So much more than software, as a service

So much more than software, as a service

Summary: The new generation of on-demand vendors growing up to serve the small business market instinctively realizes the benefits of offering on-demand services alongside on-demand applications.

TOPICS: Software, Cloud, SMBs

Today, on-demand financials vendor Intacct teamed up with National Bank of California to announce an integrated solution for small businesses. It links electronic banking into Intacct's accounting and supply chain software suite so that customers can, for example, deposit checks electronically and have the cleared funds show up in their cash balances later the same day.

It's yet another example of the trend I've recently highlighted among traditional business services giants, who are teaming up with (and sometimes acquiring) SaaS vendors to enhance their service offerings to customers.

Increasingly, SaaS is transcending the old model of siloed business applicationsThey're not selling software, they're focusing on what customers want to achieve and replacing it with a new end-to-end vision of process automation that teams up software with other corporate resources to deliver a finished business result. This is yet another example of how far behind the game conventional software vendors have fallen. They are still struggling to port their applications to a Web-hosted model and have not even begun to think of how to go about linking up with other on-demand processes. In fact, their conventional way of doing business is to load up all kinds of professional services costs that penalize customers who want to engage in that kind of cross-cutting process integration. They simply do not get it.

Meanwhile, the new generation of on-demand vendors growing up to serve the small business market instinctively realizes the benefits of offering on-demand services alongside on-demand applications. Two other examples crossed my desk recently. One was from Landslide Technologies, a US-based salesforce automation vendor (formerly known as SalesGene), which late last month introduced a subscription service for lone salespeople and entrepreneurs that bundles contact management with a live online personal assistant to take on administrative and call handling tasks, templated sales processes and built-in support for WebEx collaboration services.

The second example was UK-based Winweb, which offers on-demand cash management and financials for sole traders and other micro-businesses. Winweb offers a number of optional services including call answering and diary management, as well as introductions to virtual assistants and online accountants. Company founder Stefan Töpfer recently told me of his ambition to "cut the infant mortality rate of small businesses in the UK" from its current 50% in the first year to nearer 30%. He believes Winweb's free-of-charge cashbook application, access to on-demand assistants that help reduce fixed costs, and online access to professional accounting advice will all add up to a major contribution to small business survival.

Whether it's Intacct and National Bank of California speeding access to cash, Landslide enabling deal-closing processes or Winweb helping small businesses survive those crucial early years, all of these solutions focus on live business results that really matter to their customers. They're not selling software, they're focusing on what customers actually want to achieve. That's a powerful recipe for success.

Topics: Software, Cloud, SMBs

Phil Wainewright

About Phil Wainewright

Since 1998, Phil Wainewright has been a thought leader in cloud computing as a blogger, analyst and consultant.

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  • Challenges with Software as a Service

    No one ever speaks out about the problems customers encounter when they buy into Software as a Service concept. In most cases they spend time and money configuring the application for their purposes. Then, when a problem arises such as poor technical service, terribly written support documentation or other challenges, their hands are tied. The customer can't change vendors because they have already spent too much on the current application. And they can't truly voice their complaints because the vendor can tell them to get lost if they cause too much conflict such as voicing their concern in a user?s forum. Either way all of the time and money spent so far would be wasted. So SaaS customers are stuck. They must live with the problems and lower expectations. The vendors know that they have a captured customer base so they have no incentive to make improvements. Vendors spend all of their time and money on adding new clients to customer base as opposed to serving the ones they have. I think as more and more companies find themselves facing these dilemmas, the trend will turn back to owning their most important software or at the very least much tighter agreements with the SaaS vendors. The irony is that most of the challenges would cost vendors less to address than they spend on unnecessary technical support calls. Just spending a little time and money on good documentation would go a long way to making SaaS a better solution.