We are not the first to suggest that for all kinds of digital production, the one-off project and support contract model is outdated. The pitch? people, organisations and brands are constantly in a state of becoming - and so too should be the software which extends the power of each.
Declaring SUPPORT IS DEAD in big letters on a screen in front of Manchester's digital intelligentsia was perhaps a little disingenuous. There's no suggestion that we won't support our clients, our creations and our teams in numerous important ways. But in many contexts the word has become unhelpful and unrepresentative - much like the term 'retainer'.
Language matters. Support suggests keeping something up, maintaining that which would otherwise fall down. It suggests fragility. Support suggests the need for an insurance policy. Pay us each month and if - but only if - something goes wrong, we will be those knights in shining armour riding in to resolve.
Well-made software and digital assets do need constant review and attention - but this should be about progression, growth, reinvention and exploration. All those questions in the original brief should be asked again and again over the full life cycle.
Whether our motivation is financial reward, human flourishing or ideally both, the new language also heralds a change in behaviour. When we work to continuously improve over a long period of time the impact of each hour invested is magnified.
The rate of technological and economic change only continues to accelerate. If you're doing the same job in five years in our industry - even if your title is the same - then you've missed the point. So continuous change is our reality and we must embrace it. Not only intellectually, or in terms of how comfortable we feel, but in the way we do business. What we sell and how we deliver it both need to be reengineered for the challenge.
We are dematerialising. Products are becoming services. Ownership is giving way to access and ease of use. There has never been a more important time for the shift we're advocating.
At Human this transformation is underway. Most clients already subscribe to a form of continuous strategic review and development called Perpetual Motion. It's been a remarkably easy sell - let's make every penny you would have spent on 'support' an investment in the power of your ideas. So every month we achieve augmentation and progression for each the business software and consumer apps we're privileged to build and look after. There's provision for emergencies too - so on those rare occasions when you do need a knight, we can get the armour on and mount that steed.
The next stage on our journey is a tighter integration in the systems we use to manage and deliver the service to clients. The cobbler is stepping up improvements to her own footwear. We're tying currently-separate activities to a consistent heartbeat including release cycles, stakeholder updates, team retrospectives and more. Kanbans have their place, but so too does an airport-style departures board. There is much talk of the metronome at Human HQ these days.
On this - we embrace the work-in-progress, never-finished, always-becoming nature of what we do. It's why we love this industry and why the Digital Roundtable is always a great place to share these ideas.
Want to explore the post-support world from the context of your own apps and systems? Interested in keeping the conversation going? Email firstname.lastname@example.org, tweet @human_mcr or call 0161 850 1692