SaaS companies constantly make improvements and develop new features (big and small) to enhance user experience and “keep up with the times” for each product. In turn, they’re optimizing their SaaS release management process each time. Or are they?
A good SaaS product is one that you design, but you let your users build based on pain points. Is your team constantly working on optimizing your process to make this possible?
Do you know what to focus on to do so?
This article discusses the four steps you must follow to optimize your SaaS release management process and how you can use Environment as a Service to your advantage.
How to Optimize the SaaS Release Management Process
Software as a Service (SaaS) release management is similar to the traditional release management cycle, focusing on code changes (upgrades, bug fixes, and enhancements) for cloud-based software apps. It requires the capacity to store, retrieve, and deploy software releases or builds.
Compared to traditional software release management, which requires distinct software versions for each different type of operating system or platform, SaaS release management deploys software releases to a single platform - the web. This greatly reduces the complexity and cost of traditional software release management and the workload for IT personnel.
SaaS product releases happen all the time, and below you’ll find four ways to optimize your SaaS release management process.
Do Your Research
Your final product is there to solve a problem or issue, so the process to get there needs to be smooth. The first step of that process is to do your research. Otherwise, you may fail, and all the resources, time, and effort you and your team spent on the project will go to waste. Plus, stakeholders and end-users will be disappointed. Focus on the following points:
> Research your target user - ask yourself who will be using the app and define things like their age, location, occupation, goals, motivations, and frustrations.
> Research the market needs - 42% of tech startups fail because there isn’t a market need for their product. You may form a small focus group of potential users to go over problems they’re currently experiencing to clearly define your goals and assess your product-market fit.
> Research the competition - get a sense of what other SaaS companies are doing and create benchmarks. Work on how your product release will differ from the competition.
Since product releases are so frequent for SaaS companies, a continuous research plan should be an integrated step of any process.
Have a Deployment Schedule
A deployment routine is probably what every dev team aspires to have, but business demands and the nature of the updates are always going to differ. While HTML and content changes are less important to push to the production (live) environment, app changes are critical. For app changes, consider using feature branches with schedules to re-branch to the master once changes are approved to eliminate conflicts with other changes in progress. This increases the team’s efficiency and adds clarity to the scheduling system.
Deployments can range anywhere from multiple times a day to once every few months, depending on the project. On an active project, deploying once or twice a week is a sweet spot for some teams. Regardless of the project you’re working on, you have a couple of options when it comes to releasing:
1. You may choose to roll out changes on a constant basis and set rules for fewer users to see that particular change (feature). A beta launch is a good idea in this case, which allows you to launch an imperfect version of your app to a smaller group of people. This has many benefits, including:
- allowing your team to analyze the results to plan for the next release by seeing how the app performs in a real-life situation
- helping you determine whether users find your product a good fit for solving their issues
- creating brand awareness for your product and generating buzz around it before launch (while still maintaining control over your environment).
2. You may work on releasing early and often. Waiting too long can work to your disadvantage and defeats the purpose of some hosted apps, for example. However, ensure you’re not confusing users with too many new (bad) feature changes every time they’re logged in.
For a comprehensive schedule, ask yourself the following questions:
> When will the market be ready for my product?
> When will my product be ready for the market?
> When will my team be prepared to deliver the product?
The answers to these (and other) questions allow you to create a product release schedule and focus on any marketing strategies following the launch.
Use Environment as a Service to Automate
When you use manual release management processes, you’re more likely to have poorer quality software and experience app downtime. Additionally, although you can use manual methods for configuration and deployment, it’s more expensive in terms of labor expenses and operational efficiency.
Conversely, through automation, you’ll have the tools necessary to deliver cloud-based software apps from the cloud services platform. Enter: Environment as a Service (EaaS), a scalable, cost-effective, all-in-one application environment. You’re able to automate your hard-to-scale, menial tasks, so your team can focus on what’s important.
Communication and Continuous Development
The steps above won’t have as significant of an impact if you’re not communicating with stakeholders about their expectations of an app and its features. By using an EaaS solution, you’re able to maintain open communication channels, making every step of the process visible to stakeholders, allowing for open and constant feedback.
Communication also allows you to continuously develop your product. You may implement the following steps for a successful SaaS product release:
> Product testing - get stakeholders to test the product release and gather feedback on the app’s compatibility, functionality, and user experience. Ensure you fix those issues, then test again with a focus group that will give you unbiased, constructive criticism.
> Analysis - analyzing your product’s use after release is critical to managing its success. Use monitoring tools to analyze users’ actions during onboarding.
>Implementation - once you ask for and receive user feedback at different points in the release process, implement it to improve your product and optimize future product releases.
Release the Power of EaaS
The How to Implement Release Management Efficiently article talks about how more frequent releases have created a need for automation and the ability to focus on an efficient release management process. The same thing applies to Saas release management processes, including doing your research, having a deployment schedule, and communication and continuous development.
Bunnyshell has an excellent EaaS solution, automating what you need while keeping all stakeholders in the loop. You’ll have massive speed increases, with cloud costs reduced up to 60%. It’s easy to use and will save you valuable time to allow you to focus on the details that matter most to continuously optimize your release management.
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