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April 1, 2008

What it Takes to Succeed in SaaS

Filed under: EAI — Alena Semeshko @ 10:30 pm

Jeff Kaplan in his recent post examines what it really means to be SaaSy. He quite reasonably draws a distinct line between the market leaders and SaaS wannabes by signling out seven things that SaaS companies should really look into adopting if they want a chance to succeed :

  • Networked applications – One of the primary drivers of the SaaS movement is the need for increasingly mobile workers and geographically dispersed customers/partners to share information and collaborate with one another more effectively. Web-native applications which leverage wide-area networks (WAN) are better suited to fulfill this need than the highly centralized, on-premise applications of the past.
  • Enhanced user experience – Another key driver of SaaS is user frustration with the cumbersome, inflexible nature of legacy applications. These on-premise apps were generally designed to accommodate the technical demands of data center systems and corporate databases rather than appeal to the real-world workflows of businesses and intuitive senses of end-users.
  • Variable pricing – Corporate decision-makers are also fed up with the capital investments and significant risks associated with legacy apps. They no longer want to be locked into perpetual licenses and escalating maintenance agreements. Having the opportunity to try software solutions before they buy them, and then being able to use their operating budget to acquire the software functionality they need as they need it is especially appealing in today’s recessionary environment.
  • Real-time analytics – Given the economic climate and intensifying competitive landscape, companies of all sizes need to generate greater intelligence from their applications. It is for this reason that analytics is becoming an increasingly important feature in nearly every type of enterprise SaaS application, rather than just an assortment of standalone business intelligence SaaS solutions.
  • Continuous enhancements – We are also living in a time in which the rate of change is accelerating and customers expect their vendors to respond to their constantly changing needs. Therefore, leading SaaS solutions are those which rely on agile development techniques to incrementally improve their solutions on a continuous basis rather than depending on long development cycles to roll out disruptive ‘upgrades’ to their legacy applications.
  • Self-provisioned, dynamic toolkits – Corporate end-users are also becoming more tech savvy and more willing to take advantage of a rapidly expanding reservoir of gadgets, widgets and other mash-up devices to solve business problems or achieve their corporate objectives without the help of internal developers or outside consultants.
  • Aggregated data & benchmark studies – Smart SaaS companies are beginning to recognize that the SaaS model gives them unprecedented insight into their customers’ operations based on their SaaS usage patterns. These SaaS companies are accumulating activity data which can be converted into valuable benchmark statistics and best-practice studies. This puts the SaaS company in an advantageous position to provide a new level of value to their customers that gives them an opportunity to transform their user base into a powerful ‘club’ where users get insight in addition to software functionality.

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