Finally, Workday, Dave Duffield's encore to the PeopleSoft enterprise resource planning (ERP) suite, was also curiously absent. Duffield was a featured speaker at the 2007 SaaSCon show, when he indicated that Workday would be competitive to SAP by Q2 2008. If this were the case, it is likely that we would have had an update this year. This in itself makes his absence noteworthy.
SaaS by its nature is an enabler for flexibility and business agility. Ten years ago, companies deploying CRM or ERP spent months or years implementing and millions in consulting fees. Today, any company connected to the Web can purchase CRM services online. Or they can purchase Geoprise or NetSuite ERP services, and be up and running immediately.
Such services are not as customized or functionally rich as Siebel (Oracle) or SAP but, at the same time, the IT industry has learned that "good enough" has its advantages. SaaS brings agility and simplicity to an industry known for its complexity, and adds a lightweight option that can be mixed and matched as part of a portfolio of service offerings. This is a refreshing change in the enterprise space and will be viewed in the years to come as a change as profound as the move to Web-based systems in the mid-to-late 1990's.
At the same time, the SaaS industry is changing. Even a year ago, SaaS companies were much more clearly defined in terms of organizational borders. One year later, there seems to be much more cross-pollination, particularly across the underlying delivery platforms. The lines of demarcation between SaaS companies are less clearly defined than those of traditional vendors, as SaaS vendors rely on hosting providers for data center services, re-sell their services to other SaaS vendors for re-branding and subsequent re-selling, and turn to online partners for billing, customer onboarding, enterprise management, and/or reporting.
In much the same way as businesses of all sizes are leveraging SaaS as part of a best of breed delivery strategy, SaaS vendors are leveraging each other to deliver their own services as cost-effectively as possible. SaaS is becoming a true cloud instead of a collection of diverse platforms. Like a cloud, it is constantly changing, somewhat chaotic, and amorphous. SaaS offerings are growing exponentially, intertwining, and maturing, and in doing so driving new enterprise application deployment models. In the end, consumers can only benefit from this evolution.
Julie Craig is a senior analyst with Boulder, Colo.-based