Configuration, Customization, and Standardization in a SaaS World
The way I look at it, the challenge is between Configuration, Customization and standardization. Standardization for any enterprise platform is important. It is important to be able to scale a solution. It is very important for time to value. If you have a standard platform you can roll out in a much shorter time to any industry, any size organization. Traditionally, what we see in the past with CA, IBM or SAP are 18 months plus implementations. They require a tremendous amount of customization, tremendous amount of custom codes thus the 18 months cycle. This keeps the customer on a legacy version for a much longer period of time. Companies don’t convert over to latest version until they are 4 or 5 versions behind. With Enterprise SaaS Solutions we are seeing a push towards standardization and a push to Configuration as opposed to Customization.
Redecorating the SaaS room
I view Configuration as redecorating the room. Customization is knocking out walls and creating new spaces. The more of a solution you can configure, the easier it is for the customer to adopt it. Configuration facilitates integration with existing processes. Faster implementation time so that the time to value for the customers is a lot faster on a SaaS platform. If you have high standardization and configuration you can move in to a new version of the platform. You can gradually push that new version out to your customer base. This way the customer is constantly on the latest version. The benefit the customer gets as part of the description fee is the fact that they have the latest enhancements of the product. They get the benefit of the innovation and R&D and use the new version of the SaaS platform.
SaaS software vs legacy software
The ability of SaaS platforms to provide the latest version to the customers is a key difference when comparing SaaS with traditional legacy software. What we are seeing from an industry standard point is even the larger legacy technology firms are moving into a SaaS environment. The large software vendors are moving their traditional solutions into SaaS. The challenges that they are having is that they have done so much customization with their customers that it’s incredibly difficult for them to build a standard platform. Then to move those customers on to the platform and take into account all the specific customization that they’ve done for the customers. This is the advantage we have as a Innovative Growing Organization. We are able to build the platform from ground up as opposed to trying to rebuild a legacy solution. So by building the SaaS platform from ground up, building it to match the existing processes and capabilities and then expand it to different industries, we are able to build a much more standardized solution for our customers vs. legacy solutions.
Less is More when you build a SaaS platform
When thinking how to develop a SaaS platform I think less is more. I think customers are yearning for less. The challenge is that customers have a hard time figuring out what to give up. That is where they look to us for that thought leadership. Customers are looking for our experience, not only as practitioners in the industry but also our experience with our existing customer base in terms of:
- what are other customers doing?
- what are they giving up?
- what are they streamlining?
One good example is this: customers are moving from individual time tracking to management allocating their team time and this is creating a lot increased productivity.
Instead of having individuals do time tracking on a daily and weekly and monthly basis, the trend is take out administrative burden off the employee and let the managers manage time, let the managers get visibility into supply and demand. That is creating a lot of increased productivity with a some of our customers and the other one is continuous planning. The trend is to get away from a start stop cycle for annual planning and moving into a more stream line continuous planning process. What we see in that process is you are spending less time planning because it is an annual process and more time focusing on execution. That is another example of where we see doing less is delivering more results in the organization. The challenges is getting organizations to actually accept that they are going to turn off awesome key features that they are dependent on and they are going to change their process overall across the Organization.
What features to include in the Saas Platform
That is a challenge that I think a lot of software companies building standardized SaaS platforms face. What are you giving up? I think when you look at it from a long-term perspective, you start to look at it in terms of what are you gaining and so when we think of customers requesting feature functionality capabilities that we know down the road they will be much better off not having, they will become much more efficient organization and have the same if not more transparency, we have to forego services revenues for implementation and really lead them down the right path.
Our goal is to have a happy customer so that customers drive and change internally, getting benefit from our solution but also see us as though leaders that are helping them advance and mature their process along the way. We do make that tough decision from time to time to forego revenue, to forego capabilities and help cut the development time of our SaaS platform, and lead our customers down the path of being innovative, streamlining and becoming ultimately more agile. What we see with larger companies is that they have very complex, clunky processes and I think they inhibit the speed of which they can make decisions. They depend too much on spreadsheets and teams of people to pull data together to make very important investment decisions for the organization. This is not very agile and if your competitor has real-time data and they have access to your information and they are making decisions a lot faster they can fail faster and self-correct and they are much more competitive than a customer as depending on the legacy, systems, tools, and spreadsheets.
What Inpensa does
We are not recreating the wheel. A lot of what Inpensa is doing is this: We are taking what people are struggling to do today manually on spreadsheets and taking data in and out of different systems and we are streamlining and putting it all in one place.
It is retraining people with how they manage data from a data entry stand point, data analytic stand point, data reporting and KPI’s as opposed to introducing new concepts. All concepts are concepts that they are familiar with, they have to merge capex and opex, they have to look at ROI for investments, but we want to break the tables, standardization, optimization, reduce touch points and provide real time data that is accelerating the speed of which they make decisions and utterly make them more agile organizations.