The dilemma of customer feedback/product management in the world of software development has always been a peculiar, and at times, vain relationship between vendors and their customers. As this ecommercetimes.com article highlights, traditional, on-premise environments left vendors far removed from customers and feedback on additional functionality.
While the SaaS model does present advantages in that the vendor is hosting the data, and thus, “closer” to the customer, I disagree with the notion that simple hosting the software “intricately ties” the vendor to end-users. Early SaaS adaptors faced nearly all of the same dilemmas that legacy, on-premise customers faced, including inability to customize, lack of product control and direction, etc. In short, a proprietary model is a proprietary model, regardless of the service delivery.
The irony to all of this of course is open source development models and communities are helping to buck these trends, not just in terms of product feedback, but also in terms of additional functionality by leveraging communities and developers as “3rd party vendors” that bring added functions to market faster than we ever could.
Moving forward, cloud computing will only underline the importance of community-based development. In a commercial open source model, the “volunteer” nature of community development can be supplemented by continued assistance and documented successes by vendors.
So if one of the major aspects of cloud computing is to enable faster, cheaper innovation when it comes to software, why not leverage developers via open, cloud-based platforms to build new and innovative applications from scratch. And just as I expect this will become a cornerstone of cloud computing, I expect we’ll continue to see such trends infuse the world of on-premise and SaaS deployment models.