SaaS & BI - The History & Future
The concept of Software as a Service, or SaaS was first introduced in 2001 to describe the delivery method of a then-emerging concept, the Application Service Provider, or ASP. An ASP is a company who provides on-demand licensing and access for an application, usually using the internet as a delivery mechanism. As web browsers continue to evolve and become more ubiquitous in the workplace, SaaS solutions are on the rise. Since 2001 the Software as a Service (SaaS) model has matured into a reliable, cost-effective method of delivering software. Once limited to small and medium size businesses, SaaS solutions are increasingly used by large enterprise organizations. SaaS solutions are being offered by an expanding range of software development companies. Even large development organizations who have traditionally used an installed license model are embracing the SaaS model as either a primary or alternative delivery model.
The SaaS model offers ease of deployment and low operating costs, and eliminates the need for infrastructure expenses and support expertise. SaaS applications are accessible wherever internet connectivity exists.
During the same period, the marketing of business intelligence (BI) solutions have taken the opposite path. Designed to provide ease of analysis and actionable information from raw data sources, BI solutions were the elite purview of enterprise organizations with deep pockets until around 2005. Complex implementation, maintenance and administration made BI expensive to operate. Development of BI solutions was limited to skilled technicians, limiting adoption across organizations. Since the middle of this decade, however, the BI solutions market has aggressively expanded its offerings in the small and medium sized business space.
One of my favorite examples is Mint (mint.com), a personal finance web site that transforms your raw bank transactional data into clear, opinionated budget information. The business model side also allows companies to offer their services at strategic points on the site. This is a powerful example of a mature SaaS solution utilizing a “BI for the Masses” approach to actionable information.
Another great example is Google Analytics, a free web analytics tool that takes data from web traffic and transforms it into useful, actionable charts.
The convergence of these two trends offers interesting opportunities and great value for customers. As the BI market pushes farther into medium and small markets, the demand for simplicity, elegance and intuitiveness grows. As SaaS offerings expand into enterprise-class markets, the demand for increasingly complex, customizable solutions grows. Not only are there an increasing number BI solutions available on hosted platforms, but SaaS solutions are delivering an ever-increasing level of business intelligence capabilities into their offerings. One of the big knocks against the SaaS model is a lack of direct access to data. Mature SaaS solutions are taking advantage of the BI trend to offer more complete ad hoc reporting, analysis and export capabilities. Fellowship One (F1) is one of these products. We are currently integrating an adhoc reporting and analysis tool into Fellowship One that did not even exist a few years ago. This solution will allow Fellowship One users uninhibited access to their data stores in an intuitive, easy-to-use interface. We are very excited about the upcoming introduction of this tool, and I personally feel that it will allow our customers to better realize the benefits of the unified data set that Fellowship One is known for. Our plan is to introduce this tool to our product line in Q4 2010.
Chris Utter grew up in Abilene, TX and now lives in The Colony, TX with his wife Mischell and their two teenage daughters, Jordan and Bonnie. Chris joined Fellowship Technologies as the Director of Data Services in 2009. He has also designed business intelligence solutions for Hotels.com and Mary Kay, Inc.
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