Fight for the Users

Joel ConfinoNews

Kevin Flynn: Who’s that guy?
Warrior #1: That’s Tron. He fights for the Users.
Tron (1982)

I don’t want to buy a giant product suite, because I won’t use most of the features and all of the extra features make it harder to learn how to use. I want to select the features I need à la carte, and create my own product that works exactly the way I want to without having to build it myself from scratch.  I don’t want to install it, upgrade it, babysit it, feed it — I just want it to work. I don’t want to be constrained to a single vendor: I want to be able to select the best-of-breed solution for each individual feature I need. And I don’t even want just software-as-a-service e.g. hosted software. I want individual features that I can combine. I want feature-as-a-service, and I’m guessing I’m not alone. I’ll define Feature-as-a-Service as software that is:

  1. Focused: Software that is narrowly focused to solve a specific problem vs general purpose product with tons of features
  2. Low Friction Composable: Has an open web-based API,  preferably REST and JS, which is what allows it to be easily integrated into other applications.  I mention the “low friction” part because good feature-as-a-service products allow you to integrate them in a matter of hours not the months or years that a typical “enterprise” software package takes to integrate.
  3. Hosted: Hosted software is the “service” part.  I don’t have to build it, maintain it or run it.  It is either free or I rent it (subscription).

All that is great, but can you do this today or is this one of those pipe dreams that might happen in 10 years like flying cars?  It is definitely happening today, but we are the cusp of a what I think will be a much larger wave of change as more and more products are really built as features that can be combined together.

Let me give you an example.  I love Trello which a beautiful tool for managing lists of things.  The Haydle team uses Trello for managing projects, lists of things to discuss in meetings, and simple task management.  We also use Zoho CRM as a customer database.  Trello has a beautiful user interface that allows me to quickly see everyone I need to contact on one screen.  Zoho CRM has an ugly user interface but allows you to store thousands of contacts and lots of data about them.  Manually copying information between the two of them is painful.

I really want to marry the two together: Trello on the front end and Zoho CRM behind the scenes as the database.  Because both Trello and Zoho CRM both have the qualities of a feature-as-a-service — focused, low friction composable, hosted — I can have things I enter into Trello flow into Zoho automatically with minimal integration effort.  Or into Dropbox or Evernote or Asana or Google Drive or other feature-as-a-service products.  Services like Zapier are acting as the glue layer between features-as-a-service allowing you to combine them without doing any coding which is really interested.

There are currently more consumer-oriented features-as-a-service, but I think this trend is coming to business software as well.  Instead of a traditional “big upfront” software purchase of millions of dollars, companies are buying software subscriptions where it is pay as you go.  Instead of buying a giant suite of products, you can just buy the features you need and combine them in a way that is optimal for your organization.  That is the philosophy behind our product Haydle.  Does information in your organization get lost in email and stuck in people’s heads where it isn’t easy to find?  Then plug Haydle, a powerful question and answer system, into your existing intranet or wiki or chat application.  It is a feature-as-a-service: hosted, easy to integrate, and does one thing really, really well: gets you the right answer quickly.

If you could build the perfect software product for your needs, what would it look like?  You shouldn’t have to keep using “least common denominator” software aimed at the masses.  Personalize your software by combining feature-as-a-service products to build the solution that works the way you want it to vs forcing you into a workflow that is awkward.  You use software not the other way around.