I came across this interesting article today by Robert Abbott on VentureBeat. In it he discusses how medium sized enterprises are better poised (than their larger counterparts) to benefit from the rise of mobile and web SaaS applications.
“By discarding expensive and inaccessible computing infrastructures for cloud-based solutions, they [Mid-Market Companies] can achieve a much higher level of business process automation for the same or even less IT investment” – Robert Abbot
Abbott’s commentary is certainly accurate and valid in identifying the relative benefits of the SaaS revolution for medium-sized enterprises. However to go a step further there is a greater division than the simple Mid-Market vs Large Enterprise. The continuum of company sizes, and their needs, stretches all the way from the 2-3 person startup to the largest of multinational enterprises, and their ability to adapt quickly is negatively correlated to their number employees. Smaller business, while likely having a lower number of prescribed users to a SaaS offering, are also more numerous in existence and geared more strongly towards future growth. This offers a lucrative opportunity for future SaaS developers.
The article above mentions that highly flexible and customizable applications are of great advantage, however the drawback from this is often an out-of-the-box product that is not a perfect fit for any organisation requires a large amount of cost in both staff time and money to customise and implement.
Abbot does correctly identify that SaaS applications are able to offer scalability and intuitive design along with information consolidation with increased visibility. However not all SaaS products are created equal, and it would be wrong to assume that an application that works for a small business would be a scalable solution for it all the way up to becoming a large enterprise. Just as it would be wrong to assume that a SaaS offering designed for large enterprises would be the optimal solution for a smaller, fast growing organisation.
Intuitive design is in the eye of the beholder. What is intuitive for the purpose of one user or organisation is unlikely to fit with desire path (see this blog post) of somebody in an organisation of a completely different size and structure. The experience needs to be designed with an idea for division of labour in the workforce and the level of functionality required. For example a junior marketer in a large multinational has no need to search the full database of client contacts and see all the products they have bought, however for someone in a small startup this could be crucial information which could be used to properly allocate a lean marketing resource.
In the coming years we will see an explosion of SaaS applications catering to all manner of business sizes and operations. Those that are successful will be the ones that correctly identify their niche and understand their requirements. They will offer seamless integrations with other business process that are outside their scope, and focus on what they do best.
Interestingly, in the comments of the above article people are already discussing the difficult and laborious task of choosing the correct SaaS offerings for their business from the plethora of available options. In my own research I have come across 249 companies offering functionality that is comparable with parts of SalesSeek. The vast majority of these fall short being consider a valid competitor which indicates the minefield of applications new businesses must avoid. I expect there may soon be a community driven website which will assist new businesses with the navigation of this minefield. If there isn’t, there should be.