Ooops, we did it again. Technologists got caught up in the delivery mechanism and lost sight of the delivery itself. As a consumer, why do we care how a product is delivered if it meets our need? In this quest, my experiences include designing and using “cloud” delivery since 1999 when I designed and implemented call center CRM using internet technologies combined with thin client technologies. After that, in 2003, a brilliant startup named JustConnect where we provided Microsoft Desktops and Phone PBX packages using Managed thin client and hosted VoIP. As an early adopter of VMWare (licenses were free then) and overcoming issues like Quickbooks unable to share the OS, we had numerous issues to overcome to be able to provide a higher value to our customers through the economies of scale that “cloud” provides (incidentally, we didn’t know we were doing “cloud” then). And that’s the point: the customer wants value, the mechanism doesn’t matter. Cloud actually offered the mechanism to reduce cost of delivery, a win-win for profitability and value to the customer.
Actually, a true SaaS isn’t really ideal. When you have to share your solution with others, you eventually run into constraints in implementation that compromise the uniqueness of your organization. We’ve used SalesForce.com for years and it is adequate, but I have had to make many customizations in-house to accommodate the needs of our team and those were the “simple” customizations. Hiring some kind of Professional Services to really make it work for a larger or more complex enterprise really begins to eat into the value proposition.
So, is SaaS bad? Absolutely not. Buying into a delivery mechanism instead of evaluating and buying the functionality requirements of your business is bad. If a managed service with a private infrastructure provides the functionality that your enterprise requires at the right value, then it is likely that is a better choice than true SaaS. But if SaaS provides the economies of scale for the provider that can be passed onto the customer in the form of value, and the functionality requirements are not compromised, then that is the best model.
What is perfectly clear is that technology times are cyclical. Networks without boundaries, security models and risks, virtualization, processing power and storage, distance support and delivery models and micro-mobile technologies all continue to impact decisions about how to buy the technical functionality we require. These technology cycles continue to allow numerous delivery models that manifest themselves in a win-win where service and software providers can make a reasonable living while providing great value to their customers.