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.

SAP SaaS marches on

SAP is laying out a strong SaaS program and has keen view of the future.  They’ve organized themselves into upper domain areas of: People, Money, Customers, Suppliers, and Special.  They then have their horizontal glue layers of Social and Integration.  Finally, they have supporting layer of SaaS ERP in 2 flavors: Business-By-Design and Business One.  This clearly laid out in the illustration below.

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Most of the SaaS attention has gone to People with SAP’s acquisition of SuccessFactors.  Indeed, success factors is leading the SaaS charge at SAP both in terms of ideation and management with Lars Dalgaard heading the cloud unit.  SuccessFactors brings a SaaS pedigree to SAP.

All “legacy” or pre-SaaS software vendors including those like IBM, Oracle, Computer Associates, etc. all face the same challenge.  How to use a usage base metric to drive revenue and determine re-investment.  In addition, legacy vendors often haven’t built in cloud capabilities and multi-tenancy which is the key scaling and upgrades leading to lower costs.  I think you’ll see legacy software vendors buy some of the skills.  I also think as the whole market shifts to cloud, SaaS will simply become the pervasive model and vendors will adapt.

Tersely put, how do you change your revenue stream?

  • Old Revenue Formula  = Licenses + Support
  • New Revenue Formula  = Utilization metric (i.e. per user, per month, per incident, etc.)

Honestly, I think the non-cloud and even non-SaaS type application will become the exception.  So like all creatures faced with drastic environmental changes, software vendors have 3 choices:

  1. Move (find business that can’t use cloud or won’t adopt as fast)
  2. Die (easy, just don’t change)
  3. Adapt (move to more efficient modes such as re-architecting for SaaS)

One of SAP’s other big SaaS applications is Ariba.  In addition to being a substantial procurement software product with huge numbers of consumers and suppliers in their network, they are the model of moving to cloud and SaaS to survive.  They have already made the adaption.  If SAP is smart, they will take the lessons learned from the trial by fire of Ariba and apply it to their own journey. 

I think the movement to cloud, and mostly to SaaS, is one that all vendors will need to follow to remain viable.  Keep in mind there are companies today that will join the Fortune 500 in the next 5 years and will have never purchased an enterprise class server or purchased enterprise software.  As an industry, How are we going to provide value add services?  How are we going to morph our products to meet their non-procurement cycles?  Are we going to be part of the company that: 1) Moves, 2) Dies, or 3) Adapts. 

Next blog, I’ll talk more about the lower layers of Social, Integration, the two ERP SaaS options which will yield a new way to do roll-outs via 2-tier ERP.