Services versus Products and Stuff in between

For software entrepreneurs, there is an epic struggle as to whether software is a service or a product. To the untrained user eye, it’s a product with the expectation of service.

I have a theory. Software applications are for all intents and purposes automated processes. They perform information “work” in much the same way a power saw simplifies cutting. That said, information changes, so the machinery has to change with it. Well, until software writes itself, you need a human to change the applications. If the application comes from a vendor, this is the service part.

So this introduces several challenges. You now have a software lifecycle that churns out bug fixes, patches, and feature updates. You may also face implementation needs such as integration, data migration, etc. that are unique to every customer.

Then there are the expert human-to-buying human exchanges: professional services, consultants, trainers, customer service, product managers/marketing (feature requests). This is where the once secluded software package that was code living in your hard drive begins to need the support of a company.

I think this is also where software entrepreneurs tend to slip their grip most, because suddenly they are not only architects of a software product, but of an entire operation to support it. The problems you are no longer trying to solve involve pointers and memory issues, they involve the real world and incorporate business acumen, human emotion, and competing intentions.

You may end up with a small vocal minority and a large passive majority. In fact, it is almost always the case. So rather than doing what you can for the greater good, you succumb to the loudmouth for your next release. And in your head, you’re thinking, “well, better a loudmouth than a bad mouth.” And sadly, you may be right.

But if you can ever do so, you need to sneak in improvements that no one has asked for because you know it will make your product better. Let your infrastructure and operations deal with the complainers. That’s why you hire them.

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