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SaaS Applications and their “community” nature (part 2)

In the previous post we saw what makes a SaaS space, a “community”: It’s a collection of people with similar business competencies and/or similar everyday issues pertinent to the SaaS application that they are using. We also discussed that it is only in the SaaS world that these users have the technical capability to instantly interact (in any other application community, they would have to meet each other in separate blogs, forums etc.)

Today, we shall give some practical ideas of how this community could interact and share and the topics of that conversation.

Implement “user group news”: The SaaS desktop could provide a special space where news and alerts regarding the application would be released or communicated, for all users to read through. For example, new functionality that was added, explanations about a recent slowdown event, new pricing policies on behalf of the vendor are just some examples of what the “user group news” could be about.
The easiest way to do this, outside the…

SaaS Applications and their “community” nature

Any SaaS service is the gathering space or meeting point of a large (hopefully!) number of users. Depending on the scope of the application, these users may belong to similar business spaces/ventures/competencies or not. Even if they don’t, they share at least some kind of appreciation for the benefits of SaaS (such as lowering actual costs, real time access from anywhere etc.).

One more aspect in what these users are sharing is the everyday issues that they face with the usage of the application. Known bugs, common functionality enhancements, user interface issues etc. Who is better equipped to help you, than your co-user in the same SaaS space? Yes, you would expect that the application is equipped with some on-line help or perhaps a written user’s manual. But, SaaS applications are moving at the edge of technology and functional updates and upgrades are being done very often; much too often for a written document to keep up. Keeping a written user’s manual up-to-date is very hard an…

Signing up and adopting a SaaS application

When we are talking about SaaS, we usually mean software applications, offered to the end user through internet and operated in a web browser. SaaS delivery model uses the “cloud space” in order to reach out to the end user. This means that when you sign up to such a service, you can’t really be sure where the actual server resides. It could be as far as the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, for all you know!

Therefore, in some cases, the traditional sales model of “salesperson demos to your premises and then fetches a signed contract to you” does not work. Local representation may not exist in your geographical area and the only way to sign up for these services is through the vendor’s web site: Typically, you will order the number of users that you wish, enter your company’s name and finally “check out” from the “e-shop” using your credit card or other payment service.

Sounds simple, as simple as buying a book from Amazon, but it isn’t! There are a number of issues that are raised; is…

email and SMS in business applications

I recently had the opportunity to work in a couple of projects that evolved around “alternative means” of User Interface, other than the screen and keyboard of a typical PC. Also, the use of tablet PCs and PDAs was not the answer to the questions at hand.

The level of computer literacy of the users was one issue: There was a number of people that a) were mobile and b) had no or little knowledge and skills of modern user interfaces. The actions that needed to be performed by them were relatively simple, meaning that the User Interface was to be quite simple. In fact, they were required to provide simple “yes/no” answers to a number of questions. For those people the solution of simple text (SMS) messaging was selected. Here is the list of advantages that SMS messaging has:
Not everybody has a smart phone or PDA, but everybody has even the simplest mobile phone which can send and receive SMS.
Texting a message can be a real pain but when you have to simply answer Yes/No type of questions i…

Customer perception about IT Professional Services in the Greek market

For all of us working in the software services sector in Greece, it is clear that the effort of computerizing the Enterprise does not end with the installation of the software. After the software has been “sold and purchased” (either in the traditional delivery model or in the SaaS model) there is, or can be, a series of actions that take place, in the form of Professional Services. These services typically include:

Start-up services for the initial parameterization of the business application (standard packaged products such as office suites are excluded from this category). During this cycle, some very basic questions need to be answered, like what are the geographical locations of the serviced entity, what are the cost centers, what are the taxation schemes that are going to be used in purchasing and selling goods and services etc. One very common misunderstanding on behalf of the end-user is that – because these issues, given time, have become trivial for them – they are also trivi…

Greece’s Educational System problem

Today, I am going to talk about an issue of more general interest: the educational system of Greece and more particularly how it can be “sanitized” and cleared up from problems that have been around for decades. I believe that I’m entitled to speak about it, using my characteristic of “dad”, “recruiter of young professionals” and “physicist by education”; not to mention “married to a teacher”!

Well, to cut a long way short, here is a list of things to do or change in the Greek Educational System:

Decrease central government expenditure for Education, by 30%
Decrease number of schools by 20%
Decrease number of teachers by 20%
Make sure that all high-school and Lyceum teachers hold an M.Sc.
Install serious teacher evaluation mechanisms. At the same time, give back to the teachers the high social status that they deserve.
Move the economy of schools under the roof of the municipality, instead that of the central government
If economic crisis hits, then give 20% of the teachers a mandatory sabbat…

User Role in SaaS pricing models

SaaS pricing models may be based in a number of factors, or even combination of factors. For example, an ERP application may be priced per seat (per user) while a retail banking application may be priced on a transaction basis. A Sales Force Automation application may be priced on a generated-revenue basis etc.

