SaaS finally hit the mainstream. That's the "software as a service" SaaS not sass, as in Marc Benioff is sassy or The Devil Wears Prada sass. There is now a SaaS Executive Council that is heaven sent in its mission for defining metrics and process/practice standards for the ondemand world - and that is hellbent on making sure that you know about it and getting the word out. That job falls to the newly named chairman of the SaaS Executive Council, Nick Blozan, who is also the Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing at OpSource - and definitely the right man for the job.
I have to admit, when I heard about the Council I was excited, because something like this is important to the acceptance of the on demand model for the mainstream - who ultimately have to be appeased and appealed to for anything to work - regardless of rebellious guerilla activity with the new business models. That's always been the irony of a rebel - of which I'm one and always have been. We're really looking to become the new mainstream - not stay on the fringes of the universe. Unless being a fringe player is appealing to your personal psyche - the idea is to put forth something that makes you a leading thinker/actor in the play before the play is entirely cast - or even written.
A SaaS Executive Council indicates a level of maturity that says okay, the rebels have seized the capital, now its time to form the government and create the new democratic institutions - at least in my metaphorical fantasy. The SaaSEC (I'm going to use this acronym because I can't keep writing the whole thing out. I toyed with calling it the SEC but that got scary) has some seriously heavy hitters working with it including IBM, salesforce.com, WebEx, Oracle, OpSource and about 45 some odd others.
What it's done so far is to define the beginnings of standards for business and pricing models, service level agreements, code architecture, infrastructure delivery, and a delivery model for the channel which is particularly interesting since the SaaS community views their channels very differently. For example, salesforce.com's channel is the AppExchange community and is more of an "ecosystem:" than a channel - very much in the mold (I know that salesforce isn't going to like this one) of Microsoft's approach - which, to both Microsoft's and salesforce's credit is very successful so far. NetSuite has a more traditional partner network as does RightNow. So what channel "best practices" and models are offered should be very interesting, given the dramatically different approaches and cultures that are involved.
Curiously, both NetSuite and RightNow have been only fringe participants in this council and I think they need to get their butts in gear here and fully participate. The SaaSEC needs them and they need it. Both of them are critical to the future of on demand and this council might not succeed without them, nor will they benefit by avoiding it.
There are other concerns that some have. One good article on this new bunch is visible at ZDNet by Phil Wainewright, who is generally supportive but has a few concerns. I'll let you go and find out what they are. Its a worthy and fast read.
Personally, I think this is a great move that all the on demand interested companies and leaders need to get onboard with. I suppose I have two concerns - both of which I addressed with Nick and both of which he answered well. One of which I'm not going to talk about the answer.
A Not So Insignificant Side Rant
First, the surprising fact that th SaaSEC is under the aegis of the Software Industry Information Association (SIIA). That was a bit of a shocker. I am not particularly impressed by the SIIA -ever since my stint in 2005 as a Codie Award judge for the CRM category. For those of you who don't follow this junk, the Codies are the ESPYs of the CRM world. For those of you who aren't sports fans and are geeks, the ESPYs are the Codies of the sports world - just kidding. The ESPYs are the Oscars for the sports world run through ESPN. The Codies are the same for the software world - or are supposed ot be.
My SIIA disillusionment came when my fellow judges and I had 27 or thereabouts entries to judge in the CRM category, of which, around 20 of them, by NO stretch of the imagination, had much to do with CRM. Not that they weren't cool products. Some were ultra-rad. But, all of us are pretty busy people. We were volunteers with little real upside doing it other than talking to the companies themselves and again, most of them weren't CRM related, and yet we in fairness gave them all time for demos - at least to see if we could find some CRMness in them. I suppose that this jives with the way the Oscars are chosen too, given some of the current and historic nominee choices.
Our job as judges was to pick 7 of them to go to the finals which would then be voted on by the membership of the SIIA - who are hardly particularly qualified to vote in all categories. So the consistent winner has been salesforce.com for the last two or three years. No surprise. Probably the most visible to the SIIA membership. The criteria to get into the category - pay, I think it was, $250, and say you're CRM.
Worse, when I was asked to do it again, I raised my objections and told the SIIA that I would be happy to work with them to establish standards for the CRM category. They gave it professional lip gloss and never got back to me - though they insisted they would.
So, all that said, imagine my surprise when I found that the SIIA was the umbrella for the SaaS Executive Council. Nick and I spoke on that subject and without going any further, he answered it well. So I'm now comfortable with that - though I still think they need to make the Codies more than a joke or forget them altogether.
More Of A Suggestion Than A Concern - Honest
My other concern was that there was no forward thinking group that would deal with the trends in the on demand world - at the point where that world is dramatically changing - and some of the trends could have huge impact on the best practices programs and approaches that the Council was trying to create and standardize. For example, as far as I'm concerned, there is a significant transformation going in on demand - SaaS is beginning, in places, to move toward SaaP. That means "software as a service" is morphing in some respects, to "services as a platform." Salesforce.com makes it clear that their mantra is exactly that - to be the ubiquitous platform for what Marc Benioff insists on calling the "Business Web." With players like SAP (who don't seem to be all that involved in the SaaSEC either - yet) and Rearden Commerce on the horizon of SaaP, this could significantly affect the processes, practices, technology architectures and distribution and deployment channels. Thus my question to Nick was, "where are the thought leaders?"
He was very animated (in a good way) about the idea of bringing thought leaders into the group to discuss the trends etc. I, of course, volunteered to be part of this organization. He and I are going to continue the discussion and I'll keep you posted on the final result.
I'm excited. Frankly, I think this is one of the better ideas for an organization that I've seen for awhile.
Its about time that the on demand cowboys buy a ranch and settle down to herd their cattle. The saloons will still be there for some, but hey, they've got a multitenant family to raise.