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Does Continuous Deployment Depict Customer Disatisfaction


Continuous deployment helps organizations in delivering high quality software fast through build, test and deployment automation. It gives earlier return on investment, earlier feedback and easy process of deployment. Is continuous deployment also good from business perspective?

Steve Blank, consulting associate professor at Stanford University, mentioned in his recent blog that from customer’s perspective, continuous deployment might mean dissatisfaction.

While continuous delivery is truly a better development process for engineering, it has profound impacts on a company’s business model and customer expectations.

He compared the waterfall delivery process of long release cycles with frequent continuous deliveries. Earlier while using waterfall, companies used to make product available in the market in some release versions. Companies’ revenue models were designed around the release cycles of waterfall engineering. In contrast to waterfall development, agile development delivers incremental and iterative changes on an ongoing basis, which impacts the revenue model as well. Companies can deliver product improvements via the cloud so that all customers get a better product over time.

Steve gave example of Adobe, which has now moved all products to the cloud and labeled them the Adobe Creative Cloud. Instead of paying for new products, customers now buy an annual subscription. It is good from the perspective of getting predictable annuity but not good from consumers’ perspective.

He described Adobe’s problem in using continuous deployment as follows:

While creating a predictable revenue stream from high-end users, Adobe has created two problems. First, not all Adobe customers believe that Adobe’s new subscription business model is an improvement for them. If customers stop paying their monthly subscription they don’t just lose access to the Adobe Creative Suite software (Photoshop, Illustrator, etc.) used to create their work, they may lose access to the work they created.

Second, they unintentionally overshot the needs of students, small business and casual users, driving them to good-enough replacements like Pixelmator, Acorn,GIMP for PhotoShop and Sketch, iDraw, and ArtBoard for Illustrator.

The consequence of discarding low margin customers and optimizing revenue and margin in the short-term, Adobe risks enabling future competitors.

Steve gave the example of Tesla also. Tesla makes a car incrementally better over time.

Tesla’s unilateral elimination of features already paid for without consumers consent is a troubling precedent for cloud connected durable goods. Second, Telsa’s elimination of model years and its aggressive marketing of the benefits of continuous development of hardware and software have set its current customers expectations unreasonably high. Some feel entitled to every new hardware feature rolled into manufacturing, even if the feature (i.e. faster charging, new parking sensors,) was not available when they bought their cars – and even if their car isn’t backwards compatible.

Model years gave consumers an explicit bound of what to expect. This lack of boundaries results in some customer disappointment.

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Community comments

  • CD disruption of business models

    by J Healy,

    Your message is awaiting moderation. Thank you for participating in the discussion.

    When CD disrupts business models it's a sure sign of 'dead men walking'.

  • It's all about managing expectations

    by Chris Turner,

    Your message is awaiting moderation. Thank you for participating in the discussion.

    I am not sure that the new revenue models are all that different, or that customers are any more dissatisfied than they used to be. There has to be a revenue model for ongoing development and improvement. In aggregate, user requirements do not have "model years" (they wnat them NOW). Continuous delivery promises that.

    There are many blogs and articles discussing (pro & con) the pressure to get to the market first, providing users with incomplete, 90% functional applications and then "fixing" issues with agile release methods (Patch Tuesday, anyone?). Perhaps this has influenced the delivery, but two revenue models have dominated:

    1) Buy and pay maintenance fee (~20%), entitling you to patches and seamless upgrades as long as you pay the maintenance (e.g., Oracle).
    2) Buy and get free patches and upgrades, and get some kind of upgrade discount on the next revision (e.g., Microsoft OS).

    In both cases, the next "major version" is dictated by the strategic planning in the Roadmap for the product. Both involve a larger initial outlay.

    New models seem to be "pay while you use it, we'll keep it current," and appear to be driven by Open Source revenue models. This model does not (usually?) charge a license or initial deployment fee and lets you stop when you want.

    Tesla may be on somewhat new ground - this (InfoQ) is software.

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