One of the biggest value drivers behind a customer’s move to SaaS is the reduced internal IT support cost a company has when using SaaS products. In the SaaS world, the vendor maintains the application not the customer. But, in a best of breed SaaS world, the customer is back to maintaining interfaces and integration aspects across a number of (SaaS) applications.
If the argument sounds familiar, it is – it was the same in the good old on-premise world, but much of it holds true in the Cloud, too. Besides, this isn’t simply Brian’s own opinion, he has conducted a poll of large corporate CIO’s and most expressed strong preference for integrated business solutions, a.k.a. “one throat to choke” (well, not exactly with those words…).
Call me “old school”, but I also believe in the value of having one tightly integrated system for most business needs, and I believe it’s true not only for large corporations but much smaller businesses. I don’t have CIO’s to back it up, but that’s exactly the point: I am talking about small businesses that don’t have CIO’s at all – in fact they likely don’t even have full time IT stuff ( a good reason for SaaS in the first place), so they clearly lack the bandwidth to deal with integration issues and multiple system providers.
This is not a popular view, after all the Millenial World View is all about open standards and APIs where best-of-breed cloud services that can seamlessly integrate and work together well. I’m all for innovation, and hope we will get there one day – but for now the existing examples are all one-off, individual integrations between specific systems, or at best, ecosystem “satellites” centered around force.com, the Google Apps Marketplace and the like. These are great solutions, but not enough to run a complete business on them. In the meantime businesses are looking for available (Cloud-based) solutions NOW. So yes, I admit, my view is less visionary, more constrained by market realities today.
I can count the number of SaaS Business Suites that actually reached significant traction on one hand. In fact the exact number is 1.5. Yes, one and a half – and for now they mostly cater for the SMB segment, with undeniable ambitions to “grow up”.
I should probably mention that way back, before their IPO and the fame that came with it (from the times of NetWho?) I was an early NetSuite customer, picking it over the market leading CRM (and I mean that as a stock symbol), simply because it had a better process flow, even for Sales, which I was heading at the time. (Yes, we got p***ed learning we’d have to create Sales Orders outside the other system, even though we had quotes in the system, only to come back and re-enter the data manually). NetSuite was simply a better CRM system, even before considering other business areas.
Parallel to our NetSuite implementation we introduced a Wiki, JotSpot, which just launched in those days (since acquired by Google) and soon we realized a lot of the support information for Sales could either reside in NetSuite or in the Wiki. This has been bugging me ever since:
Why do structured, process-oriented systems and unstructured collaboration tools live in different worlds?
Like I’ve said, I’m all for Suites, but the true Suite in my definition includes integrated collaboration and communication tools – I’m still waiting for that … perhaps not for long
Now, if NetSuite was the “one”, who is the “half”? It’s SAP’s very capable, but dormant Business ByDesign – which may just come to life later this year. But I’ve been torturing you long enough, so let’s leave that to another discussion.