By Scott Abel, The Content Wrangler
Prediction: Hosted software solutions (software provided as a service on the web—aka Software-as-a-Service) will introduce the need for new vacation and benefit packages, something many human resource managers have yet to realize.
If you work in the information technology industry, for instance, especially in the software industry, chances are you are accustomed to having the same days off from work as everyone else: bank, religious, and national holidays—and, if you are creative about your planning—vacation days that you take before and after these holidays to create an extended break, usually coinciding with times others in your life are also away from work and school. But, the Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) model will likely change all that. And, the changes don’t bode well for family vacations or extended holidays with your sweetheart.
According to Wikipedia, SaaS “is a model of software deployment where an application is hosted as a service provided to customers across the Internet. By eliminating the need to install and run the application on the customer’s own computer, SaaS alleviates the customer’s burden of software maintenance, ongoing operation, and support.”
While shifting support and maintenance to a responsible, dedicated third party is good news for customers who need access to their tools via the web, it’s perhaps not-so-good for those who work at companies who provide their products using the SaaS model.
Here’s the problem. In order to avoid disrupting the fewest number of customers possible, companies who offer their software online, have to schedule ongoing maintenance and upgrades during the lowest traffic times. For some firms, this means updating on the weekends, usually at the same time each week, month, quarter, etc.
Email delivery service and contact management provider Constant Contact does this type of work regularly on Saturday mornings, when they think their actions will have the least impact on their customer base. Match-making site, Chemistry.com, appears to perform maintenance when it so chooses, and is somewhat unpredictable, as is the case with Ning, the software used to power The Content Wrangler Community.
While not having access to your online dating service or a social network may be irritating and inconvenient, it’s nothing compared to the financial losses businesses can face should they take their software offline during normal business hours. So, when larger organizations—like the enterprise application division of a powerhouse financial institution—need to role out a major upgrade (a process that can take days, not hours), they are increasingly performing these tasks during holiday breaks—the same ones listed in your employee benefit package.
Got plans for 4th of July weekend? Not if you work for a certain mortgage lender who will be upgrading their systems July 3-6. In that case, you’re not going anywhere. Instead, you’ll be working while your family, friends, and customers are enjoying the holiday festivities. You may be able to see the fireworks from your cubicle, but its doubtful you’ll be enjoying any beer and barbeque.
The same holds true for the IT department at a multi-national online retailer. This Labor Day, you’ll know the meaning of work, as many of you will be working over the holiday weekend—and, if anything goes wrong during you’re implementation, you’ll be working plenty of overtime (this may be one reason to rethink working on salary, instead of billable hours).
While the power of my crystal ball is limited, this trend shows no sign of stopping. It’s an issue human resource professionals and IT managers will have to address. Benefit packages will need to be changed. Employees will have to determine whether working in roles that require this type of commitment is congruent with their life situation and personal desires. Organizations who hire IT pros may need to consider the type of benefits they will provide those who give up the traditional offerings and give their holiday time to the firm.
Of course, some companies will no doubt attempt to outsource upgrades and maintenance to overseas development shops, when possible. But, it’s not las easy to make this switch in highly-regulated industries like pharmaceutical, aerospace, banking, and defense.
What’s your take on this topic? Do you think we’ll see different types of benefit packages or will we simply ship these tasks overseas to folks on different holiday schedules? What do you think employees who give up traditional holiday time should receive in compensation? And, has this already happened in your organization?