Today I was in Rotterdam, where I discussed the roadmap and vision of SaaS at the first European SaaS Conference. I must admit that as I was putting the presentation together several months ago I was a bit stumped on how to talk about the SaaS roadmap--it sort of wanders all over the place, with different applications arriving at different times. For example, SaaS-based web conferencing and SaaS-based web analytics came out in 1995 and 1996, and so have now been around for over a decade, while SaaS-based document sharing solutions arrived only several years ago. All of a sudden, it came to me--while the destinations were all over the place, the roads weren't. I needed to describe the roads themselves: the map of roads. Once I thought of the problem that way, it became very clear. There are three stages of roads:
- Gravel Road: 1993-1999--During this time, hardy pioneers were blazing new trails--startups were looking for a way to break into a market and SaaS (called ASP at the time) was an attention-grabbing hook. Meanwhile, on the customer side, enterprise departments were looking for a software alternative. However, there were no real customization/configuration capabilities.
- Highway: 2000-2006--At this point, SaaS started to go mainstream. Departments (e.g., HR, Sales, Marketing) began using SaaS because sometimes it was a better solution than software and they could buy it faster than software. At the same time, the vendor attitude of "You can have any color you want as long as it's black" attitude started to soften, with suppliers starting to allow some customization via configuration settings.
- Superhighway: 2007+--Today, SaaS is accepted as a delivery model and being exploited. Large vendors are buying up SaaS providers and enterprises are starting to look at migrating significant portions of their business to SaaS (e.g., e-mail). Also, SaaS is now being viewed as a platform.
The conference had some big players in attendance--IBM, Iron Mountain, KPMG, Microsoft, and Salesforce.com were there; Google was supposed to present, but backed out at the last minute.