One of the biggest pitfalls with the On-Premise world of applications was the lack of continuous innovation, improvement, value added services, immediate remedies and more importantly the cost and estimated time involved in taking these to the customers. Not only innovations and services even the required bug fixes, patches, service upgrades are even more difficult to reach the customer on time, simply because the solution/application resides within the customers closed walls and there are numerous aspects which stop the vendors in providing immediate remedies and solutions.
In today’s world of ever changing business with unstable economies, customers and enterprises looking for more agile, flexible, dynamic, cost effective and brilliant solutions to resolve their complex needs. There are many challenges for the ISVs and Enterprises in developing innovative products and features for the customers and enterprises to exceed their expectations.
Innovate or Die
Many popular companies in the late 90s are no more in the market now, mainly because they stopped their innovation or unable to cope up with the market, this is absolutely true for any industry and not just limited to IT world.
There are many established applications providers already exist and many more attractive solutions continue to emerge every now and then in the markets to woo customers. The only best way to survive in the market is to continuously innovate and provide better solutions than the competitors. Innovation alone is not the primary differentiators but how soon you can take it to the customers and change your ideas into reality makes the difference. If you fail to execute the ideas properly or make delay, this could lead the competitors to take advantage.
Every customer is unique in terms of their requirement, financial availability, vision, growth perspective etc. SaaS is one of the chosen delivery models which gained momentum because of its simplicity and ability to serve different kinds of customer right from personal users, SMBs, Enterprises and so on.The SaaS product should be able to provide the pick and choose capability for the customers to choose the features based on their actual usage and charge against those features and not based on a bundled package with a big fatty charge.Freemium is a better way to make the customer to evaluate the solution before they spend their fortunes, so the application should have an easy trial environment to test the various features of the application.
Achieving competitive advantage strengthens and positions a business better within the business environment. There are different strategies followed to position the product in the marketplace, either by giving in-equivalent support to the customers; Continuous innovation, reduced TCO, Enhanced Features and so on. Today successful Brands like ZOHO, Microsoft and SalesForce.com providing CRM applications in the market but their prices vary from one brand to another.The competitive advantage for Microsoft is their huge customer base and their well established developer community whereas for ZOHO low cost and focus on small and medium business is their advantages.
Value Proposition and Value Creation
More often, you could have received one repeated question from your potential customers while you showcase your SaaS product is that “What is your value proposition?”This is really uncommon, because customers these days have huge choices and SaaS vendors are coming up with newer products and appealing features faster with reduced cost. Now, the question is how do I differentiate my product with the rest? The answer might be, understand the customer requirement and provide custom functionalities and features according to their usage,along with value added services. The Possibility of providing lesser features and functionalities for those who doesn’t require all the complex and fancy components of the product with a very minimal cost will be a key differentiator in the world of SaaS.
Unlike traditional Software Solution vendors who sell the product, make huge amount and vanish,but this is not the case when it comes to SaaS, the reason being SaaS product is sold on monthly/Quarterly/Yearly subscription basis, customers can unsubscribe the solution at any time if they are not happy with the product or if they feel the product is not meeting their requirements, or when they think they can get the solution from other competitors with much lower cost or it could be any other reason. So it is very critical for the SaaS vendors in maintaining the customers happy for a longer period of time and keeping them engaged with the product in order to make continuous revenue out of the product. The support team should be very aggressive and willing to help the customers beyond the service standard in order to retain the customers and adhere to the SLAs agreed.
There are many questions which the application vendors can ask themselves to make sure the customers are happy. Some of them are,
- Are we exceeding the customer service expectations?
- Is the Service provided as per the SLAs agreed?
- Is the price competitive enough?
- Are the customers happy with the product? Etc
Upgrades & Patches
Upgrades and patches are generally rolled out during a weekend within a fixed duration time agreed by all the customers. There is a general myth that, since SaaS vendors is maintaining the whole Tech and application stack themselves,they are becoming a bit sloppy and getting a feel as “fix it some other day”. But this is not true, vendors generally enlist all the issues and the bugs identified and provide fixes as soon as possible .If it is a major bug which could impact the business of potential customers, then there is a chance of fixing it immediately, this information will also be published by the vendors.Biggest advantage of products built on Multi tenancy architecture is, the issue faced by one customer is common for the entire customer base and fixing it for one will resolve globally, because physically it is a single code base. Even when SaaS simplified lots of aspects of application delivery, but there are concerns such as who gets what and so on. Vendors should think through questions such as
- How to provide the latest features for all the existing customers or selective customers?
- How to attach the new feature to the existing system, if it is a cross cutting functionality? How do I make my existing customers to choose the latest features?
- Should it be free or paid? etc
The big question is how the new feature or enhancement would be plugged into the application and how to automate the whole process? The answer for this question is, “is your underlying architecture capable of automating the features plugging to the existing packages?” If the answer is Not, then you are in trouble. CelloSaaS, a multi tenant SaaS Application Framework which does this work seamlessly and gives more time to the developers to innovate on their respective domain and spend no time for such wiring stuff otherwise called as Non functional Requirement of SaaS Application [NFR].
CelloSaaS provides Package management with UI/Service to easily bundle set of features together as well as automates the process of plugging or removing features from the existing packages. So when a new feature added to an existing bundle, customers who subscribe to that package will automatically enjoy the functionality, similarly when we remove the feature, customers will lose access to the functionality. Product owners can create ‘n’ number of packages with different set of features and allot customized product to customers as per their need. This can highly influence the way the product is priced and it will help catching the long tail. Feel free to contact us if you have any specific questions regarding SaaS, CelloSaaS etc.