Here is to SaaS-cess in 2015

Living on your past successes is the road to ruin. Change is inevitable as the sunset. Whether you see it or not, it sets. The tree in the forest falls causing vibration of the air even if you are not there to perceive it as sound. In 2015, you will see the beginning of the end of on-premise software and systems including ERP systems like SAP.

Clients are no longer willing to buy the infrastructure, software, and services to implement business functions. There will always be a special market for special software, but it no longer necessary for core business functions. Even if business pays a few more pennies on the dollar, they want to buy the service directly and more and more vendors have entered the market with realistic scope and depth of function of business services that running very large businesses on SaaS based solution is possible.

It is not a flatline Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) argument. It is all about speed and velocity of change in technology and in business. Whether it is reacting to technology change like “electronic payment” or business conditions like “extremely low cost of oil”, it is necessary to react and react swiftly. SaaS based systems are better able whether it is because the SaaS system you are one rolls out upgrades without sympathy, something the IT department could never get away with, or because you can switch to another SaaS provider due to more standardized interfaces and a more universal user interface (UI) that requires less training. SaaS solutions provide the velocity and agility not found in on-premise solutions.

While the on-premise system looks like a promising TCO as its 5 year cost may be lower than the competing SaaS system, it falls apart when the inevitable change occurs. The on-premise system TCO is based on the idea that the 3 to 5 year roll-out will occur with limited change, but that change always occurs and in half decade it can be dramatic change. In fact change is the only consistent truth you can bet on on.

Next you’ll argue SaaS doesn’t have enough functionality. That is a limited truth for now. It is rapidly changing as the SI’s plunge into the market to fill the gaps with extensions that verticalize each SaaS solution or extend each solution via internal options (using named spaces in the application) or external options such other cloud based systems. It becomes a question of SaaS agility and velocity vs. on-premise optimization; however, optimization fails massively when the conditions of the system that was optimized changes, and again change is inevitable.

The question for each of us to answer is how will SaaS based systems change your job? If you are functional, what is the SaaS based system that will eclipse your on-premise role and skill set. If you are technical hands on, will you work for a SaaS vendor or will you move to area that is still in demand like architecture or network. IT is still in high demand, maybe higher than ever as technology is not just required for business, but the very fabric of business. Everyone who works on business software needs to evaluate your future based on the inevitable change brought by SaaS.

In 2015 software and especially ERP software will evolve due to change. With change, we have the three choices: move, adapt, or die? You can go to part of the world where on-premise is still new, you can learn how SaaS will impact you and update your skills, or you hang on for dear life hoping everyone else changes their way. As for the latter option, I’m not hopeful. Your success in 2015 is by recognizing the shift to SaaS just like knowing the sun has gone down even though you were stuck in the office.

While we are on New Year’s resolutions, do try to get out and see the sunrise or sunset with someone you love just a few times in 2015. Here is to true success for you, your friends, and your loved ones in 2015.

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A quiet sunset Christmas Eve (24 Dec. 2015) over the Cape Coral, FL canals.
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Releasing innovation from non-innovators

Innovaton Lightbulb EarthHow do you get innovation out of people whose job is not innovation thereby generating the most meaningful innovation. Most of us think how do we inspire our design team, our coders, or even our consultants. These groups all are expected to innovate and I’ll admit to mixed results. It seems to be bell shaped curve on these teams where a few are always innovative, most are sometimes innovative, and a few that seem to be allergic to innovation and think mobile phones are a fad.

I met my friend, eBay‘s Innovation Leader, Bala (http://linkd.in/1welbjf) before I flew out of San Jose, CA and we had a wonderful discussion on innovation. Even if I didn’t care about innovation, and I do strongly, watching Bala talk about innovation is a delight because he lights up with energy. His idea is not to make innovative teams innovative, but to make the whole world innovative. The only requirement is you have an idea and he will even help you find that!

He holds a series of workshops to help groups or companies innovate. He has a multi-step process that draws the potential innovators and resources along a flowing stream until the idea becomes real. He makes it easier for non-techies to join the process. I’ll point out a few steps, but I’m including a link to his non-profit company’s web, Innovationbala, site so you can dig in further.

Play-a-thon: In this step, Bala and team, bring in lots of the latest gadets, gizmos, and software where everyone is invited to play with all the “stuff”. People, even non-techies, can play and try all the cool stuff in the market ranging from robots, to designer computer boards, to software development tools in a non-threatening environment..

Date-a-thon: In this step, idea holders are paired with many developers in speed dating model to find their ideal team. Not sure speed dating works for finding true love, but it does seem to work for finding your true team and again gives non-technical people an opportunity to get in on innovating Silicon Valley style.

Shark-a-thon: This is more of corporate commitment step, but each team pitches its idea to a team of SVP’s who can elect to sponsor the idea. What is cool about eBay is that if you are on team that gets sponsored, you are now given 4 months off your current job, no questions asked, and put on the team to deliver the idea.

There is lots more at innovationbala (http://www.innovationbala.com/) if you’d like to see the whole process.

Overall, I’m impressed by the commitment of eBayPayPal, and hopefully to both companies post split up, to their culture of innovation. I suspect a lot has to do with Bala’s commitment and vitality he brings to the topic. Now I have to challenge myself, what am I going to do to make my company more innovative?