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 space is through a dedicated blog of the SaaS vendor, on their web site etc. But, from personal experience I can assume that not many users would be eager to visit that blog each day and find out what’s new. Instead, if they had these news “popped up” upon their login in the system, you would be almost certain that they would have read about it.

  • Provide news feeds and other sources of information: Apart from what the SaaS vendor has to say about the “space”, there are other sources of useful information. Regardless of whether we are talking about a vertical implementation (e.g. Facilities Management contract management system) or a horizontal one (e.g. Accounting software for the SMB), RSS sources or Tweets from relevant companies and organizations could be incorporated in that SaaS desktop. Each user that has been interested in the past probably knows these sources. But, again, wouldn’t it be easier to bring these sources in the SaaS desktop? After all, let’s not forget that you, as a SaaS vendor, are always seeking new ways of keeping the users inside your space; not letting them wonder around “wild internet”.
    In addition, the application should allow the user to adjust their personal favorites; change RSS sources, add more etc. And even, share these sources with the community (see “virtual forum”, below)

  • Enable chatting inside the application: When a user faces an urgent problem, perhaps they don’t have the time to investigate or call the SaaS vendor for telephone support. Chatting between users of the workspace could provide a solution to this problem: What if you could instantly chat with your colleague who operates in another branch of your company, or in another geographical location, asking for help: “how do I do this?”, “I’m stuck with this procedure and on-line help doesn’t help me much”, “have you ever seen…?” are just a few questions that may find fast and easy answers, without the help of the vendor.

  • Implement a virtual forum workspace: No matter how good the SaaS application is, there will always be room for enhancements and problem solving. A virtual workspace is the means to collect these requirements. Bugs usually show up in the user’s everyday operations and not on the programmer’s test cases. The user is the one that can quickly alert the community for the bugs and probably suggest a workaround. Also, when a commonly required enhancement exists, it is in the forum that the SaaS vendor will see the wider requirement and how critical it is for the benefit of the platform. And this may lead to faster resolution of the issue.
    Again, such service could be provided by a blog or a forum in the web site of the vendor (e.g. ZOHO CRM), but what better place to store that knowledge than the SaaS workspace itself. And finally, the resolution of the issue could be transmitted to the community in just seconds (remember that in that SaaS space, everybody has a named user profile and a declared email!)

  • Establish on-line “question and answer” capability: A variant of the above line of thinking is this if the “Q&A” functionality: Assuming that one user’s question is also others’, if that user posted a relevant question and somebody (vendor or co-user) answered, then everybody would instantly receive that knowledge.
    If we try to imagine the evolution of this, we could end up with a solid “knowledge database” in our hands. Technical tools such as “full text search” would allow everybody to do a “fuzzy” search in the issues that have been discussed.

    I thing we’ve made our case: Any SaaS workspace is a potential community and technology can serve as an enabler of problem solving inside the boundaries of that community. In one of my next posts, I will go one step further and talk about co-operation and synergies between SaaS tenants. After all, a “community” is not just a collection of people who “help” each other. It is also a collection of people who may work together for their common good…
  • Comments

    1. What you describe are fantastic features... BUT the are not an issue of software delivery and charging model. It is an issue of technology used and web application design... If you design those features on your application then those features are there no matter how they are charged to end users...

    2. Well...., I am not sure... I could choose to offer these "goodies" for free (e.g. in order to enhance user experience and therefore attract more users in my offering) OR I could choose to offer them as additional "submodules" with added value for the end-user. e.g. "invite your customers to join in and chat in MY platform".

      erp software providers


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