SaaS: the next generation of on-demand services
Vendors are moving beyond just CRM and business apps to offer an unusual mix of on-demand services.
The road to on-demand applications was paved by line-of-business applications vendors like Salesforce.com and NetSuite, but the next generation of providers are looking beyond basic business services and applications.
The AlwaysOn Summit here at Stanford University is a major dog and pony show for start-ups, some capitalized, some not, looking to promote their firm and ideas. They also talk about revenue, business plans and how many customers they've got, a reflection of the concern about funding start-ups with no plan to make money.
Such was the case of ServiceChannel, a unique startup that answers the question, "why do you need a SaaS provider to manage a plumber?" ServiceChannel helps large companies manage relationships with small firms that service them, such as cleaning and maintenance people.
"While the supply chain has been wired up, the service chain has been left in the cold," said Jason Griffith, vice president of sales during his pitch. National chains like Best Buy or Jamba Juice or Sports Authority need someone to service their local stores and usually hire a local small business to do things like check the plumbing or clean the storefront glass.
The service is compatible with compliance regulations like Sarbanes-Oxley, compatible with business software like Oracle, PeopleSoft and SAP and has the bandwidth to handle 10,000 daily transactions.
Another firm looking to change how business is done is Marketo, which provides on-demand software for managing the marketing side of sales. Its services are used in lead generation to build a relationship with a potential customer until they are ready to buy. "We are their prospect database of record," CEO Phil Fernandez told the crowd.
The way things usually are done, he noted, is marketing hands off the sale to the sales department once a potential customer is ready to buy. With Marketo, it continues to work the relationship with the potential customer to promote the firm.
A link to QuickBooks
While many of the firms promoting their services are accessed through a browser, SmartVault had a unique service. It offers its document management services through QuickBooks, the business software from Intuit, maker of the personal finance software Quicken.
SmartVault is an on-demand document management service for small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs). "Our mission is to deliver 80 percent of enterprise document management applications but for 20 percent of the cost," said CEO Eric Pulaski.
Its service lets customers go paperless by saving all their business documents online, readily retrievable from a number of interfaces, from QuickBooks to an iPhone. Rather than force people to use a custom UI, SmartVault's strategy was to make their service available in the apps people use every day, said Pulaski.
Driving a SaaS Engine
Corent Technology did SmartVault one better. It offers a "SaaS engine," the basic internals for building a privately-housed, on-demand, multitenant application very quickly. It handles the underlying plumbing for these systems and only requires business logic. "Anyone contemplating building a SaaS app can have it running in days, weeks or months," said CEO Feyzi Fatehi.
Boeing used Corent Technology's SaaS-Suite software to build an application to manage the tens of thousands of parts used in its C-17 Cargo Lifter, a massive cargo plane used by the military. Boeing expected it to take 12 months to build the application. It took 18 days, and about 10 of those days were writing documentation, Fatehi boasted.
The AlwaysOn Summit continues at Stanford through Thursday. InternetNews.com will have continued coverage.
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