At Your Service: Where SaaS Goes from Here
We've said it before and we'll say it again (and probably a few more times in the future): Software-as-a-service (SaaS) has come and it's conquering. As the number of "-as-a-service" phrases proliferates (see today's news from Salesforce.com regarding "development-as-a-service"
), Web content management (WCM) software provider Clickability is up to its eyeballs (and yours) in this trend. Today's release of the San Francisco-based company's full suite of on-demand WCM solutions includes not just software-as-a-service, but infrastructure-as-a-service, implementation-and-support-as-a-service, and innovation-as-a-service. In addition, Clickability has repackaged its solution into three different editions: Express, Professional, and Enterprise.
"There's kind of a perfect storm brewing," says Mary Laplante, vice president of consulting services at the Gilbane Group, a Massachusetts-based consultancy. Behind the demand for SaaS, Laplante says she sees three key drivers:
- heightened competition, requiring companies to change the way they do business;
- an increasing number of newly available opportunities, particularly with activities on the Web; and
- technology that has become more affordable and available.
By offering all features on a single Clickability On Demand WCM Platform, the company aims to help clients to reduce costs, increase revenues, and enhance the value of brands. While the concept of delivering content technologies as a service isn't new, Laplante believes that Clickability is among the first to recognize that there are other components that can be delivered on demand -- and that the method enables companies to do things never before possible.
Clickability's platform comprises four main features:
- Software-as-a-Service: According to the company, the SaaS model "covers the entire Web content lifecycle," and includes content management, analytics, email newsletters, site search, ad server, polls and surveys, RSS/XML syndication, multilingual support, and social media. Furthermore, a multichannel delivery system enables users to publish content to a variety of alternative devices -- such as Amazon's Kindle -- in addition to the Web.
- Infrastructure-as-a-Service: Corporate technology departments no longer have to worry about tedious maintenance concerns as Clickability takes care of hosting, security, data storage, service-level agreements, and disaster recovery.
- Implementation-and-Support-as-a-Service: Clickability lives by what it calls a "perpetual vendor accountability" model to ensure that customers have everything they need. "Service and support become so much more important [in an on-demand model] because in essence, that's what you're selling," Laplante says.
- Innovation-as-a-Service: Clickability promises clients the freedom to innovate by using its platform to build off of -- and also gives them the tools to pursue that innovation. Laplante calls this functionality "clever," and adds that Web content management on demand "enables companies to do things they couldn't before."
The challenges that Clickability faces, according to Laplante, are those that affect the entire SaaS model. First of all, SaaS vendors have to constantly prove themselves capable and adept at delivering the best customer service. Moreover, they have to fulfill customer expectations in terms of delivering solutions that continually meet the demands of the market.
"SaaS vendors promise [that] you don't have to wait...six months for the next point release and two years for the next major release. [They] release software on a regular basis," Laplante says.
Finally, SaaS vendors have begun selling to a whole new audience. Whereas software was previously directed at the technology department, vendors are now pitching to line-of-business managers, who have an entirely different set of needs and desires. "Their expectations evolve and change," Laplante says of these managers. "They're going to want more in terms of analytics, more in terms of connecting [the information] to executive dashboards, more in terms of integrating it with their transaction systems so they get immediate response to what's going on."
A common concern with SaaS is that information is more vulnerable, a belief that Laplante says is unfounded -- or at least not limited to SaaS deployments: "People with secure laptops lose them all the time," she says. Nevertheless, as a result of the flawed conventional wisdom, SaaS vendors have had to work harder to convey a sense of security. Not for much longer, Laplante says: "Security's not going to be an obstacle to market growth for SaaS -- not anymore."
SaaS users are finding that the technology enables a new way of doing business; SaaS providers themselves are engaged in a new way of doing business. But as these providers endeavor to make the lives of their clients easier, it seems their own lives will, in many cases, only get harder: Only the SaaS players that are up to the challenges ahead will be left standing when the dust settles.
"The issue with the SaaS vendors is that mediocre performance doesn't cut it in that market," Laplante says.
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