphones, there is far less of a hoo-ha.

With cloud-based enterprise software, publishers generally make grand announcements unveiling what’s going to be new in the “Fall Release”. More often than not, the people who actually use the software, will not even bother looking at the new features. It’s the old 80:20 rule, except the ratio is now reversed. Today, most people are probably only using 20% of what the software promises.

At its recent Adobe Max event, Adobe showcased some new and exciting features that are being added to its Creative Cloud (CC) suite. But it is preaching to the converted. Customers who already have a subscription to CC will continue to renew. It is more than likely that, given the current economic climate, they would prefer to see a genuine price reduction on their subscription rather than more features, which they’ll probably never bother using.

Software publishers clearly need to remain competitive in the world of SaaS. But going down the route of making the product more and more complex, is just a recipe for cloud-based shelfware, creating an ever-growing legacy of code they then need to maintain. Maybe this is the real reason they can’t lower SaaS subscription charges: they simply cannot afford to do so due to the volume of code they need to manage. Perhaps a better alternative would be to split the new features into core essential improvements to the base application and value added chargeable “plug-ins”, to cater for the 20% of customers who actually need the new features.

Investor relations

Investors will, in part, make decisions about the publicly listed companies they back, based on what the company announces during investor presentations and earnings calls, where phrases concerning “digital” or “AI” are strategically placed for the most impact. From a software development perspective, these announcements are precursors to mini big bang rollouts. While they may well have an uber agile continuous software development and deployment process, IT teams need to work to the deadlines set by the company’s chiefs.

Being innovative through software usually goes hand-in-hand with agile methodologies, something borrowed from the software industry, which has enabled software publishers to innovate on a continued basis, adding new functionality.

There’s plenty of best practices we can learn from the software industry, but as enterprises grapple with the likes of digitisation and AI, IT leaders need to be extremely cautious of continuous product innovation, especially if this is just about adding software functionality to match the buzzwords uttered by the CEO.

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