Operating a SaaS product through ownership changes

by Sebastien Mirolo on Tue, 30 Aug 2022

Either because you sold the business, or a critical operation engineer is promoted and/or leaves the company, changes in ownership are inevitable. To be prepared for it, you should create a business continuity plan and review it regularly.

3rd party services checklist

First list all the online services your SaaS business depends on. You can usually do this by going through the business bank or credit card statement. If you rely on many free services, that makes live a little more complicated but you can still comb through your e-mails to refresh your memory about what you signed up for and what you actually use.

For each service, list at the bare minimum:

  • Name of the service and its URL
  • Purpose of the service
  • Contact with credentials

When you are ready to implement a more robust business continuity plan, also list:

  • Risk to the business if service is unavailable
  • How authentication to the service is done? (SSO, service-managed credentials database)

With that information, you can then categorize providers into three tier:

Tier 1 providers
Any outage to one of these providers has immediate and severe consequences to the business. In simple terms: total blackout and every person in the business is scrambling to find a way to come back online.
Tier 2 providers
An outage of tier 2 providers means the service runs with a severely degradated experience. The operations team is on the bridge to mitigate and solve the issue as quickly as possible but other parts of the business might still be able to operate on their regular schedule.
Tier 3 providers
An outage of tier 3 providers is annoying but the effects are not immediate nor affect all customers. The operations team can resolve those issues on their normal work schedule.

Example

It can be intimidating at first to populate Purpose of the service and Risk to the business. Fortunately for most SaaS products, these two columns of the spreadsheet are pretty standard.

Purpose of the service Risk to the business if service is unavailable Name of the service and its URL Contact with credentials How authentication to the service is done?
Tier 1 providers
Domain Registrar Website, e-mail, etc. are unreachable. - i.e. we are screwed! GoDaddy Joey in Engineering GoDaddy username/password
Domain Name service Website, e-mail, etc. are unreachable. - i.e. we are screwed as well! GoDaddy Joey in Engineering GoDaddy username/password
Hosting Website is unreachable - a really bad day! AWS Joey in Engineering AWS username/password with TOTP
Tier 2 providers
E-mail Cannot receive e-mails. bouncing when customers try to reach us. GMail Co-founder Alice GMail OAuth, username/password and phone
Phone Cannot receive phone calls. customers get a phone disconnected message. ATT Co-founder Alice ATT username/password
Payment processing Website cannot process online payments. Stripe Clara in Software Engineering Stripe username/password with one-time code throuigh phone
Customer support Support tickets are not recorded. customers are not notified something is wrong. Zendesk Co-founder Alice Zendesk username/password
Tier 3 providers
TLS certificates Expiring certificates are not renewed leading to security alert for customers trying to access the website. Letsencrypt Joey in Engineering Letsencrypt API key
Code and package repositories Cannot deploy changes to the website GitHub Co-founder Alice GitHub username/password
Payroll Software Cannot send paychecks and taxes mechanically. Intuit Co-founder Alice Intuit username/password with one-time code throuigh phone
CRM Software Loose ability to manage prospects and leads at scale Hubspot Co-founder Alice Hubspot username/password

More to read

If you are looking for related posts, The rise of micro-SaaS and The MVP is dead are good reads.

More business lessons we learned running a SaaS application hosting platform are also available on the DjaoDjin blog. For our fellow engineers, there are in-depth technical posts available.

by Sebastien Mirolo on Tue, 30 Aug 2022


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