Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Dedicated Follower of Fashion

Back in the day I attended a meeting of what is now known as the Intellect Software as a Service Group. This group evolved from what was just an occasional and very informal gathering of some of the guys at the helm of the UK's original SaaS accounting vendors, in a nominated London pub. Whereby they might share their experiences of disrupting the staid world of accounting software over a beer. 

By time of my attendance things had evolved a little. Gatherings were now more regular and at a regular location. While welcoming a more diverse and representative group of SaaS solutions, as word got out, the SaaS Group also played party to some groupies!


The meeting prior to the one I attended had the touch of the surreal about it by all accounts. Apparently it had been dominated by a couple of 'spotty geeks in short trousers' hung out to dry by their employer pleading at every possible turn that Microsoft (the employer) is a SaaS company!! 

I remember at the time, that it was thought of as just an amusing blip and an equally amusing anecdote. Incredibly a similar thing happened at the meeting I then attended. Though this time it wasn't Microsoft, but 3 other 'smaller' companies. If memory serves, one of said co's sold printers and one of the others, white goods...or they might as well have been!

As it happens, what happened at these gatherings of what were really just minnows in the massive pond of the tech industry, was being repeated throughout the tech world in every which way. Organisations, some as big as countries, were falling over themselves to be known as SaaS. SaaS was like the cool kid at school. Or top of the hit parade with paparazzi all over them.

Of course like all fads, SaaS wasn't the cool kid for long. Likely, those same boardrooms had decreed that a broader, more generic term be founded and pushed as the new cool kid. One that wouldn't need so much refraction for them to be party to. And so cloud computing with it's far erm, cloudier definition reigned.

The Moral of this Story is...

Well every story has one right? We're not interested in debates on what is SaaS or not SaaS. It's besides the point. No manifesto's from some poor fashion victim desperate to belong. Nope, no Microsoft execs here. Or Sage for that matter!

A great SaaS solution is a near perfect blend of all the business elements in one neat package. SaaS is a chance to indulge and exhibit an artistic flare for marrying great:- customer service, marketing, branding, technology, usability, strategy, user experience, zero-touch selling techniques etc. 

More than marrying these elements, they are completely entwined. An intriguing interplay that creates a whole greater than the sum of the parts. With the customer front and centre. And though I have definite ideas of what works in SaaS, it gets real interesting when an organisation goes off script and cracks it. 

Contrast this to the clich├ęd corporate monster of silo'd departments that each pull against the rest of the organisation. A world where feature-heavy, resource-intensive, software that the average guy could maybe, just about switch on, ruled the roost. A SaaS organisation just isn't, if it in anyway imitates this.

There are many excellent resources focussing on the elements that feature in a SaaS product. All worthy of a mention. The Blogroll to the right of this article is a good place start hunting them down. (BTW - If you think your blog or another's should feature in the list, just drop us a line)  

SaaSintheUK will feature many of these key elements in coming posts. Scratching the surface of what makes up the big picture; in bite-sized chunks. Cos SaaS is about putting together a compelling solution for business, not about following fashion.

Footnote: The Intellect Software-as-a-Service Group
I believe I was not the only one not to return for future meetings after the event I described. It's hard not to get despondent (to say the very least!) to some degree after sitting through a couple of hours of the 'what is/who is SaaS' red herring. I guess you could say, they kinda done a job there. But the hardcore industry veterans who've been around the block a few times were never going to be knocked off course by such nonsense. Organised resistance against the FUD-mongers can be no bad thing and these guys deserve a pat on the back for what they do, such as this 'Business Case for SaaS'. Do check out their website here if you're interested and/or might like to get involved. 

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