8 Key lessons from SaaS users

If you were unable to attend the IDC SaaS Summit in New York on March 26, you missed some outstanding information and advice. The Summit was aimed at executives interested in learning more about the value proposition of SaaS. IDC intentionally capped the number of participants so they could have time to ask their burning questions and get focused attention. Good strategy, as hall buzz indicated participants were highly satisfied with the topic sessions, Q&As, and skill sets of presenters.

The summit kicked off with some IDC research regarding SaaS.  Specifically, SaaS is maturing and has moved beyond CRM applications. Robert Mahowald, director, On-demand and SaaS Research at IDC discussed several new opportunities for vendors in this market. Mahowald posited that lines are blurring between SaaS, Platform-as-a-Service, security and storage in the virtual environment.

My personal opinion is that all of the services required to run a business effectively in the cloud absolutely must come together. We should have learned our lessons over the past several decades regarding buying-in to proprietary solutions, lack of interoperability, missing or weak standards, inability to meet regulatory compliance, unruly software management, storage and storage management, and internal and external security issues. If not, the next round of lessons will be so incredibly painful your firm may not make it through the process.

IT can no longer be a cost center with its own set of priorities and technologies with which to experiment.  If it isn't supporting the business' goals and objectives, then what good is it providing the company?

After the opening, the Summit moved into several robust presentations from SaaS users. The compelling messages around the sessions included:

- Wide vertical market penetration. There were speakers from several different vertical markets including the highly risk-adverse financial sector and price-sensitive non-profit sector.

-< SaaS is not a single application or business function solution. Each of the presenters discussed the numerous applications being used in the cloud and the ease of single sign-on to all of the applications.

- SaaS is not a single vendor solution. The emphasis was on using best-of-breed providers, and the ability to operate across multiple clouds as well as between the cloud and in-house applications.

- Security is readily available and leverages the use of existing technology investments in user identity databases.

- User identity and federated identity are core components of being able to operate across multiple clouds, and between the clouds and in-house applications.

- Incrementalization is one key to SaaS success. Every one of the users discussed their process flow for executing on their SaaS strategy. Each of them started with one or two applications, and built the strategy on two or three core platforms that provided hooks into their critical applications.

- All of the existing SaaS users had a roadmap slide showing the next several applications they were planning on adding to their portfolio of in-the-cloud application services. These folks have big plans.

- My favorite point: the users were able to talk to both the TCO and competitive advantage SaaS has afforded their firms. These points were outstanding!

Peppered throughout the day were ample breaks to visit the show floor, network with peers, and talk to service providers. Some of the floor vendors had cool SWAG, and all of them had interesting messages to deliver.

IDC is planning a Fall run of this Summit. It is scheduled for September 24 in San Francisco. I strongly recommend you attend. It will be a valuable one day learning experience. Go to www.idc.com/saaswest09 for more information.

You can reach me at:

http://www.linkedin.com/in/marthalyoung or http://twitter.com/myoung_vbiz

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