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When did I get cruise control?

For those of us of a certain age, we remember when buying software meant going to a store, buying a shrink-wrapped box, taking it to our home or office, installing a series of floppy disks (and hoping none of them had a read error), consulting a bulky manual, and then running that version of the software for a good five years or so, with no major functionality updates or changes until a new version was released and purchased, and the process began again.

However, with “the cloud” powering software-as-a-service (SaaS), users have had to adjust to a new software versioning paradigm. Software is no longer released in major versions where you install version X.0, may be able to update to versions X.1, X.2 and so forth, but would never see version Y.0 without purchasing and installing an upgrade. SaaS applications are always running the latest version, and updates are released on a rapid schedule, often up to one per week! Each update often includes a combination of security patches, bug fixes for existing features, and new functionality.

While companies often provide roadmaps for users to see when new functionality may be introduced, quite often it seems it just appears one day. When discussing the rapid improvements in functionality within Microsoft Teams, we equated the experience to taking a road trip from New York to Los Angeles where new features are added to the car along the way. All of a sudden, you’re driving through Indiana and realize the car suddenly has cruise control!

This rate of change requires users to understand that a SaaS application is not a static platform. Traditional classroom training is only fractionally valuable compared to the past, because the ways to leverage the platform to perform a particular task may change with the next update. However, the user benefits by receiving potential new and innovative ways to leverage the application to get things done.