Opinions

SaaS My AsS

Posted by Julie Ann Desmond on November 15th, 2012 at 12:04 pm

I was just in a meeting with a company pitching a SaaS solution to a business issue we face every day. And over the course of the discussion, I began to find the whole idea of “software as a service” annoying. It’s pure blarney.

As digital start ups have been launched to disrupt so many business services categories, “SaaS” is usually “the name of the game.”

I don’t dispute the value of many of these tools and platforms as transformative – but I do object to the idea that software is or can be service. It isn’t and it can’t.

Part of the reason why the digital industry has gotten away with calling software a service is that the standards of service have fallen so dramatically over the past decade. So many of us approach business interactions with the expectation of minimal aid and support from our “partners.”

Unfortunately that spirit has infected many people whose jobs ostensibly are to provide service. But waiting 24 hours before returning a phone call or email requesting help is no more “service” than is a SaaS dashboard.  Service-oriented people are still out there. In my role as head of account service for my company, I have to weed through a lot of candidates to find those few that both care and ensure that their actions consistently reflect a service orientation.

You can see service orientation in the way people speak. Carry themselves. Talk about others. When people are served well, they show their appreciation. The fruit of finding “service stars” is strong client loyalty. That’s money in the bank. But sometimes the best rewards for service are those little gestures of recognition that clients give us, like a thank you note or a phone call to our bosses pointing out our efforts.

Service is about more than being responsive. Software can respond to requests and queries IF they fit into the pre-defined set of actions anticipated by the designers. Service is about proactively adding value for a partner – about helping them see ideas, concepts, and trends. It’s about going the extra mile. It’s about really caring.

Great service stops commoditization. One of the reasons why business categories and opportunities run so hot then cold in digital is that when a niche is created, first mover SaaS solutions quickly find themselves inundated with SaaS competitors. It’s no wonder then that would-be clients choose the lowest priced provider. Service breaks that paradigm.

The best technology and tools are essential to really meeting the business challenges that face our partners. Software can provide tremendous value, and for some tasks good software and UI are all you need to reap the benefits of an opportunity. But many business challenges require a lot more than a good dashboard. When you claim software is a service you demean the very idea of service.

So quit it.

3 Responses to “SaaS My AsS”

  1. Sudhir says:

    I don't agree with your observation that software can't be a service. I think your definition of software and service both are wrong.

    Service means some one else doing the job without you knowing the details of how the job is done. There could be a bad service and a bad service provider but it won't change the definition of a service.

    A software which is providing you the required service without you installing/buying/or knowing other details of it, is a software as a service. Might be the vendor gave the presentation was or the product he was selling was bad, but it does not mean that SaaS itself is bad. There are so many widely used SaaS applications in market which we use daily without even knowing such as Email by Google or ( Microsoft is also now providing SaaS based emailing solution).

    In my current organization we use almost all the tools are SaaSl. starting with email, Quick Base (for project management, etc).

    Sudhir

  2. GeoffB says:

    I think the IT guys mean software being "served up" (over the internet, although even that's been pimped up to "cloud"). So Software as a Serving is more accurate, although maybe it is (a different kind of) "service" after all, as it sounds as though you were being preached to...

  3. Rick Shea says:

    I agree with your perspective on what great service is about and its benefits. In my experience, it can also be a powerful differentiator, and it can help to support a premium price vs. more commoditized competitors.

    I think that when you really care about your clients, you get to know them and you find out about other problems you can solve for them, or about where they want to go and how you can help them to overcome obstacles to getting there. Finding these things out can lead to product/software improvements or even new product offerings that can deepen the relationship. Or maybe it can just help to ensure your clients are getting full value for their money.

    We would all be well served to remind ourselves that when companies decide to buy our services or products, that those decisions are made by people who care a great deal about whether or not we are solving their problems, and that they are judged for how they spend their budgets. We should care just as much as they do, if not more.

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