One of the biggest misconceptions about products advertised as “SaaS” is that they eliminate your need for software. So deep is this misconception that one of the biggest purveyors of a SaaS product, Salesforce.com, succeeds in advertising itself as “No Software” without being called on it by much of the trade press.
Ostensibly the no-software claim has a ring of truth. “Don’t install”, they say. Just connect to the service and you’re done. And certainly that beats buying hardware and hiring system administrators and programmers, right?
Yes and no. There are advantages in outsourced delivery. But that’s been true since the dawn of the computer age. Multi-hosted airline reservation systems, service bureaus and the like have been with us for decades, and SaaS is indeed their cuddly new grandchild.
But “No Software”? It’s just not true. Unlike fully outsourced business processes, even the more highly regarded SaaS products provide only one dimension of what a modern enterprise requires, and for the rest you need programmers to wire in other apps and databases you need.
Example? Let’s say you want on-demand sales force automation and go with Salesforce. And now you want top of the line SaaS email marketing. For that you can go to Marketo or ExactTarget or a dozen others. But to get them to work together effectively, you now need a very adept software developer to keep the two in synch. And programmers hate synchronizing data between disparate systems for good reason: juggling multiples systems is a nightmare that no one is ever satisfied with.
Another example? Email integration. Salesforce does not integrate with the most popular email product out there, Microsoft Outlook 2010. So if you want to get your email data into Salesforce, well good luck writing an API to integrate the two.
It may seem like I’m trying to belittle Salesforce here and ok so I am a little, but really the guilty party isn’t any particular SaaS vendor. I have nothing against them, and in fact my company TempWorks also offers its products as a SaaS service.
But if your goal is “no software” then SaaS just doesn’t cut it. For a “no software” solution, you need a fully outsourced business process.