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The Journey of a Product to Become a Service

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The Journey of a Product to Become a Service

See how products have evolved into services over time and the effect its had on the software world.

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Hi, I'm Harry, a new product.

I hope I'm still human. I look like one. I sound like one, and I suppose I still technically am one. I'm the product of my parents. They raised me. Sure, I deviated and pivoted like all newborns, and I eventually found my way into society — as a product.

In 2006, Like everyone out there, I had education, training, and then ventured into the working world — into offices (physical ones, mind you). We had a server room that made more noise than a Boeing 747. Whenever something failed, we'd walk over to the IT administrator (or MIS) and tap them on the shoulder. "Hey, our task tracker doesn't work. I can't seem to lodge my requests." I'd get told to wait 15 minutes, expect some magic, and all would be good again.

I remember when I started my first job. I saw a senior colleague, Tom, installing Oracle Database and was changing DVDs. It just had a very tangible, traditional, and warm feel to it.

What happened to the world?

Suddenly I could no longer see the piles of DVDs and Office (software) packaging around, and I no longer see these IT administrator colleagues. Where are they? What happened?

It's 2016 now. These days, instead of waiting for code to compile, we want software to download. Sometimes, I miss the physical media.

What was wrong with this business model?

It's mostly a result of outsourcing. Things are moving to the cloud. We, as a company, no longer need to manage things ourselves. It's shifted to a wholesale and centrally managed model. In essence, software as a service (SaaS) manages the maintenance, updates, and other work your old IT friend used to do. He's now out of a job. Poor Tom.

When a product becomes a service, what should we be aware of?

As a worker, I provide a support service, answering phone calls, replying to customers, and yes, I serve and only serve. I have a hotline and on-demand availability. I get home and my wife tells me she's been providing us a housekeeping service. Our child does community services.

I'm not sure what the world has become. My family used to sell elegant construction material. There were some great ceramic products, but the word product no longer exists — at work or at home. I don't open any products I buy from the shop. It's all delivered monthly as a service.

The industry has changed. It's been "revolutionized." We now have a lot of apps — phone apps that are subscription based. We have a lot of online subscription-based software that define themselves as services. To us, there are two major changes that are happening to the world:

  1. To SME: It brought awareness and a greater knowledge to the general public. Similarly, I do think SAAS has made the barrier of adoption easier for SME in general.

  2. To all business: The important thing that has changed, and for all businesses to be aware of, is shifted responsibilities. As a company, we no longer live in our own world. We don't have ultimate control of where the software is installed, who manages it, and how we configure it all. These are all in the hands of third parties. Life is made easier and more flexible, but at the same time, we need to be aware of the consequences and challenges involved. It's about a change and adapting to the change. Staff now call support — a different helpdesk per software and not someone that reports to your company. What are the SLAs of these services? Do they meet your business needs? What if they don’t?

In the end, everything has become a service. Life still goes on.

Very true, and I feel this is marketing and propaganda more than an innovation. Everything has become a service. We have:

  • Software As a Service, e.g. Salesforce.

  • Platform As a Service, e.g. Heroku.

  • Infrastructure As a Service, e.g. Amazon AWS.

And many other services.

Akin to the cloud movement, I don't agree that they've been major changes to the industry, but rather more marketing and buzzwords. Cloud existed way before our times in the form of virtualization. VMWare solutions have been around for many years and so have other open source technologies. Did the "cloud" bring something to the mass market? No.

Nowadays, what defines a product vs. a service? Most of the differences have been blurred over the years. Content and media are delivered digitally (read: online). What is the difference between paying for a product once (like DVDs) vs. monthly (like Netflix)? In the beginning, we just want to enjoy a great movie on Friday night, don't we?

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Topics:
it management ,saas ,product development ,sys admin ,sysadmin ,tech industry

Published at DZone with permission of Pocky Chen. See the original article here.

Opinions expressed by DZone contributors are their own.

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