Yesterday morning as I was getting ready to leave for work, my husband came into the kitchen, iPhone in hand, and said to me, "Updater!"
"So many updates - what are you doing?"
All he knew was that overnight, "something changed," and now he was seeing updates he'd never seen before - activity from my Delicious, Twitter, LinkedIn, Youtube, and Flickr accounts, as well as posts to this blog. Turns out he was talking about the New Facebook, though he didn't know it. I hadn't changed my level of activity, or considered any of this activity to be a secret, but when it was aggregated in one place and switched on overnight, the sheer volume of it was shocking to him. That morning, the phrase "web 2.0" was introduced in our household, spawning a dialogue about the demise of face-to-face interaction and local community (his angle) and the human drive toward (and tremendous advantages to be reaped from) sharing and learning through networks (mine).
The destruction/evolution of our society aside, this conversation seemed significant to me because it was such a powerful example of the way the software-as-a-service model which we're adopting more and more can deliver some pretty disruptive punches.
The online apps we use all the time release updates often with no warning; we might wake up to a different interface than we used the night before, or an unwanted new feature (the Twitter "Hot Political Topics" bar, anyone?), or more radical changes if the app went from beta to the next numbered version. For the developers, it's all about improvement; but for human end-users, change usually isn't comfortable.
That's one thing if the agreement is between an individual and a provider, and the service is free. At the enterprise level, it's another. The upsides and downsides of SaaS are much discussed, but mostly the discussion centers around economics, flexibility/scalability, and security. I haven't found a lot of consideration given to the need many user communities have for communication, marketing, training, and overall hand-holding as software evolves, and how likely (or unlikely) the SaaS providers are to handle this need.
Do you have a Software-as-a-service story to share on this subject? I'd love to hear it.
Props to my colleague Mike G. for planting the seed that grew into this post.