Categorizing the SaaS Vendors

Can't tell the players without a program!I get a couple of vendor briefings a week from SaaS vendors or their wanna-be cousins.
Written by Brian Sommer, Contributor

Can't tell the players without a program!

I get a couple of vendor briefings a week from SaaS vendors or their wanna-be cousins. As I listen to the various spins and pitches, it occurs to me that we need a new lexicon for these firms. Here’s my initial terminology submitted for your approval:

Originals – These are true, pure-play SaaS vendors. Think Salesforce.com, NetSuite and many others. These firms ‘got it’ almost a decade ago. In fact, they’re so with it that they’ve advanced well beyond SaaS. They have platforms as a service (PaaS), sell-out marketing events, cloud capable product lines and more. If you want to know where the market is going, watch these firms.

The Converted – Think older but wiser firms like CODA – Coda is a great traditional financial accounting software vendor who got the SaaS religion a couple of years ago. They leapt into the Force.com platform and quickly created the Coda2Go products.

Sadly, the market possesses too few converts. Instead, we get lots of the following players.

Committed to Commitment – These are usually old-school ERP vendors who can’t move their sales force off those high commission, on-premise license deals. Even if they could, the company can’t/won’t convert their product line to SaaS. Why? Introducing capabilities like multi-tenancy are just too hard for them to accommodate. Additionally, they spent too much money on their SOA marketectures (i.e., those still unfinished development efforts) and SaaS might cause further delays in getting these platforms and products finished. Oh, and don't forget that SaaS offerings might cannibalize too much of their on-premise business! That said, these vendors are ‘committed to the idea of SaaS commitment’. Like the characters in the Frasier television show that made ‘committed to commitment’ a catchphrase, saying a phrase is easy but true lasting change is really hard.

If you want to watch products stagnate, watch these vendors.

Posers – These are firms who dream and speak of SaaS but have no idea how to deliver these solutions or offer a timeline of when SaaS will ever be more than brochure-ware for their firm. These are the zero calorie snack foods of the software industry – sound great but not filling.

Disbelievers – Amazingly, there are still vendors out there trying to convince channel partners, customers, prospects and analysts that SaaS is still experimental and not a real market force just yet. If you want to experience an alternate reality in software, sit in on one of these webinars. It’s eerie.

Have I missed any?

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