Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Saas is definitely better

When I pressed send this morning on an email message, Gmail popped up a dialog box asking whether I'd meant to attach a file. "You wrote 'find attached' in your message," it gently mentioned, "but there were no files attached." Of course, as so often happens, I'd finished the message and pressed send without remembering to add the attachment, doh! I was really pleased and impressed that Gmail had added this gentle and oh-so-useful hint. It will save so many embarrassing resends, and thus go a small way to reduce the burden of overflowing inboxes in our lives.

The silent introduction of this reminder is a great demonstration of why SaaS is so much better than on-premise. The old way a feature like this used to be introduced was that it would get scheduled for release and you'd start reading about it for months before you actually saw it. The vendor would send out a press release about it, product managers would demo it at trade shows, journalists, analysts and beta testers would rave about it in reviews, and then finally it would show up on your shopping list. In large organizations it might be a five-year lag between the feature first being talked about and actually implementing it on a person's desktop (I know someone working for a large oil company head office who has just been redeployed to a hotdesk station that is still running on Windows 2000, believe it or not).

Of course, these days, it's possible for vendors to update on-premise software on an ongoing basis, through initiatives such as Windows Update (which I'm a great fan of) and Software Assurance. To be sure, too, it's not always so pleasant an experience as discovering the small Gmail enhancement I've cited. Murphy's law says that Windows Update will always have a big upgrade planned just at the moment when you most need to close your laptop and head off for an urgent appointment. And I was mighty irritated when I went to the search toolbar in Firefox yesterday to do a Google search and discovered that McAfee SiteAdvisor had silently installed itself as the default search engine and removed all other alternatives. Maybe that had been an accidental change made by my young son, who had been using the computer earlier, rather than an automated update, but it illustrated how disruptive it can be when an unbidden change upsets your work routine.

The fact remains, though, that the business model of on-premise software vendors is built around denying functionality to users until they can no longer resist paying for an upgrade. The success of this business model depends on spending large amounts on marketing so that users become aware of what they're missing. And of course it forces vendors to stuff the upgrade full of desirable new functions so that users can justify the cost and hassle of making the upgrade.

Whereas the business model of on-demand software vendors is built around supplying functionality to users of such pleasing utility that they remain content to continue paying their subscription, month after month. In my view, it's simply a far more elegant business model.


Contact Sharon Software Systems for your Saas needs.

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