The majority of SaaS platform failures can be attributed to problems in three fundamental areas. Often, a deficiency, or even complete lack of product management is the culprit. In other instances, product management is there, but product development is weak.
But perhaps the most painful demise to witness is the one that comes from lack of business acumen, which commonly leads to death from an ever-building mountain of technicalities.
The good news is that if you know what to look for, these pitfalls can be avoided. Here are a few tips.
Put simply, the product management practice builds and maintains the product roadmap, the primary considerations of which are the needs of users, the available technology, budget, positioning, and revenue projections.
It’s important to understand that product management doesn’t stop at the end of product development. It’s intended to last beyond launch into post-launch iteration. The product management team must keep people (internal and external) abreast of what’s coming next. Otherwise, the team spends their time reacting to small and possibly insignificant events and possibly causing the product to deviate from its intended course.
SaaS product development begins with requirements and specifications and first initial build, but as Agile development processes dictate, a continuous release of features is really the most successful way to produce a customer-informed platform.
At launch, a user experience specialist should be listening carefully to user feedback as input to future features. Post-launch, quality managers will catalog feedback and suggest improvements to existing features. As new versions are released this process repeats itself.
While product development is the most common sense approach to driving a SaaS platform, many SaaS owners take the “if it ain’t broke, don't fix it” route - which I would not advise, as I’ve never seen anything short of continuous iterative improvement work out.
Product managers are the CEO for your product, technical leads are the CEO of your tech stack and user experience, then who’s the CEO of your business?
An operational plan helps ensure that you dedicate resources to ensuring that you are always on track towards your business objectives. Is funding in place? Payroll in good shape? Are we attending enough/the right events? Are future succession plans in place?
These things seem pretty obvious, but when your focus is developing a great product, the practicalities can get lost, so its important that these things be addressed, assigned, documented and managed.
If you have built a SaaS and experienced an imbalance of the above, I am sure that hindsight was 20-20 for you. The team at Metisentry has a wonderful talent for reviving old software businesses and growing SaaS revenue. Feel free to drop a line and share your experiences.