Starting as early as the 1950’s, large organizations across the globe started embracing the Japanese concept of kaizen, which roughly translates into “continuous improvement.” While mostly applied in manufacturing firms, continuous improvement would quickly become an inherent part of the software world, even surpassing other sectors with the advent of cloud computing.
Although finance executives today are no doubt familiar with cloud computing and software-as-a-service (SaaS), it might not be obvious how continuous improvement plays into the model as a major value proposition. ITBusinessEdge recently summed it up in its 2015 Enterprise Applications Outlook report:
For buyers, SaaS means lower infrastructure costs, more rapid deployment, and losing the burden of managing, updating and patching applications. For software vendors, organizations moving to established cloud services means they can deliver applications faster and not wait on prolonged infrastructure improvements and deployment cycles.
That second point is critical, but often overlooked. Most businesses might suggest “time is money,” but for SaaS providers it takes on new meaning, because they generate revenue based on the volume of transactions. Therefore, there’s a built-in motivation to keep improving application performance.
Continuous Improvement in Action
We’ve seen our clients experience this first-hand with our cloud-based corporate performance management (CPM) software. I remember one particular customer was in town, and he came to our offices to show us how some of his firm’s reports took more than two minutes to generate. When he opened them and tried a couple, however, none of them took any more than 10 seconds.
After several attempts, eventually the customer gave up and simply asked: “Did you guys do an update?”
In fact, we did. We do updates all the time. Our background monitoring and analytics systems detected and flagged the slow performance. Then our engineers conducted an analysis and wrote code that quietly fixed the issue without the customer ever being aware.
While Vena hardly has an exclusive license on the cloud, this example typifies one of the classic benefits of SaaS delivery – the kaizen factor, if you will.
The Bottom Line for Businesses
There are many different approaches cloud-based software companies are taking to speed up the process of improving their products, including DevOps, Continuous Delivery and Continuous Integration. Forget about the terminology, though: it all boils down to the fact that companies should no longer need expensive infrastructure to deploy the latest release of an application.
Whether you’re trying using Excel as a cloud database, or working with a more specialized SaaS tool, you’ll want the providers you work with to carry the burden of updating their products. If they’re not interested in continuous improvement, you may not want to continue with them at all.
George Papayiannis is the Chief Technology Officer at Vena Solutions and a recognized thought leader in cloud computing, mobile development and more. Prior to co-founding Vena, George served in numerous technology leadership roles for global consulting firms and their Fortune 500 clients.