Monday, November 30, 2009

Sealed with a loving kick

Software is unreliable. And it doesn't respond to the traditional approach for fixing mechanical issues - the proverbial "leather hammer". Worse still, it is easily thrown off balance by a simple change. A tweak here, an addition there, can appear to make things work in more exciting ways, though fundamentally put the whole system at risk. No warning sounds, no new clicking or grinding, just a sudden catastrophic failure.

The positive side of software is that the more that it runs, being pushed and pulled in new and unexpected ways by untrained testers (aka end-users), the more faults are found and subsequently ironed out. The problem for enterprise software vendors is that this really only happens after the software release, since beta testing is all very well, but it just delays the next round of killer functionality hitting the market and being saleable. And without that functionality being available now, how can the poor salesman be expected to hit his or her quarterly target. The reality is that software testing gets in the way of software license revenue.

This is where a software as a service (SaaS) model shows a huge benefit. Customers who are willing to take a little risk and use beta functionality can see the advantages of that functionality early, with a quick and easy rollback to the standard stuff if things start to get a little too hairy (no new installation required). The SaaS vendor can limit the availability of new functionality to just a subset of use cases it offers, while customers with different individual usages of the functionality test it in ways never considered by the designers.

With SaaS, the software that hits the masses is subsequently better tested than most enterprise software could ever dream of. There is no advantage to 'kicking' software to get it to work, but SaaS allows the next best thing - a constant prodding, poking and stretching by many people, ensuring the reliability of the software for everyone.

A post from the Improving It blog

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