Dealing with “disposable software” for enterprises

With consumer SaaSes and mobile apps coming and going, I’ve been thinking of the idea of “disposable software”: apps that last a year or so, but aren’t guaranteed to last longer. In the consumer space, there’s rarely been a guarantee that free software will last – that’s part of the “price” you pay for free.

This mentality is getting into business software more and more, however, and I don’t think “enterprises” are prepared for it. Part of the premium you pay for enterprise software should include the guarantee that it will have a longer life-cycle, but it’s worth asking if it does.

Also, it’s good for enterprises to be aware of vendors, particularly open source driven ones, are putting out code that might be “disposable.” The prevailing product management think nowadays encourages experimenting and trying things out: abandoning “failed” experiments and continuing successful ones. Clearly, if you’re a “normal” enterprise, you want to avoid those failed experiments and, at best, properly control and govern your use of them.

Of course, there are trade-offs:

  • With consumer, experiment-driven software, you’re always getting the newest thinking, which might turn out to be a good idea and provide your business with differentiating, “secret sauce”; or it might be a failed experiment that gets canceled
  • With “enterprise,” stable software you can generally count on it existing and being supported next year; but you’ll often be behind the curve on innovation, meaning you’ll have to layer on the “secret sauce” on your own.

It’s good to engage with both types of strategies, you just have manage the approach to hedge the risks of each.

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