IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS


I recently found this infographic explaining pizza as a service it’s funny and is a great analogy, but after a conversation with an old coworker, I realized that not everyone knows the original definitions of how the ecosystem of products “* as a Service” actually fit together.

Here’s a quick breakdown to help explain each as simply as possible. Keep in mind the hard part here is nearly all of them have the end game of delivering a SaaS experience to our customers.

On Premise
The hardware is usually owned by the customer, specd out by you and hosted on-site in the customer’s data center. Everything is managed either directly by you the vendor, or someone in-house. All hardware, operating systems, security, updates, networking, traffic control and updates are essentially managed by you the vendor.

Infrastructure as a Service
IaaS providers deploy and manage pre-configured and virtualized hardware and enable users to spin up virtual machines or computing power without the labor-intensive server management or hardware investments. Most IaaS packages cover, storage, networking, servers, and virtualization, Leaving the customer responsible for installing and maintaining the operating system, databases, security components, and applications.

Platform as a Service
PaaS solutions appeal to developers who want to spend more time coding, testing, and deploying their applications instead of messing with O/S oriented tasks such as managing security patches and operating system updates. PaaS products include APIs and tools that enable developers to hook in features like traffic splitting, monitoring, and version control.

Software as a Service
SaaS providers host an application and make it available to users through the internet, usually a browser-based interface. SaaS customers use the software without having to worry about development, maintenance, support, update, or backups.

Here’s the comparison graphic with all the pizza analogy taken out.


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T-Shirt Sizing: Is there nothing it can’t do?

I recently discovered Planning Poker style T-Shirt Sizing can aid the elicitation process while gathering and ranking pain-points.


T-Shirt Sizing – To the rescue!

The job: Gathering pain-points from many Lines Of Business (LOB) related to the process of policy administration for AIG. The goal, incorporate the Voice Of Customer to better understand how a single system and unified process might accommodate most or all LOB’s, and rank all entries.

While ranking the pain-points with our user groups, we noticed an undesirable trend, one person (in most cases the group’s manager, not an end-user) would step forward to rank the problem, then everyone in the group would quietly follow and agree.


  • We were dealing mostly with the manager’s agenda, vs. real pain-points
  • The group was passively following/agreeing and not participating (No voice in the process, so why should they stick their necks out)
  • The “why” was not making it to the conversation

Solution: Use Planning Poker style T-Shirt Sizing.
Rather than ask the group in the open* to rank, we set up a Poker Planning Session (Using a simple online voting tool) allowing all users to vote individually. Once all votes were in and then revealed – we asked outlier voters to discuss why they voted as they did.

Obviously, this pushed our group out of their comfort zone of sitting in the meeting and saying as little as possible, however, once the group got comfortable the ranking process improved drastically.

The dam had broken, but improved ranking was not actually the greatest benefit.

  • The discussion and insight that came from outlier votes helped to reveal a detailed picture into their process and ultimately the “why” behind the pain-point.
  • Individual users became active, and passionate once they realized they had a say in the process.

So next time you work with a group to elicit information, consider using Planning Poker style T-Shirt Sizing to get the real story and activate your end users into the process of improvement.

*Note this is the same issue I have with open focus groups, one person tends to dominate and everyone else follows.
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This is Epic:

My contract with AIG is coming to a close, and I’ll be back on the market shortly. Since I spend so much of my time writing user stories, I thought to express my availability in the same way.

As an experienced Product Owner

I seek a Product Owner opportunity in healthcare (HIT) that leverages both my experience and personal strengths.

So that I can continue my career in healthcare AND make a difference for people (patients and healthcare providers).

Acceptance Criteria:

  • Team of like-minded people looking to make a difference in healthcare
  • Environment where ideas, collaboration, and transparency enable everyone
  • Respect for the process of ideation and iteration where empathy rules (not Ego)
  • Access to users for feedback to make good products into great products
  • Culture of action and trust that allows everyone to move forward
  • Respect for the agile approach that eliminates nearly all “Fire drills”
  • Access to benefits like health care for myself and my family
  • Good PTO policy so that I can blow off steam and return with a fresh mind
  • Reasonable policy that allows work from home when needed

More about About Jeffrey Sekera

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UX Burnout?

Haven’t heard of UX burnout? Don’t worry neither had I, but looking back over the last umpteen years – I’ve sure felt it.
UX burnout is a term coined by UX Designer Benjamin Earl Evans in an article for BoxesAndArrows.com (A publication that incidentally has remained well focused on the UX industry for a long time now,). Evans identifies six types of UX Burnout and offers some ideas to alleviate the stress.

After the launch, I was all UX’ed out. Even the sight of a Post-It note felt exhausting. Attributing the fatigue to creative block, I planned to take a few days off to recharge. But because my version of “recharge” also means “process everything,” I also decided to write an article for creatives about how to deal with this kind of block.

