Software is a Relationship, Not a Tool

When a company buys a software product or service, this should not be thought of as a traditional tool; frequently simple tools can be easily discarded and alternatives quickly adapted. Frequently software is much more than that.

Relationships require maintenance by all. Each party has expectations of performance: reliability, communication, responsiveness, etc. As these metrics deteriorate, the relationship goes to pot. No surprise here.

It seems that with software, one can simply buy the tool and use it without maintaining the relationship. After all, I own the license and I can do as I wish. Simple tools such as hammers, pots & pans and such assume a static world.

Don’t look now, but today’s information age is a bit more dynamic (just in case this is news.) In fact, almost everything changes: OS updates, security hacks, etc. Do you keep up or not?

Eventually, you will need to resurrect the relationship: “Hey, I need to update!” This can be exceedingly painful. You’ve forgotten (and not documented) details of the license purchase, installation & configuration instructions, how to integrate into your business, etc. Also, by now the tool as updated its feature set, interface, licensing, etc. Of course, due to a new OS update the tool that is 3 versionsĀ behind is useless and your release date is tomorrow.

Pretend your company sells software and maintenance is a significant revenue stream. You work hard to ensure customers are getting great value with each release; your sales team calls frequently to ensure the updates are implemented; support encourages updates; knowledge base articles document “end of life”. Now let’s reverse roles…

You have 15 systems to keep running, not including the OS’s, VM’s, network and backup power systems. Everybody and their cousin has an urgent update; all are seamless and require no pain to update; all are bug-free and guaranteed to not loose data; all have been vetted by top-shelf security scans to ensure no known software vulnerabilities. What is there to loose by a simple update? Perhaps new work-flow as system X dropped feature Y and sort of forgot to document it. Now some freaking little sales unit in Argentina is going nuclear!

One really good way to ensure you understand & appreciate your customers upgrade pain is to update your tools frequently. For every pain point, ensure your customers don’t experience the same. Note that over time, your team becomes very well versed at upgrading and now they can adapt to new features & technologies much more quickly. Also, they become much more in tune with the overall process flow of your business and improvements become more frequent.

You know that as your customers delay on upgrading, those costs to “repair” that relationship only increase with time, while losing the benefit gain they’ve been paying for. For both, it would be betterĀ to incrementally update as time goes along. The path will be much smoother, affording both to focus on value add.

Software is a Relationship, Not a Tool