Will Cloud-Based Rolling Updates Spell the Death of Product Launches?

We are approaching the so-called “Fall launch season”, a four-month period from September to December when the biggest tech launches—this year being Apple’s iMac Pro and iPhone 8, Google’s Pixel 2, Android’s “Android O” operating system and even the first widely-affordable Tesla Car—come to the fore.

But why has the start of September become the ideal time for releases of the latest tech?

There are a few potential reasons, from the tactical tie-in to the holiday shopping season ($3.34bn was spent during Black Friday in 2016, a new record) to strategizing against competitors or aligning with the vendor’s fiscal year.

But while the holiday season will ensure consumer tech continues to witness these buying surges, I believe the enterprise is slowly moving away from the structured product release approach. A new, more constant approach to product and update releases has emerged. One that poses the question as to whether product launches, at least in the enterprise, are a thing of the past.

I am, of course, talking about rolling updates on cloud-based platforms.

Companies are now able to innovate around the clock thanks to the ‘always-on’ nature of the cloud, and the products they are selling reflect this—users are provided with the latest functionality as soon as it is available, rather than waiting for months or years before it’s bundled into a new platform (which they must pay for).

It’s because of this that I believe the once-revered product launch may be on the verge of dying out. Or at the very least, its gravitas is weakening year on year, given the fact that the cloud is only growing—propelled forward by the flexibility of subscription-based pricing models.

We have implemented rolling updates with several of our Nintex solutions, some updating more frequently than others. As Senior VP of Technology Strategy at Nintex, I thought now would be a good time to share some of my views and experience with structured physical product launches versus constant, rolling updates in the cloud.

Learning the Cloud

We must remember that for some organizations, rolling updates are not some new fad, but the only method of product updates. A routine product launch would be an alien concept to social media companies like Facebook and Twitter, for instance.

But long-standing organizations who have made their living on-premises now must learn to adapt, or risk being left behind.

Microsoft is the biggest and best example of this. As the most valuable company in the world in 1998, Microsoft struggled to pull itself away from its previous success on-premises and with physical product launches. This is, after all, a company that could sell out stadiums for the release of SharePoint Server 2010 and 2013.

That leads into what I think is the biggest challenge we face with rolling updates: anticipation.

When you’re spending three years on a product, dedicating so much time to research and development, you naturally want to sing that product’s praises at its release. And your customers are ready to sing along with you.

But when you spend two weeks responding to feedback and fine-tune existing functionality, that enthusiasm is much harder to come by, especially with regards to creating hype and marketing material. That doesn’t mean there shouldn’t be a good amount of content to support your updates, it just needs to be the right content.

This is what we learned from the Nintex Workflow Cloud.

Rolling Updates in the Nintex Workflow Cloud

Today, the Nintex Workflow Cloud receives regular rolling updates.

It might sound like a lot in a short space of time: from internal rollout to development to production every two weeks.

But the process has evolved to a point that each sprint meeting—where we discuss new features, updates, and fixes—was so well-structured we could immediately start pushing to production. With smaller product updates, there is lower risk and higher predictability compared to our initial three-month goal, which is more heavy-duty and rolling more capability around.

It’s become a more manageable, and I think more profitable, update model.

While the production and development side have relished this quick turnover, the product marketing side was a little slower in the uptake. A two-week turnover is not a common approach. Even a company like Salesforce, who many credit with getting the cloud ‘off the ground’, don’t push out releases more frequently than every change of season. Content needs to be created between the product updates being finished and released, so we’re working within a very small timeframe.

To combat this, our product marketing, particularly on Nintex Workflow Cloud, is less about the actual feature itself (because as I’ve mentioned, there is sometimes not a great deal to talk about) and more about how the customer can benefit from it.

Every release comes with a set of release notes and deep-dive blogs to help them get a grip on the technical stuff.

But our focus is creating a benefit-oriented story alongside that, not just telling our customers, but showing them what new problems they can solve with each new release. Even if that’s something as small or rudimentary as adding in a new digital workflow connector or providing improvements to task escalation.

Keep on Rolling

The enterprise product release—in the form of large-scale events—is fading. Not through any real fault of its own, but from the promise of cloud-based rolling updates. It has even had a knock-on effect with our on-premises version of Nintex Workflows, as we’ve moved from one big update per year to a quarterly release cycle.

But while rolling updates change the frequency of product releases and the style of content that accompanies them, the focus remains customer-centric.

With cloud-based, pay-as-you-go subscription models becoming more popular, the products themselves need to reiterate their value just as frequently.

That’s something we’ve achieved with the Nintex Workflow Cloud.

 

For more information on the Nintex Workflow Cloud, regarding its capability, benefits or the latest updates to the platform, get in touch with us today.

Ryan Duguid

Chief Evangelist Ryan Duguid is responsible for setting product and platform vision, driving continuous innovation, and delivering technology to help everyday people solve their process problems. Ryan joined Nintex from Microsoft, where he was responsible for the content management business in the SharePoint Product Group.
Follow him on Twitter @PvtRD