I think we all suffer some or all of these during a big project. My biggest takeaway to diminish burnout during my Outpost.com days was two things:
1. Knowing failure was OK, so long as we did a retrospective analysis and based out following approaches on what we learned did actually work.
2. Mountain biking.

Read the article here at  BoxesAndArrows.com

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Learned: Spreadsheet calculations that update totals when filtering!

Ever created a spreadsheet with calculations on a long list, and then experienced frustration when filtering your list because the calculated totals don’t change when cells are hidden? Yeah me too*.
I did some searching and found these two macros that directly solve the problem. You’ll need them both, and remember to save your worksheet in a macro friendly format.

This function only reads visible cells:

Function Vis(Rin As Range) As Range
'Returns the subset of Rin that is visible
'Example =SUM(G15:G30) becomes =SUM(VIS(G15:G30))

      Dim Cell As Range
      Set Vis = Nothing

      For Each Cell In Rin
         If Not (Cell.EntireRow.Hidden Or Cell.EntireColumn.Hidden) Then
            If Vis Is Nothing Then
               Set Vis = Cell
               Set Vis = Union(Vis, Cell)
            End If
         End If
      Next Cell
End Function

This function replaces COUNTIF to only tally visible cells:

Function COUNTIFv(Rin As Range, Condition As Variant) As Long
'Same as Excel COUNTIF worksheet function, except does not count
'cells that are hidden

      Dim A As Range
      Dim Csum As Long
      Csum = 0

      For Each A In Vis(Rin).Areas
         Csum = Csum + WorksheetFunction.CountIf(A, Condition)
      Next A

      COUNTIFv = Csum
End Function

Happy spread-sheeting, if there is such a thing.

* I’m currently working on a huge VOC project documenting user’s pain-points, that automatically generates heat maps of the pain-points as they apply to parts of the end to end process.

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Link: The 5 Ways to Know if Your Product Idea is a Winner

I recently found this post by Jim Semick, Founder/Chief Strategist at productplan.com.

The process he describes nearly parallels the UCD process (obviously on a more market-based approach). and why shouldn’t – there’s great power in leveraging your user’s input.

Thousands of new products launch every month. Yet only a fraction of those get enough traction to be considered successful.

Of course, there are the exceptions — the breakout successes that we all hear about: Snapchat, Uber, and of course Pokémon Go.

Even though that’s not likely to be your product, you can still knock it out of the park. But how do you test market demand early to know if your idea is a winner?

Throughout my career I’ve helped launch a dozen successful software products including GoToMeeting, AppFolio, and ProductPlan. I have learned five powerful techniques that entrepreneurs use to learn whether their product will be successful — before they launch their product.

These methods won’t guarantee success, but will dramatically increase your odds. In my case, these techniques resulted in products that today now generate hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue yearly.

Read full article here…

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T-Shirt Sizes: Make good decisions quickly

I’ve been using the agile approach in one way or another now for the last eight years. There are so many different flavors of agile – but all rely on the team’s ability to make good decisions quickly.

Most teams need a method to evaluate, and fall to data that can be gathered and trusted, data like sales, or traffic numbers, or estimated hours. The trouble is, the real data can often lead to over-analyzing the problem when the goal is to evaluate a list of things relative to each other and move on to the task at hand.

Switching to a non-numerical system like T-Shirt sizing removes the implied precision of the numerical data, leaving the team free to think in a more abstract way about the size and complexity of a problem, and how those problems relate in size and complexity to other problems. This is important because we want these people spending their time on creating the actual solutions rather than arguing about them.

Most teams I’ve worked with use a three-bucket system of “Small, Medium, Large”, it’s very fast but it can lack granularity. Others have opted for a five-bucket system of “Extra-Small, Small, Medium, Large, and Extra-Large”, it seems to be a little better at dealing with granularity, while still keeping the process quick.

Obviously, non-numerical scales are less granular, and while they do speed up the process of assessment, it can come at the cost of accuracy. I’ve found the people most concerned with a slight loss of accuracy are usually one or two levels up in the organization and unfamiliar with the agile approach. They may not yet see the direct benefits to moving forward quickly vs being able to argue with-a-doubt the reasons a decision was made.

Get ‘em onboard. There are many team building exercises to help everyone understand the power of group thinking and quick decisions. One way is Leveraging a group for quick decisions, another is guessing the number of jelly-beans in a jar using the average of all guesses from a sizeable group that is surprisingly accurate.

Initially, to have T-Shirt sizing work smoothly, it’s my opinion you will need an experienced scrum master walk them through it – until they get going. Once they do, everyone should see the benefits.

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