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 and on-line help can’t incorporate a variety of issues related to “this” or “that” function. They usually address common issues and most common mistakes and workarounds. In addition, one can assume that any SaaS application is much more parametrical than your usual in-premise, custom-developed system. Therefore, issues that have been “hard-coded” in your previous application, may require the setting up of a couple of parameters in that new SaaS platform. Therefore, it’s even more difficult for the vendor to produce some kind of “user’s manual” which will address all the details and combinations of parameterization. From personal experience, I know that not all parameter settings have been tested and verified, since just 10 “Yes/No” parameters, combined to each other will produce thousands or millions of combinations.

These two facts – the common business competencies and the common everyday usage issues – drive us to the inevitable conclusion that all those users form a kind of “community”, that is a collection of people with common interests and goals. Yes, you may say that it’s the same thing with all other in-premise applications (the SAP community, the PeopleSoft community etc.) and you are probably right. But, it is only in the SaaS space that the community members have the technical capability to interact and share knowledge and experiences. After all, isn’t that what you do with facebook, linkedin and other social media? You participate in a community of users, to expand the circle of friends, co-operators, seek new business opportunities etc.? Well, imagine doing the same thing from within your SaaS application…

In the next post, we shall explore some ways of actually achieving the formation of a “SaaS community” and how this can help you in many ways.

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