|By Harry Trott||
|October 11, 2014 10:00 AM EDT||
When Marc Benioff launched Salesforce back in 1999, his goal was simple – he wanted to make enterprise software as easy to use as consumer websites like Amazon.com. The service itself was pretty fundamental and addressed one function – it made it easy for customers to access, manage and share the organization's sales information. Over time, the CRM industry exploded and so did cloud computing. Today, Salesforce caters to a wide number of industry requirements including relationship management, B2B prospecting, customer support and marketing automation.
This is a story that is true not just with Salesforce, but with pioneers from every other industry as well. Services like NetSuite in the cloud ERP industry or GetResponse in the Email marketing automation sector too have evolved to include a suite of software services to complement their core offering. In the case of NetSuite, it includes the availability of business intelligence tools, ecommerce platform and project management solutions in addition to ERP while in the case of GetResponse, it is features like their landing page creator, A/B testing tools and email intelligence services that make their SaaS tool stand out from the crowd.
Cloud computing has often been heralded as a revolutionary new technology that has not only brought down the cost of doing business but has also made it easy for aspiring entrepreneurs to launch new businesses with little overhead. Given the lower barriers to entry, it is possible for a newcomer to take on an established SaaS service with lesser effort today than it might have taken them to compete against the likes of Oracle and IBM in the earlier decades.
As a result, the need for a business to keep innovating is more relevant today than it has ever been in the past. If Amazon had remained an online bookstore, it would not have taken much time for the likes of Barnes & Noble to launch a more successful competitor. Similarly, Oracle with its financial muscle could have easily taken on NetSuite if not for the continuous innovation that made it relevant for their customers to stay.
To put this another way, entrepreneurs are finding it increasingly difficult to start small and grow in the SaaS industry. The value proposition of an MVP today has reduced thanks to sophisticated software suites offered as a service by competition. The industry thus appears to be moving towards a future where SaaS businesses increasingly offer a packaged list of multiple services as part of their offering. Software-Suite-as-a-Service is already a reality given the way the pioneers of various cloud based industries have evolved.
What does this mean for the customer? In a study last year, Gartner had estimated that at least 25% of the enterprises will have their own app stores by 2017. This is a necessity borne by the need to plug in data from one SaaS application to another. As more and more businesses go the SSaaS route, the need to have an in-house app store might come down. Customers will soon start expecting all the necessary add-ons to be available as part of the core offering. While it is unlikely for APIs to become redundant any time in the near future, an increasing number of customers will start picking businesses that have all the necessary add-on tools available as part of their own suite rather than them having to spend additional money purchasing an add-on.
While this is a good thing for the consumer, for aspiring entrepreneurs, the road to succeed might just get harder. What are your thoughts on this?
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