Product Management – SaaS vs Traditional Software

Mark Kromer at TechProdo blog recently wrote a nice blog post titled SaaS Product Management: Is there a difference?

In his post Mark poses the interesting question (applicable to a lot of product managers):

I was wondering what differences I would find in my role as a product manager if the products that I was managing moved to the software-as-a-service model…

As our company makes a popular SaaS tool for product management teams, we have good first-hand experience in this – and I’d like to share my thoughts here.

My short answer to Mark’s question is…
There’s NO significant difference – in doing product management for SaaS as opposed to “Traditional” software.

That said – there are some things that become even more important to do well in a SaaS model. Here’s my short list…

SaaS Emphasizes These 3 Things Even More

When a company employs SaaS model, like we do at Accompa – we have to earn the customer’s business again and again every month or quarter (or other time period, usually no longer than 1 year).

Plus, the release cycles tend to be much shorter – i.e. SaaS apps have much more frequent releases.

As a result, the following 3 things become even more important for PMs of SaaS apps:

  1. Understand REAL Needs and Meet Them
    • As product managers, we need to understand real customer needs and meet them well. We’ve got to make sure the features we’re designing meet real needs that real customers will pay real money for!
    • Tom Grant talks about the pitfalls of not doing this in his recent blog post.
  2. Focus on Ease-of-Use
    • If your SaaS software is not easy-to-use, users will pretty soon stop using it. It will become shelfware, which means customers are less likely to renew – and your company will lose recurring revenue base.
    • Product managers should take initiative to learn about UI design and interaction design – and work closely with UI designers to ensure their software is as easy-to-use as possible.
  3. Eliminate Wasteful Activities
    • SaaS products usually have faster release cycles. This makes it imperative for product managers to focus on value-adding activities and eliminate wasteful activities.
    • For example – I consider spending a lot of time on abstract stuff like Personas to be quite wasteful.

I consider all of these to be very important points for traditional software too – but I feel many companies do not emphasize them enough. At Accompa, being a SaaS company, we emphasize these points a lot – they’re an important driving force behind our product management activities.

Editor’s Note:
Interested in an affordable, enterprise-quality software to help you manage requirements in a better way? Check out FREE 30-Day trial of Accompa or Sign Up for a Demo.

Michael Shrivathsan

I'm your author, Michael Shrivathsan, an expert in product management with successful experience at several innovative companies in Silicon Valley, USA over the past two decades. I'm also a USPTO patent recipient. For my day job, I'm the VP of Product Management at Accompa, we make the popular requirements management software used by Product Management, Business Analysis, and related teams.

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