There’s a great opportunity that SaaS has. As I think about these vendors with applications hosting scores of medium and large clients on a single installation of an application, on a single (cluster of) box(es), I envision this incredible opportunity to mine the data for best, or at least common, practices.
Today, we count on consultants and analyst groups to aggregate industry data for us and provide best practices. They go out and spend lots and lots of money trying to identify what other similar (and sometimes dissimilar) organizations are doing. Known or not, the SaaS vendors are sitting on a veritable goldmine of consulting knowledge. The value that they have in their servers is completely untapped.
Take for example the top talent management vendors. Each of them probably have at least 100 performance management clients, all of which are larger than 5-10K employees. In some cases these organizations are going to be Fortume 500’s. While I’m not delusional and I understand the client confidentiality each vendor must uphold, the whole point of SaaS is to be able to transcend the gap between service provider and service partner.
If a SaaS vendor can go to a client and say “in general, our other pharmaceutical clients that are trending towards xyz performance plans, and their results have been 123” or “other clients who have tried the type of plan configuration you’re thinking of have not been successful because of abc” this is when they cross the line from provider to partner.
Today, SaaS vendors think that partnership is about inquiring with their client base, finding consensus where functionality should be built, and building it quickly. My message today is this: Functionality is only important in as much as it gets you to a business result. What is actually important is that you have the right approach to get to said result.
A SaaS vendor can’t always provide the best direction that a consultant can, there may be too much liability and it’s honestly outside of their current capabilities. However, I truly believe that they can provide some good education to clients about what’s going on in the industry and what the trends are. Hopefully, SaaS vendors will soon be mining the gold sitting in their databases and figure out how to interpret the data as usable analysis.