August 23, 2013 | Written by: Tristram Warkentin
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Software as a service (SaaS) has an image problem. I hear it all the time: SaaS is great, but we’ve been doing that since the 80s. It’s just client-server. We already run our other stuff behind the firewall; why would we need SaaS?
Then they’ll open up their browser to Gmail, Netflix, their bank’s site, or maybe even the Thoughts on Cloud blog. What did we do before those?
Amazingly, consumer SaaS really only has one major benefit: convenience. And yet we all use a half-dozen consumer SaaS apps every day. On the other side, enterprise SaaS has a whole host of benefits beyond user convenience—and yet it faces adoption struggles across a sadly laggard IT industry. What benefits, you ask? Read on, intrepid cloud adventurer!
Have you ever had buyer’s remorse? It’s that sinking feeling in your stomach when you realize that you’ve made a bad decision, especially when you can’t change your mind. It’s realizing that you’re going to have to have an intimate relationship with your poor software purchase for the next year, five years, or more. And by the end, it will be a painful project just to move to something better.
SaaS gives you an easy way out: you can start small. Rather than spending a fortune on hardware, building integration plans and getting countless approvals and purchases through your corporate process, you can buy small and see what works for you. In IBM’s Enterprise Marketing Management group, we help commerce businesses start small by preparing quick proofs of concept. We use these examples as a starting point, working with our clients to configure and customize their software as they continue to grow, applying science to more of their business processes.
Starting small is good for you, but it’s also good for IBM. The last thing that we want is to become the focus of that buyer’s remorse, and giving you an easy way to find and use IBM software that you’ll love is why I come to work every day.
Get there faster
SaaS is quick. I’ve been in behind-the-firewall software purchase and implementation cycles that lasted well over a year. I have even seen clients whose businesses have fundamentally changed during an implementation period! There is always integration work, but Enterprise Marketing Management SaaS can help clients go from zero to deployed with full live-stream data integration in just six weeks. Ongoing maintenance is faster, too — users can provision themselves, and management tasks are often simplified to a quick web interface.
The SaaS difference isn’t just speed — it’s agility. IBM champions Agile methodologies in building SaaS, using short sprints and frequent releases to build the features our customers need now, rather than what they thought they needed two years ago. Have an issue? Need something different? Behind-the-firewall software means you could wait a year or for the next release. With truly agile SaaS, you could see a fix next week.
And SaaS isn’t just quick for your business; it’s faster for your users. What do you need to run SaaS? To start, you only need a browser and an account. Your users never have to worry about the OS, installation requirements or any of the other headaches that go along with supporting most native software.
Do you know what your market’s going to look like in three years? Five years? How confident are you? Deploying something behind your firewall means that you have to be certain in an increasingly uncertain world. You could have 500 users in a couple years, or it could be 5000. So why would you plan for 1000 when you don’t know?
Used with permission from Flickr user Images_of_Money.
With SaaS, you buy what you need and leave the scaling to us. User counts are only half the story, because along with growth comes new business needs and an ever-changing user base. And when changes happen, we work hard to make sure our software is changing with you — because every day that you are successful is a success for IBM, too.
Why do you use SaaS? Why don’t you? Let me know in the comments, or find me on Twitter: @triswarkentin!