Few weeks back, Sridhar Vembu, CEO of Zoho (Disclaimer: Zoho is the sponsor
of this blog but this is my independent opinion), wrote a blog
post addressing the criticism about the lack of integration among the Zoho
product offerings. We have seen users of SaaS talking about the betaish nature
of SaaS applications and lack of integration between different applications from
a vendor. We have seen quite a bit of criticism about companies like Google,
Zoho, etc. on this issue.
Sridhar tried to explain Zoho’s approach and how they will eventually
integrate the applications. But I think it is important to address this issue on
a global level and try to explain how such an approach is not a failure of
certain SaaS vendors but, rather, it is very much part of the solution.
Unlike the traditional software world, the hosted nature of the applications
ensures that vendors can release features fast and without any expensive
investment on the part of the users. There is no need for a long wait to get a new
version of the software with new features. The SaaS vendors can also use this
advantage to tap the users into crowdsourcing the development of their products.
The instant feedback nature of this delivery model helps vendors shape and
reshape their products on the fly and deliver it to users at lightning speeds.
The way Google has been shaping the UI, especially the menu, of their Google
Docs suite is a perfect example for this approach.
Vendors of big application
suites can release the individual components to the user consumption and then
integrate them into one single suite. This approach helps vendors to mature
these components before they are integrated into a single suite of applications.
These advantages were not available for the vendors in the desktop world and,
hence, unknown to their users.
When the users of traditional desktop world move to SaaS, this comes as a
cultural shock and they get upset about the betaish nature of SaaS applications
and the lack of integration in application suites. It is very important for the
users to understand that the evolutionary nature of the SaaS applications are
the reason they could enjoy faster access to new applications and the cost savings associated with it. It is important for the users
to have a new mindset, not only in using the applications through the browser
but also to understand that the evolutionary nature of SaaS is one of the reasons they get new features faster than in the traditional desktop world. Plus, this early
access helps in the development and maturation of the app itself. SaaS approach
is beneficial to both the users, in terms of faster delivery of apps and lower
cost, and the vendors, in terms of instant feedback from the users. The mindset
developed during the slow product cycle era of desktop world will not work well
in the SaaS era. SaaS users need an entirely new mindset and it is important for them to understand the way SaaS is designed to evolve in the first place. This, in turn, will help users to
derive maximum benefit from the SaaS applications and use it to increase the
ROI. The users run the risk of losing out on the strategic advantages of SaaS
applications if they continue with their conservative mindset. A new era needs a new mindset and
that is the change we all need.