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By Jeff Wing
October 30, 2016
Back in the day, paper ruled the office. Forms were produced in unnecessary triplicate, spreadsheets covered the desks of overworked bookkeepers, and file cabinets everywhere became overstuffed document graveyards. Paper paper paper. Something had to give. When desktop computing and “point solution” software apps arrived to streamline the office and make paper obsolete (or at least optional), it seemed that suddenly there was a digital answer to every problem you’d ever imagined in the office; and a few you hadn’t imagined.
The digital revolution brought with it a busy new marketplace of ideas. Software vendors developed brilliant project management solutions, and their products flew off the shelves and into grateful offices everywhere. Each of these software products solved for a particular “point solution” in the office—accounting, HR, sales, marketing—but none of the software could be integrated. You wanted your cool new accounting software and your cool new sales software to join forces and help move the project along. But they couldn’t. In effect, the sheer number of solutions became the new problem.
Then SaaS showed up to save the day. Software as a Service kept the good—beautifully designed project management software solutions—and tossed the bad—software and hardware hassles. SaaS developed its own integrated project management tool suite, hosted the software on its own remote servers and offered everything as a subscription. All the office had to do was plug in and subscribe. No discs, no server room, no expensive IT infrastructure. A thing of beauty.
Today SaaS is a fact of business life. Construction offices everywhere have taken advantage of SaaS’s turnkey project management solution, and are even offering their own suggestions for customizing the tools to suit their business needs. Now, just as SaaS is reaching the top of its game, a potential power tool buried deep in the SaaS model is generating industry buzz. And it may just be the phenomenon that defines the future of business strategy.
Deep drilling and analysis of your own repository of SaaS numbers will one day yield practical business intel you can use to great competitive advantage. Who will be doing the drilling? You will, and the drill is going to be Big Data. A new approach to business intelligence, Big Data uses high-level math and algorithms to find in your sea of stored numbers the strategic answers you need for your business.
These Big Data programs will allow you to dive into your numbers and emerge with the actionable intelligence that is buried in your years of routine record-keeping. In the future, a Big Data phenomenon called “machine learning” may even allow your business system to autonomously enact its own recommendations, like a car rolling up its windows when sensors detect an oncoming rain squall.
Big Data is serious about finding meaning in the seeming chaos of the huge data-sets SaaS has been mechanically compiling for these many years. And the more numbers it has to work with, the more granular and accurate will be the yielded business intel.
SaaS is perfectly situated to make the most of this coming Big Data-mining revolution precisely because SaaS’s cloud-based model has made it an inadvertent data warehouse. SaaS has always been the keeper of all the information produced and stored through our collective use of the digital, cloud-based SaaS reporting tools. Now NextGen SaaS is preparing to finally leverage all that detail, and make Big Data’s promises a keynote of the NextGen SaaS. Is all this a big deal? Yes. And what about the Classic SaaS that got us this far?
“You couldn't get to the NextGen without the first gen SaaS, and so it's truly an evolution. It may look like leapfrogging, but it’s not. It just takes time.” Bassem Hamdy, EVP of Marketing and Enterprise Strategy for Procore Technologies, is excitedly holding forth on a subject he believes will define the next SaaS revolution.
“SaaS used to be something called ASP, and so it was based in the Application Software Provider model. In the old days of hosting, you would be a client, and I would be a client. Those client databases soon became very unmanageable.”
Hamdy’s thumbnail history usefully emphasizes how quickly the “databases” became unwieldy––top-heavy with the constantly inflowing data. The naturally rapid accrual of data is what perfectly positions NextGen SaaS as Big Data’s new best friend. As SaaS has been increasingly taken up as the default enterprise system solution, the depth and breadth of your collected data has likewise massively expanded; a vast ocean of raw data in which we can find answers to questions we don’t even know to ask yet. Raw data is quickly becoming the high-value ore from which NextGen SaaS will extract the precious metals of your Business Intelligence, delivered to you on a silver platter. Hamdy continues.
“Where you go next is the marketplace of data,” he says. “Think about the struggles Uber is having in some cities. Most people think Uber’s struggles are about taxi companies, taxi competition. It’s not that. A lot of cities want Uber’s commuting data, but Uber sees this as an opportunity. The cities want to know that somebody hailed an Uber at this time for that destination––you look at that in the aggregate as millions of people, millions of data points, and it’s ‘Where do I need to build the next bus route?’ So, Uber is smart. They want to monetize that data. On the face of it they are a car hailing company. In the back of it, though, they're actually a data processing company.”
In the same way, a SaaS user sitting on a huge deposit of his own massed company data is in possession of a resource which some vendors and purveyors of materials might find very useful as regionally strategic market information. NextGen SaaS and the value of information mining will make data the new Coin of the Realm.
In the 4th and final installment of our NextGen SaaS series, SaaS and Big Data unite to show a way forward.
Next Generation SaaS
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