Post by Ian Clarke, CTO Sage UK and Ireland
As somebody that heads up the R&D effort on Sage One in the UK, I believe that it’s important that we really engage with our customers as we build our software.
This can take many forms including:
- Surveys and customer visits to identify what features we should include.
- Sharing early ideas through story boards and mock-ups.
- Friendly customers trialling new services before we release to the full market.
- Observing customers using the service and looking at ways we can improve the usability of what we have built.
This is often called UCD, User Centric Design, and is a key part of how we approach software development at Sage.
However, in the world of SaaS, it’s much easier to respond to customer feedback and on Sage One we deploy a continuous delivery process that allows us to release frequent updates to our customers, typically on a two-week cycle.
This is only possible by automating our quality and deployment processes; we undertake a Test Driven Development approach, we have 100% test automation and have a fully automated deployment mechanism, underpinned by a strong change control process.
Getting things done
When you develop new propositions you have to decide when what you have done is ready for customer to use and when you can go to market. In the world of SaaS the concept of ‘Done is better than Perfect’ is something that I fully support.
I have no doubt that if services such as Facebook and Google waited for perfection, they would not have the market leadership positions they command today. Facebook, unknown to most of us, release updates to their services at very frequent intervals, often weekly.
Equally, take a look at companies like Kodak who, even though they pioneered early digital photography technology, failed to capture this opportunity and respond to the change in the customer demands.
There is a risk you don’t always get things correct, but with the continuous delivery process I mentioned earlier, it’s possible to respond quickly and resolve any customer feedback.
Getting real customer feedback is key and getting customer feedback from actual live users of the service is by far the best way to develop your proposition. So don’t wait for ‘Perfection’. ‘Done’ is good enough.