What to do when things go wrong?
By mForce Chief Executive Officer Nick Beaugeard, As featured in CRN
As a partner, it's a huge responsibility to take on a new ISV product to sell to your customers. It would be best if you were sure that it meets your customers' needs and doesn't impact your customers' satisfaction when things go wrong.
ISVs are sometimes not quite aware of what goes on in partner-land when software goes wrong. Partners can get some interesting calls from the customer. They are technical, act for many customers and commonly demand (and deserve) priority support.
Having worked as an ISV and a partner (and for a time, both), I'm keenly aware of the pain when things go wrong. Here are the top 5 items from experience; as an ISV, you should do to make sure your partners have the best experience in the worst of times.
Be honest, quickly
I'm going to assume you know before your customers when something has gone wrong, but I also understand that this is not always the case. If something goes wrong, even if it's someone else's fault, including your cloud platform, for the customer and partner, the buck stops with the ISV.
It would be best if you were super honest, super-fast and communicate widely about your outage, what you know, what you are doing and when you believe you will fix it. There is nothing worse than an ISV who doesn't communicate when things go wrong, except one who obfuscates or tries to put a spin on the message.
The best and most appreciated response is fast, broad and honest. A good example is OVHcloud, when their data centre burned down and their backup data centre was smoke damaged. Their communication was rapid, detailed and very complete. Whilst that example was extreme, I have found that partners and customers, in the main, appreciate honest communication.
There are competing pressures in the world of an ISV, from getting features in the market to answering customer needs, generating revenue, and software quality. The most significant software companies in the world have learned that the most considerable risk is when you compromise software quality.
Here in Australia, I'm constantly surprised by the back seat that testing seems to take to most development projects. Being used to a 30 percent marketing, 30 percent development and 30 percent test split from product teams in the US, it is even challenging to recruit test resource in this country.
Software quality is critical, however. In business to consumer software, customers run away and never come back from buggy software. Similarly, in business-to-business software sold through a partner, you can cause no end of pain with a poor-quality release, causing an increase in cost to the partner, decreased customer satisfaction and even lawsuits.
Never test production
Whilst test is essential, the right type of test is critical. In the world of heavily integrated SaaS platforms, development staff mustn't test against real connections. I have heard of a test case deleting many records in another system. This occurred because a developer had modified a test case to perform an administration task and had never put it back.
Use a methodology for quality and discipline
Software development is complex and has a bunch of competing pressures. To reduce the number of people errors, using a documented method helps. If you're interested, I have an open-source one at https://nickbeau.github.io/ReleasedMethod/, a culmination of what I have learned running teams and writing software. Feel free to amend and contribute!
Keep the partner at the centre
Partners help you scale to many customers, so they are a vast support cost-saving if done correctly. That's why partners often get priority support. In addition, partners are keen for your software to work with the customer and commonly share revenue or margin, so you are all on the same team.
Giving partners more communication than less.
Warning them of upcoming changes and releases.
Giving them priority support.
Opening that communication channel as wide as possible.
As well as a great route to market, they are commonly the source of the best product ideas.
As you can see, quality and discipline are key. Still, it needs to be performed in addition to excellent and honest communication. That way, the partner relationship can grow, and it benefits both parties.