I can’t help thinking, though, that even the simplest business application has different “user roles”. Perhaps, an advanced role that does most of the tasks and a lighter role that only executes a few trivial tasks. There may be another “super user” role that has access to the system parameters. There are more examples like that, but I think you get the point.

Having said that, I would – as a SaaS buyer – go into the temptation to ask for special discounts for those “low level” roles. The reasoning behind this is that I will activate some users that a) add no significant load on the system and b) give my enterprise relatively low value (compared to high authority, “do-it-all” use…

Mechanizing large sales networks

These days, there is a lot of discussion around the benefits that could software has on Small/Medium Enterprises (SMEs); and it does! But today, I’d like to focus on another area that SaaS could have great impact on: the case of large sales networks.

First of all, let me define what I am focusing on: A large sales network is a distributed network that sells a specific range of products and/or services in a large geographical scale and/or from a large number of outlets (outlet being a dealership, a franchisee etc.). Usually, this network is operated by a “big” enterprise (not an SME), such as an exclusive importer in a country or the franchisor etc. Up until today – because of the fact that the network operator is a large enterprise – it is more than likely that software systems have been deployed by this entity to mechanize this or the other network operation. Some typical functions that the Operator would like to streamline are incoming sales orders from the network, visibility of sto…

Automation of sales process in SaaS (part 2)

Automation of the on-boarding of new users on a SaaS platform is quite important and new. This is the kind of problem that does not exist in the traditional on-premise delivery model. So, it drives the SaaS vendor to “think differently” – and accumulate some costs in the process (!).

It’s not just about “on-boarding”. If we discussed this issue more widely, we would talk about automation of the entire sales process. And while we are at it, we could also expand the discussion on the automation of the after-sales process, too (customer support, in this case).

Let’s see some more challenges:

Since there is no license sold but there is obviously a SLA, how can this be documented? In the traditional on-premise, license-based model, the buyer signs a contract that they have actually purchased and own this or that piece of software. In the world of SaaS, the buyer does not own anything… Well, that’s not true! They own, at least, their data, which are inputted on the remote, hosted SaaS applicat…

Automation of sales process in SaaS (part 1)

Can the process of boarding new users in a SaaS application be automated? When deploying a big on-premise ERP or a customized CRM etc. one can surely expect that the system installation, parameterization and deployment will not be a matter of minutes! It will take consulting and the provision of other services before you can say that you have a truly operational system.

In my opinion, SaaS is (should be) trying to tackle this issue, too. It’s not just about a different delivery and charging method. It is also about the ease of use and the streamlined way of “doing things”. And part of “doing things” is the way the environment is boarding new users and giving them the initial working environment.

So, what are the challenges for a SaaS vendor who is trying to move towards an automated activation process? And is this “automation” a panacea that every vendor should pursue? (Don’t be hasty and answer “yes”, because there is a catch to that…!). Let’s have a look at those challenges:

First of a…

Collaboration in SaaS environments (part 2)

In the previous post we talked about collaboration capabilities that a SaaS platform offers to its end-users. The objective is to leverage two elementary SaaS facts: The fact that other users in that same platform share a common business model with you and that you share a common work space with others (not necessarily in your line of business).

In this post we shall discuss what are the tools that will enable collaboration among these users; be them of similar business models or not. I believe that these tools and methodologies remain powerful, regardless of the mission of the SaaS application itself. It could be a heavy-duty ERP application or a low-end sales CRM tool. The essence of the user comments, questions and “agonies” is still the same.

Chatting. I see a chatting tool very attractive in the sense that the user would be able to communicate with his/her colleagues inside the enterprise but also in the “community” or the “SaaS ecosystem”. Although there is no breakthrough in comm…

Collaboration in SaaS environments (part 1)

First of all, I’d like to wish you Seasons Greetings and the Happiest New Year you’ve ever had. I will think of an even stronger wish for 2012, but this is too far in the future, so I may as well relax, for now!

A lot has been said and written about possibilities that a SaaS platform gives to the end-user, which a traditional on-premise model cannot provide. Today, I would like to focus on one specific issue that keeps me busy the last couple of weeks: collaboration. Let’s start with the fact that when you operate in a SaaS environment (let’s talk about multi-tenant, which is the generally accepted “best” model) you reside in one database with other users, beyond your own enterprise. What you share with them is one of the following two (or maybe both):

A common software platform and user-interface. We can safely assume that even if the modules that you are using are quite different from the other guy’s, the general rules of user interface, system rules, logging etc. are the same.

A simil…