• October 31, 2008
  • By Marshall Lager, founder and managing principal, Third Idea Consulting; contributor, CRM magazine

AMI-Partners Susses Out the Hot SaaS Vendors

Software as a service (SaaS) has done well in its 10 years of life to be accepted as a viable means of delivering applications, and more businesses every day are considering the option of using software that's hosted beyond their walls. Still, the SaaS market is still dwarfed by on-premises software, mainly because there hasn't been a compelling reason to make a switch. However, a new report from research firm AMI-Partners turns the spotlight on several vendors who are innovating while making SaaS more affordable, more accessible, and more flexible.

The report, "Adding Fresh Value to the SaaS Equation: Six Vendors to Watch," names six vendors who are changing the face of SaaS. They are:

  • Boomi;
  • Dreamfactory;
  • LucidEra;
  • MyBizHomepage;
  • Zoho; and
  • Zuora.

"Each company is a poster child for attacking some of the barriers keeping SMBs from adopting a SaaS solution - or any solution at all," says Laurie McCabe, vice president for SMB insights and solutions at AMI-Partners. "In all cases these vendors get the fact that just because you're making something a SaaS solution, it doesn't mean you're making it easy or affordable enough for small businesses to use it."

This is especially true in the current economic climate, when small businesses are especially pressed to stay afloat. "Owners are saying, ‘Prove to me, of the hundred things I can be doing to help my business in this horrible time, that you can make the difference in survival or failure,'" McCabe says.

Here's a brief overview of what these SaaS vendors are bringing to the table, as quoted from the AMI-Partners report:

  • Boomi is helping to break through the integration barrier by offering Boomi On Demand integration as a service. Boomi On Demand lets users build and deploy integrations for any combination of SaaS and customer premise solutions through a browser-based visual interface. SaaS, platform-as-a-service (PaaS) and established software players are partnering with Boomi to facilitate integration within their ecosystems.
  • Dreamfactory's portable cloudware approach helps it, customers and other developers find the silver lining in any cloud. DreamFactory Suite helps companies manage, collaborate and track projects, documents and data. The solution has a rich desktop client that runs as a browser plug-in, serve as a front-end for multiple cloud platforms, and handle the business logic aspects of the solution.
  • LucidEra uses its SaaS platform to transfer its own business analytics know-how to SMB prospects. Since few SMBs have expertise in this area, LucidEra designed an automated approach to share its analytics best practice expertise as part of the sales process.
  • MyBizHomepage offers the vast community of QuickBooks users a free, secure web-based financial dashboard that automatically extracts QuickBooks data to quickly create meaningful metrics as easy-to-read charts and visuals. MyBizhomepage uses this hook to gather data about small businesses. Then, it provides blind aggregate data to partners to help them better understand market trends, zero in on market opportunities, and help clients benchmark their businesses.
  • Zoho wants to be the Costco of the software world. Instead of pursuing infinite profit margins, Zoho keeps margins low-and exerts price pressure on rivals. Zoho's mission is to be "the IT department" for small and medium businesses. Most offerings are completely free, and those with fees feature rock-bottom pricing. Zoho provides plug-ins to help users integrate Zoho applications with things that they already use.
  • Zuora's on demand, turnkey service helps companies build, run and manage subscription businesses. These businesses have different requirements for packaging, pricing and billing and quote-to-cash processes than traditional product-centric businesses, and need to measure different metrics-such as monthly recurring revenues, churn, and renewals.

"There's a pent-up market for people who don't even know they want a service-based business," McCabe says. These leaders, and others like them, make it possible for other businesses to enter what the report calls the insight economy.

These companies' success in their chosen areas of expertise makes them attractive in their own right, but they serve another useful purpose for industry watchers. "All these guys have new ideas they're testing in the market," McCabe says. "They serve as a barometer for SaaS and the economy in general, and it will be interesting to watch them for possible acquisition by larger companies."

News relevant to the customer relationship management industry is posted several times a day on destinationCRM.com, in addition to the news section Insight that appears every month in the pages of CRM magazine. You may leave a public comment regarding this article by clicking on "Comments" at the top; to contact the editors, please email editor@destinationCRM.com.

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