Thursday, March 31, 2011

SaaS Vendors Take Note: You Can Operate in the Cloud but Not in a Vacuum

This week I watched a webinar that proposed that more responsibility of integration with SaaS applications needs to be carried by the software provider. Analyst Dana Gardner of Interarbor discussed this topic in the webinar and on his blog Workday recently announced its cloud-based integration services as part of its SaaS ERP offering, stepping up to the plate to provide tools that will ensure that customers can integrate to their own software. They very well may be setting a trend that other ISVs will need to keep up with.

It is clear that, while the convenience and specialization of cloud-based solutions opens a new opportunity for businesses to trim down their infrastructure and the associated maintenance costs and effort, it doesn't eliminate the need for integration. Instead, it calls for a new paradigm for data integration.

Unfortunately, the heavy middleware in enterprises today will have trouble keeping up with the increasing business demands for agility. Change is tough when no one wants to touch the integration for fear of breaking something.

With the growing dependence on cloud-based software, your customers need a new generation of integration that can streamline data flows as their business processes move freely across legacy, clouds, and collaboration portals. If you are a SaaS vendor you need to seriously think about how you can rise to the occasion for your customers. The better you do it, the happier your customers will be.

Workday addressed the challenge by buying an integration software company! That's not only an expensive way to go, but it means that now, in addition to domain expertise and software development teams for their ERP, they must also maintain expertise and developers in the rapidly-changing integration space. That's probably not a prudent business approach for most SaaS vendors.

The alternative is to embed, rebrand, and/or offer Agile Integration Software, such as Enterprise Enabler® in your offerings That way you get all the benefits without the headaches. I don't know if Workday's integration fits the Agile Integration Software model (see, but with AIS, even a SaaS software vendor is able to offer integration across cloud apps, and also incorporate on-premise backend legacy systems as well as pass data to and from your customer's SharePoint installations, on-premise or hosted.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Crossing the Chasm Between Consumer and Business Technology

How can it be that consumer technology manages always to deliver on ease of use, compatibility, and basic human appeal? Why do we have to deal with ugly, difficult, clunky software in the business world? How is it that there are standards that have been pervasively accepted and implemented for cell phones and all manner of electronic gadgets? Don't you ever wonder why it is that consumer technology hits the spot and continues to do so?

A huge contributor to the difference is the nature of the products themselves. Consumer electronics, phones, and even software are basically "throw-away." They are low cost and are expected to be completely replaced every couple of years, so consumers are forgiving of bugs and don't even think about upgrades. They simply get a new one. Maintaining the history of the world part 2 or part 1 is not the responsibility of these devices and software. The closest they come is the need to accommodate a few years of contacts' phone numbers and addresses. And even that.. only the business users of these things care.

For consumer software, the imperatives of interoperability with existing and old technology are very minimal, limited to internet and communications standards, which are discreet and maturing. The consumer market is huge, and with the constant replacement by customers, it's a path of enviable "recurring revenue" streams. Besides that, marketing to consumers is much more intuitive and pervasive than targeting the specific individuals who might want/need the business solution and also have the authority and the budget to buy it. With business systems, there's no walking by a store, seeing a flashing display, and buying on impulse.

For business software product companies, it's a whole different world: more complexity, expectations for longevity, necessarily higher price tags, and requirements of "upward compatibility" for new releases. There is always the imperative of having to work in tandem with everything else that's in place or being invented by competitors.

So our challenge is to figure out how to close the gap and move business technology closer to consumer technology. Of course, it's SaaS that offers the greatest potential to shake up the software product market over the next few years, but I think that Agile Integration will come into the mix in a big way, dramatically simplifying the underlying corporate IT infrastructure.