What Pain-Killer Is Your Product?

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Let's say this: there are no magic bullets. They simply do not exist.

Nonetheless, your product may eliminate some, even some important, areas of pain from a customer.

William Mougayar, an excellent curator and writer from StartupManagement.org, writes how even in the Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) world, enterprise products can be complex to use and, indeed, should take time to fully entrench itself into business processes. Business processes are complex and slow to change; once you are in, it will take a very long time until they become displaced.

I believe that the purveyors of SaaS products confused two different types of pain caused by enterprise software: usage and deployment.

  • Usage: the difficulty of learning to use a new product, work it into processes or change processes to adapt to the product.
  • Deployment: the difficulty of scaling the product, buying new servers and network components, ordering processes, capital budget for hardware, capital budget for the software, budget cycles, new system admins, new software managers, hiring and training cycles for those people, etc.

SaaS, per se, only addresses the deployment pain. It converts capex into opex, it eliminates the need for servers, scaling them, dealing with purchasing and data centre management, hiring system admins and software admins, all of the deployment (as well as management) pain.

SaaS does not begin to address the usage pain. Yes, the "consumerization" of IT brings consumer-scale design practices and workflows to enterprise IT, which somewhat mitigates the usage pain, but that is not a SaaS question - it is as true for on-premise as for SaaS solutions.

Ease-of-use is not a SaaS advantage per se, and while it should be pursued in SaaS offerings as much as in on-premise offerings, it is not a material competitive advantage of SaaS. Ease-of-deployment is a SaaS advantage per se, it is the essential SaaS advantage, and one that should be pursued.

Always know what pain your product kills.