FreshBooks has noticed something among the way its 700000 or so customers work and that is that data, in their cases invoices, hop from business to business to business. A web company might invoice a design company for some work that then gets passed over to a PR company and then on to the end customer – all of these steps require manual entry of the data into the system – a drain on productivity that provides no real benefit for anyone.
This is where SaaN comes in, the way FreshBooks is implementing this feature is described by them as follows:
Most SaaS applications are designed as silos, not the way businesses work. Each business has their own separate account, even though businesses frequently rely on contractors and vendors to get the job done. Working together means inviting your contractor or vendor into your own business account, exposing your sensitive client information and business practices. Conversely, your vendors and contractors have to track their work both in your account and their own. FreshBooks’ new SaaN model better reflects the real world relationships between businesses. Accounts seamlessly link together to form networks that naturally expand and contract to fit the projects at hand.
Mike McDerment, CEO of FreshBooks gives his rationale for the new acronym in the video below;
Last year in a guest post on CloudAve, CEO of Xero Rod Drury opined that in the future “having the application hosted centrally allows the vendors to continuously link to more systems and reduce manual coding. Only brand new transactions should ever have to be coded… Accounting remains the interpretation of the numbers, but manual entry and coding of transactions will reduce significantly over the next few years. In fairness to Xero I have to point out that they’ve provided for this sort of intra-network transactional flow for some time – however the FreshBooks implementation requires much less user intervention and is a more “organic” approach towards networking the ecosystem.
A few weeks ago I reviewed billflo, a service that aims to be the third party intermediary that facilitates, in effect, EDI for small business. While I like the billflo product, at the back of my mind I was dismayed at a world that needs a third party to “translate” this data. The FreshBooks approach shows the value of data interchange for small business, of course it’s a FreshBooks only offering, but should, in my view, indicate what the (hopefully near) future will bring.
The FreshBooks introductory video shows just how much efficiency this way of doing things can bring to a business.
I spoke with McDerment about the new functionality and both of us were pretty excited about what it’s going to do for businesses. I said to Mike that I saw this as being the first indication of the true value of SaaS – once people get over the “accessible anywhere via a web browser” the real value add from SaaS is yet to be uncovered. Mike argues, and I’d have to give him this point, that the provision of benchmarking through aggregated mass data as FreshBooks offers, is one SaaS feature that is truly value add and paradigm changing.