Venture Appitalists

June 13, 2011

I wanted to call out a recent article by Tim Buntel. I thought it was particularly interesting given conversations I had last week at Atlassian Summit. From discussions last week I learned that customers love the idea of SaaS, but the software isn’t there to support them yet – they still need integration with X, they need feature Y, and so on.

We need some Venture Appitalists is a great approach to bespoke software development where the VA – Tim coined the term – charges a monthly fee (Operating Expense for the customer) for the software. This monthly fee, per user if you like, includes the development and the hosting. It is an all in one fee for a SaaS application. The VA locks in the customer, the PaaS or IaaS hosting costs and wears the development cost.

My question is, when is the software delivered? Can we deliver the software in an agile fashion?

If the customer signs on Day 1 then they expect the service from Day 1. Of course our VA is wearing the cost of development but they are unlikely to start developing a bespoke application until the customer has signed the contract. So, that means it is Day 1 ++ until the software is actually delivered. Do we give a discount for all of the days the customer awaits for the value?

If we were to look at this from an agile development perspective we would deliver the highest value (to the customer) feature first. We continue to deliver value over the course of the year, and into the future as the needs of the customer evolve. We can begin selling the same bespoke application as a SaaS to other companies from Day 1. Does that then change what the highest value feature is?

All in all I reckon it is a compelling approach. I think from an agile development perspective you would require a sprint zero or similar to be completed prior to signing the contract to hit the ground running and get value to the customer quickly. Of course in traditional bespoke software development the customer is likely looking at a similar delivery timeframe. However in this scenario we are coupling agile development with agile delivery.

I like it.