Yesterday I took part in a meeting for an advisory group that I belong to that’s looking at ways to deliver Government services to small businesses in a more integrated, simple and customized way. At the session, interestingly enough, were the GM of a traditional desktop accounting software product, and the CEO of a SaaS accounting product.
It was interesting to see the back and forth between the two which basically went along the lines of;
SaaS vendor – “connected services change everything and give businesses the ability to leverage real value by their very connectedness”
Trad vendor – “but businesses aren’t ready, the average landscape designer [for example] just wants to do his work and isn’t interested in doing stuff online”
Of course the trad vendor has a little bit of a point but some stuff I’ve noticed in the consumer space and a chat I had with Mike McDerment, CEO of FreshBooks the other day starts me wondering about whether adoption is less slow than we all think.
In the consumer space (at least here in New Zealand) we’re seeing the uptake of TradeMe (the New Zealand equivalent of Ebay but, in most people’s opinions, better executed than TradeMe) really spread into mass market, with the likes f landscape gardeners and their ilk using it to make life easier and simpler in the acquisition of goods. If average Joes and Jills will do consumer stuff online, why not business stuff?
The discussion with Mike McDerment wasn’t earth shattering but was to announce the fact that their Service as a Network feature which gives FreshBooks users the ability to connect within the application to other FreshBooks users, has seen a 20% uptake from existing users. This is huge uptake – sure it’s with already qualified customers, but it dispels the myth that businesses want to have their data siloed with a barrier around it, having achieved 20% uptake in only a few months shows that businesses are increasingly comfortable with porous boundaries between themselves and other businesses – that’s only a good thing – for efficiency, for economic recovery, and for SaaS vendors.
The FreshBooks announcement can be seen in a video below;
Of course what FreshBooks does in this way isn’t novel – other SaaS vendors are doing it, as are some third party providers such as Billflo – I also contend that this sort of connectedness is very much just a first step – I want to see way more communication between arms length applications as well as within one application. The uptake that FreshBooks has seen would seem to justify the investment in this connectedness, it’s one way to show value from SaaS and to drive customers to the on-ramp.