SaaS, The Next Generation of Business Software

Software as a Service or “SaaS” has only recently come into the limelight but did you know that it has been a part of our vocabulary for nearly a decade? SaaS was first used in a “strategic backgrounder” in 2001 to help analyze emerging trends in software delivery.  At its core, SaaS integrated the delivery of software over the Internet with a subscription payment option.  The incentive of using SaaS was that there were less upfront costs, less ongoing cost, and continuous improvements were made over time. These were huge advantages to traditionally installed software that took a long time and a lot of money to get started and were rarely updated. Even when users were paying annual maintenance fees. Fast forward to today and subscribing to software delivered over the Internet has basically become mainstream.  The reality is that soon software will only be delivered this way and installing software will become an old and outdated practice.  Given that this evolution and transition that is taking place now, it’s important to gain an understanding of what SaaS is and what will help make it the next generation of business software.

Simple

Software needs to be simple in order to be SaaS.  Technology provides us with all kinds of tools, but if we don’t keep it straightforward and easy to understand, we are missing out on an opportunity to create the next generation of business software. Simple means the solution is intuitive and that users know exactly what to do, how to do it, and can do it quickly. Just taking a traditional app and putting it in the cloud doesn’t make it SaaS.  You need to ensure that it has truly simplified processes and procedures and gives valuable time back to the user so they can focus on what they need to focus on.

Affordable

Affordability of software is another critical component. The next generation of business software cannot be restricted due to cost. Yes, vendors are in business to make money, but SaaS requires building a solution that doesn’t have the typically high costs of development.  As a result, the savings go to your customers.  In doing so, a true SaaS solution is priced in a way that the entire organization is able to utilize and fully engage with it. Granted, there will be point solutions, but even there a SaaS solution should be priced in a way that cost is not a limiting factor.

Accessible

Accessibility applies in a lot of different ways when considering the next generation of business software.  SaaS applications need to be accessible and fully functional in many different browsers.  It simply isn’t acceptable to only make applications accessible through a single browser, if you do, it will be very difficult to get broad adoption.  Outside of the browser, accessibility of next-generation business software also needs to extend to various devices and platforms, especially where mobile and nontraditional platforms are concerned. Accessibility of a SaaS solution on these devices will become more and more critical moving forward.

Secure

It might go without saying, but security is a must for any SaaS solution.  Security needs to be evaluated at every level, from the physical location where the services is hosted from, to how the data is stored in the solution. Although this doesn’t mean that a SaaS provider needs to do it all themselves. Actually, partnering with experts in various areas of security shows that the service provider is prepared and understands the importance of proper security.

Subscription

While this is often considered to be just a sales or finance issue, is actually needs great visibility and focus throughout the organization.  You need to understand that SaaS is a subscription service, meaning that you have to earn your customers’ business month after month. This means that you regularly and consistently need to support, engage and delight them, making sure that their needs and are continuously being met.

You

Lastly, a true SaaS solution is one that the service provider themselves are willing to invest in and use, just as their customers do.  Customers should ask their SaaS vendor, “Do you use your own solution?”  If the answer is not yes, that raises some concerns. Software as a Service was a great place to start.  However, we need to move past that.  We need to think about how the next generation of business software is so easy, secure and affordable that the entire organization has access to it. It is when this new definition is put into practice that we will see breakthroughs in business software.