Part 1: SaaS Entitlements: The What, Why and How-To


Sandeep Jain


November 15, 2022

Part 1: SaaS Entitlements: The What, Why and How-To
Part 1: SaaS Entitlements: The What, Why and How-To

What are Entitlements?

Every SaaS product has a concept of Good/Better/Best plans. Each plan entitles the end customer to certain functionalities or features – these are called entitlements.

The essential requirement for a feature to be considered an entitlement (from our definition perspective) is that it should have some product logic associated with them. If not, the feature is simply a marketing feature.

Types of Entitlements

Entitlements can be of several types:

  1. Value — they have a specific value associated with them
  2. Boolean —they are of yes/no type
  3. Text — they have some text associated with them

For example, let's consider the following pricing page from Notion:

Notion Pricing
Notion Pricing

‎‎From above, boolean entitlements are:

  • Personal Plan
    • “Unlimited pages and blocks” (see discussion below)
  • Personal Plan
    • "Unlimited file uploads"
  • Team Plan
    • "Unlimited team members"
    • "Collaborative workspace"
    • "Sharing permissions"
    • "Admin tools"
  • Enterprise
    • "SAML/SSO"
    • "User provisioning (SCIM)"
    • "Audit log"
    • "Advanced security and controls"

Value entitlements are:

  • “Share with x guests”
  • "30-day version history"

Text entitlements :

Notion pricing doesn't contain any text entitlements, but an example could be the type of support — The Free plan could have "community" support, the Team plan could have "helpdesk" support, the Team Pro plan could have "Chat" support etc.,

Marketing features:

  • "Sync across devices"
  • "API"
  • "Dedicated success manager" (see discussion below)
  • "Custom contract" (see discussion below)

Special cases

  1. “Unlimited pages and blocks” — Since this feature is available in all the plans, this can be considered a marketing feature and not a boolean entitlement.
  2. "Dedicated success manager" — This feature should be a value entitlement even though it seems like a marketing feature. Why? Remember the last time you struggled to use a SaaS product and wished you had access to a dedicated person from the vendor who could help you? You then had to search your email (if you were the buyer) or talk to the founder/buyer in your company, and they had to repeat the same exercise. Now, imagine if you could start a conversation or book a meeting with this person from within the product. Wouldn't that be just spectacular?
  3. "Custom contract" — Similar to above, the buyer of your product may want to find the exact terms for support usually defined in the custom contract. Providing access to the contract from within the product would again be a frictionless experience for your end customer.

What if a price is associated with a feature?

In this case, it is best to model the feature as a product or add-on. We will discuss this particular nuance in a later blog in this series. Quickly, when pricing is associated with a feature, it must be part of the billing system (it is not immediately apparent that entitlements should be part of the billing system, but we will explore why that makes sense for even entitlements).

What is the big deal about Entitlements?

You may be wondering what the big deal with entitlements is. From the above, it should be clear that entitlements are an integral part of every SaaS product. However, they are often implemented poorly (by hard coding the logic in the code) due to poor understanding and/or inadequate tooling. Furthermore, they look deceptively simple, and if you peel the layers of this metaphorical onion, things get complex soon.

In Part 2, we'll examine the key requirements from different stakeholders for entitlements, and then in Part 3, we'll explore the pros/cons of different approaches to implementing entitlements. Stay tuned!

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