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 similar or exact business model with your enterprise. e.g. imagine an accounting software for a small-sized enterprise – Most probably, the way you are doing it, is the way ”they” are doing it. Also, it is possible (although not a must) that the software that you are using is an industry solution for your lines of business. Therefore, a number of other, similar enterprises with yours are already operating in that SaaS.

    The above two immediately ring the “Collaboration” bell in my head. There are things that you share with the other users, common practices, similar FAQ’s regarding the software and platform and business-related issues and how they are solved/tackled by this specific software. Let’s see some examples:
  • Common practices: I have an employee who wants to be a customer of my enterprise, too. Do I need two Person records for him/her. Or can one record cater for both activities?
  • FAQ’s: I have posted a transaction X and it’s giving me error Y. Where is the error? What can I do to fix it? The fix applies to all future transactions X, or just this one?
  • Business-related: I want to setup a transaction that will create a debit to a bank account. How do I do that?
  • Platform-related: How can I change my password expiry interval?

    In a typical on-premise installation these questions are answered either by going back to the User’s Manual or the Administration Manual or, more often, by calling the I.T. department of the enterprise. But in a SaaS environment, there are a large number of users (in fact, there is an entire community!) that you can ask: the other tenants! And they can be hundreds or thousands and is it is possible that someone else has had the same question as you, before and it is quite probable that somebody else has found the best solution to the problem. Perhaps, that “best solution” has originated by the software vendor himself, who has identified users’ questions, classified them and studied the best way of tackling with the issue…

    Therefore, it would be very efficient if the SaaS platform offered the possibility of collaboration and knowledge sharing between users, inside but also outside the enterprise. In the next post I shall describe a number of ways to achieve this. Till then you are all encouraged to use the good-old User’s Manual!
  • Comments

    1. Tasos
      I agree with your view of SaaS being a collaboration environment by default. My past company Siterra we did exactly that. I wrote about all the possibilities in my post


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