I was at Maximizer Software, a small CRM software company based out of Vancouver, in 1999 when Salesforce.com entered the marketplace. Many in the CRM industry questioned at the time whether companies would trust hosting their most precious customer data with a third party over the web. 9 years on, Salesforce.com boasts over 41,000 customers and recently announced record fourth quarter revenues. Software-as-a-service is proving to be a viable option for customers of all shapes and sizes – offering comparable functionality to on-site applications with the advantage of rapid deployment and flexible pricing options.
One of my favourite examples of a company who does SaaS really well is Intuit. I must admit I was hesitant to enter my personal information when I tried out QuickTax online for the first time about three tax seasons ago (TurboTax is the US equivalent) – but it turned out to be so easy that before I knew it I’d completed my tax return and all I had to do to finish the process was to enter my credit card number – I was hooked. I was even more impressed in year 2 when prompted to automatically upload all of the pertinent information from the previous year making the process even faster – now I can’t imagine getting through tax time without it.
More and more of the leading application vendors are offering customers the choice of on-site or on-demand and more and more customers, are deploying the solution that best meet the needs of their user community. Siebel On Demand launched in 2003, SAP Business ByDesign launched in 2007 and even Microsoft is planning to join the party, announcing last week the launch of a beta for US customers for Exchange Online and SharePoint Online.
Business Objects was the first business intelligence vendor to offer BI on-demand with the launch of crystalreports.com in April 2006 followed by the launch of Business Intelligence OnDemand and Information OnDemand in September last year. Today, over 90,000 registered users take advantage of our on-demand solutions. Just like the Intuit example, a key driver to this growth lies in the ability for users to try before they buy.
Interestingly, the development of our on-demand BI offerings has led to new innovations that have now been incorporated back into our on-site software. For instance it was our Information OnDemand offering that introduced the capability to compare and track key performance metrics from internal company data against external market data provided by organizations like Thomson Financial and Dun & Bradstreet market data and this capability is now available to on-site users with the latest release of BusinessObjects XI 3.0.
But perhaps the best news for customers is that the choice is not “On-site or On-demand” but about selecting the right mix of “On-site and On-demand”. The combination provides organizations with choice in how they deploy and deliver solutions and the flexibility to deliver users with the best solution to meet their needs. In the BI context, power users may still benefit today from the richer functionality and performance of an on-site solution whereas an on-demand solution may be best suited to meet departmental (lob) requirements for a solution that is less IT-reliant and faster to get up and running. One of the most compelling benefits from a BI perspective, is the combination of on-site and on-demand solutions to allow a broader implementation of BI, to users both inside and outside the firewall making the benefits of BI available to all users throughout the business. Users are not only better served by this combined approach but organizations also benefit from a broader range of licensing and pricing options, including subscription based pricing that significantly lowers start up costs, and ensure that costs more closely match application utilization within the organization.
By total coincidence, all of the companies mentioned above support my previous post on Heterogeneous Business Intelligence in an SAP World: Maximizer, and Intuit OEM Business Objects software; in partnership, the on-demand team has developed business intelligence solutions for Salesforce.com; the BusinessObjects Portal Integration Kit for Microsoft SharePoint 2007 is available and free for download; and BusinessObjects Integration Kits are available for SAP and Siebel.