Hardware-as-a-Service mimics the popular Software-as-a-Service model, giving access to hardware along with accompanying software, maintenance, installation, and upgrades.
The core assumption is that customers pay for the value provided by the service, rather than the underlying hardware, or thing.
Business Models in Use
What Hardware-as-a-Service is not
HaaS is not SaaS. There are things, machines, devices, or sensors in the business model, so the core KPIs and assumptions are different particularly when tracking growth and key inflection point, and momentum metrics to decide investment stages.
Hardware companies take on added operational complexity risk.
Both names are used interchangeably to describe the same model, based on how your industry describes itself. Based on our web stats, hardware-as-a-service out performs device-as-a-service 20-1 in terms of interest. The same principles apply.
Key Performance Indicators
Key Performance Indicators
When it Works Well
Jump over the hurdle of upfront costs
Consumers do not need to finance or save to buy a car (Zipcar) or security system (Vinit); they buy what they need and they pay a subscription and/or usage fee when they use the service.
For business customers it may make more economic sense to not own an asset. Businesses can take assets off of their balance sheet and manage costs as an operating expense.
Avoid tech FOMO
As hardware and components become obsolete at a more accelerated rate, and new technologies arrive at a faster pace, customers are often left with a sense of technical FOMO (fear of missing out). By providing these assets as a service, it’s up to the company to upgrade, update, and replace hardware rather than the customer.
Value Aligned to Actual Needs, Rather than Bells and Whistles
For customers, hardware-as-a-service solutions must be built around real customer needs, and more closely aligned to solve customer problems. Customers get out of the trap of over purchasing a solution with features, bells, and whistles that they never use.
Higher Lifetime Value
Traditional hardware businesses have a “one and done” model. You go to Target or Best Buy, purchase your home security device, and pay for it once. The lifetime value often ends there – with the purchase of the device, with no further recurring revenue.
When it works well, the hardware-as-a-service model results in better total lifetime value and predictable streams of revenue for the company. Pricing is based on value to the customer, rather than the latest features. Customers are “locked-in” to longer term services contracts.
Deeper Customer Understanding
In a traditional hardware sale, all customer focus is front loaded in the marketing and selling process. Once the product ships, there is little connection to the customer. In hardware-as-a-service, the company manages multiple customer interactions over time. Ideally the company creates listening feedback loops to continuously improve service offerings.
Challenges to the HaaS Model
Works in a Hurricane
Many hardware-as-a-services startups do not pass the power outage or hurricane test. If the hardware provides a service essential to basic living – like a digitally-enabled house lock – customers will likely opt for the status quo.
Greater Total Lifetime Cost
Both consumers and business customers can benefit from owning and maintaining hardware beyond its planned life. If the customer can afford the cash burden to purchase hardware upfront, the option to use the hardware as a service may be less intriguing. The total cost of usage may be considerably increased in comparison to the cost of owning.
Adopting a Software and Services Mindset
For a traditional hardware company, the shift to a service model is hard. New capacities in software and service deployment must be developed. The customer experience must be redesigned around service, rather than the product or thing. Companies must also learn how to build value through all of the data the flows through a connected system of things (aka the Internet of Things).
Balance Sheet and Cash Flow Burden
Many a startup hardware-as-a-service firm realize too late in the planning stage that they will need to raise a substantial amount of capital to afford this model.
The core costs of physical goods – the “bill of materials” or factory costs – move to the balance sheet once a sale is made and stay there as a fixed asset. A fixed asset, simply speaking, is an acquisition that provides a long term economic benefit to the business. These costs do not move through the income statement until the hardware is depreciated or decommissioned.
Trends in the HaaS Model
In the Managed Service Provider business model, clients often have a hard time paying for the cost of on-premises servers and equipment upfront. A newer trend is to provide financing and leasing structures for clients who don’t want to own hardware, but who want the full benefits that certain hardware provides.
Commoditization of IT:
The commoditization of information technology is an ongoing trend, as small and medium sized businesses gain access to sophisticated technical equipment and infrastructure without having to build it themselves.
This model works best when hardware can be managed and monitored from afar, and upgrades, updates and patches can be deployed through internet protocols. Systems are automatically updated through network upgrades, making them compatible with software.
Key HaaS Mechanisms to Test
Make sure you focus all experiment design on testing the as-a-service element, ensuring the customers value the long term deliver of service (vs. hardware). What can be turned into software vs. what has to be hardware – these are critical choices at the start and create opportunities for disruptive pricing.
Before You Consider HaaS
- Is the main value proposition connected to the ongoing service experience (using the tractor, monitoring security)?
- What are the current competitive dynamics. Can the company benefit from supply economies of scale?
- Is there true competitive advantage to your hardware; can it be replaced by a SaaS offering?
Testing the Model
- What is the total cost of ownership of comparable solutions?
- Arrange features, services, and benefits into key elements of your offer and have the potential customer arrange the elements of the larger solution in order of priority. Then take away the lesser priority elements until you determine what would make an MVP (minimum viable product).
- Determine the minimal offering that would be compelling enough to have the customer pay for the offering.
- Can you design an MVP that has high usage and engagement with a minimal feature set?
- Is there a user proposition that does not require sign-off from IT or a long buying cycle?