Service provider product strategy “as a service” or “not as a service”

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As product managers we have many aspects to consider in forming product strategy. In this blog post we will look at one of the bigger strategy considerations of “as a service” or “not as a service”. Before we begin its important to note that business strategy should influence this decision, if there is no clear business strategy push for business direction from relevant business leaders. Let’s start by looking at the difference between a product and a service.

Products

  • Are tangible, they can be physical or virtual, they fulfil a need via providing some form of function such as a storage appliance or a car. Products typically come in many variations and with specifiable options, in many cases products are sold with complementary services. Products generally come to a natural end of life in which a replacement product needs to be considered.

Services

  • Services are less tangible, they can be closely tied with products for example a hardware & software maintenance service for the storage array product or a car service plan. Service however may exist without the product such as a skilled technical support service. In a service provider world services are typically providing some form of warranty or assurance providing peace of mind, access to specialist resources and even meeting regulatory compliance needs.


In today's world, the line between product and services can become blurry for example cloud as a service innovation such as backup and recovery as a service or bandwidth as a service. In these cases the technology complications are abstracted away from the end consumers such that all they care about is the end utility and configuring for use.

The functions and any supporting services are as one, albeit there may well be different service options and different performance characteristics.

In the truest form, the things that underpin a service i.e. the technological components and their life-cycle be it physical or virtual technology components are not the consumers concern, the service provider seamlessly upgrades and replaces as required with little if not any complication for the end consumer. This can only be achieved if the whole life-cycle of the service offering has been considered, to give a flavour here is a list of some to consider

  • Business case, cost and price management

  • How clients procure first time and ongoing

  • Packaging and units of sale, core and added value options

  • Ability to self-serve

  • Order based or metered usage billing

  • Management and reporting systems

  • Availability, performance and capacity management

  • Data protection and recovery

  • Provision, setup, configuration for use

  • Application, network and data Integration

  • Multi or single tenancy

  • Security and access controls

  • Design for non-disruptive maintenance, upgrades and swap-out

A pure-play as a service strategy is not always technically or commercially appropriate depending on the scenario. Careful consideration is required along with a decent feasibility assessment and well understood business case matched with a super clear vision.


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