Year-long product cycles take the joy out of software development and leave customers on hold. At Saviynt, the speed of success is the speed of delivery.
A common discussion you might overhear at Saviynt Labs is, “What’s the primary function of a software team?”
It’s difficult to argue with “building the highest value software with market-leading capabilities.” Most teams work hard to build metrics, review designs, analyze code, focus on security, and get every bit and byte right.
But what if that software doesn’t get to the customers in a timely fashion? What if the cycle from build to use is months or even years? Is it success to build the best possible software, without adding “…AND get to our customers as quickly as possible”?
At Saviynt Labs, we own the development, delivery and support of Saviynt SaaS solutions. We’ve been busy bees spending ages tweaking the user experience so it was just right for all customer segments; we were building and rebuilding widgets and icons, interactive designs, and ensuring cross-company enablement—and all this time, the software sat in clean, unopened packages, waiting for delivery.
When you have paying customers and business-critical processes aligned to your software, the only shortcut you can’t take is quality. All else should be optimized for speed of delivery. We don’t make perfect software; our customers help us make perfect software. But they can’t do that if they’re always waiting for it to show up.
We pivoted to delivery and quality over long development cycles for obscure fat features. The strategy of incremental development over the last year has brought our customers to the center of our product development process. Focusing on the customer made it easy to revolutionize our processes and culture: “It ain’t software if it ain’t in use!”
Remembering Why We Have SaaS In The First Place
It all started when the Saviynt Labs team was in a weeklong planning meeting for a major release. We were juggling features, user experiences, customer requests, product priorities, sales goals, and roadmaps. Spice to this brew came from the C-Suite’s all-knowing execs, veteran consultants, and even our office manager who was helping with release planning (instead of lunch for all who had braved COVID and returned to the office). The only missing item was an astrologer to pinpoint the date and time of the rebirth!
We were looking down the barrel of twelve-month product cycles, major and minor releases, acceptance testing, and all things that make large bureaucracies successful. The mind-numbing release planning had wrestled all joy out of the amazing software we had produced over months of hard work. Buzzkill.
We went back to basics. After all, the best experiences we ever shared with our customers were when we built software in the morning, showed it at lunch, and gave it to our customers before going home. It was all about customers sharing the problem > developers solving the problem. This equation guaranteed satisfied customers and celebratory margaritas at the end of each work day.
Isn’t that why customers buy SaaS in the first place? Is it even possible to say “as a service” when the service may show up months later? That would be software as a disservice!
We are not in that business. At Saviynt, we have one clear goal: Solve customers’ problems right here, right now. To make that happen, it was clear that we needed new organizational structures, skills, some new people, new tools, and most of all: a new mindset. To have any shot at success, we had to show progress quickly before the corporate risk manager crushed the dream.
We agreed to deploy our next release in 30 days. In fact, we thought we should plan to deploy a release every 30 days. This was the birth of the RealTime SaaS Initiative.
The engineers loved it, they were tired of the demoralizing fatigue that comes from long release cycles. The customers loved it: they had a predictable cycle and knew when to expect software. The bosses loved it; even if it took twice as long, it would still be a 60-day release!
The organizational leaders, however, had a coronary. And rightly so.
“Customers will never take a release every 30 days!”… “No one likes change!”… “Tech support, partners, and implementers have to be trained BEFORE a release!”…“Documentation will never be ready!”… “What about training classes and course materials?”… “OMG testing can never be done on a 30-day cycle!”
We needed to solve all those problems and we needed to solve them quickly before this idea was destroyed by the weight of history—the “this-is-not-how-we-do-things-here” kind of history.
We organized our resources to start and end together. A sprint to the finish line. Each team planned, built, tested, documented, released, deployed, trained, and supported on the same schedule. Incremental development has the benefit of “only so much can change; only so much needs to be designed, tested, documented, marketed, trained and released.” To break the silos we were in, we moved all the product lifecycle organizations under one umbrella. This way, they all had the same goal and we all failed or succeeded together.
Robust Requirements Lead To Great Software
The first release was a handful of defect fixes. We’ve always believed that quality starts with simplicity and clarity. And the key to success is good product management, so from day 1 we needed to ensure that our:
- CI/CD pipeline was automated and seamless.
- Parallel workstreams were easily seen and understood, and
- Our scope was clearly defined to everyone in all product development and supporting functions.
Our work isn’t done: there is more automation to be done of infinitely complex and broad use cases, and ultimately, we want to build and release on the same day. But it has had an amazing start. My current favorite is seamless upgrades – standup the next version side by side to the current version. Let the customer decide which version is better.
Change isn’t just inevitable—it’s essential. But with software delivery, the pace of that change is crucial. The speed of success is the speed of delivery. Saviynt Labs’ shift to shorter release cycles underlines our commitment to bringing solutions to our customers when they need them, not when it’s convenient for us. SaaS is all about Here and Now. But If you don’t think big, there’s no chance of accidentally getting there.
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