SaaS or ‘Software as a Service’ is technically a software licensing and delivery model, similar to PaaS, and IaaS. Basically, it means providing access to a computer program on a subscription basis, think Salesforce, Office 365, and Dropbox… although people like to debate that last one.
When you look to the future of SaaS the big thing on everyone’s mind is artificial intelligence. In years past, the AI in SaaS has been rather underwhelming and some of the chatbots downright laughable. However, with Google doubling down on its SaaS efforts last year and the breakthroughs they’ve had in AI, we’re expecting big things in the near future.
Wanting to know more about how AI is changing SaaS and what else is on the horizon, we asked a group of industry experts…
What’s the future of SaaS?
Here’s what they had to say…
Najeeullah Babar, President of UploadMyProducts.com
“The more things change, the more they revert to where they started from. Computing started off as one central mainframe computer with a lot of dumb terminals attached. Then came distributed computing with one central mainframe and several mini computers attached. This was followed by personal computing and now mobile computing. However; the mainframe never died contrary to popular propaganda. It simply evolved and we now give it trendy names like cloud computing and SaaS. Both Cloud computing and SaaS are here to stay as customers today have more choices and don’t want to pay for the functions and features they don’t need or the mega MIPS they don’t use. And that is what makes SaaS products such a good deal and will continue to be as security improves and international laws about cyber security gets formulated and implemented. SaaS products have reduced margins per customer for the software developers but they can engage a larger client base due to the ease of delivery and greater reach. They earn a little over a larger customer base resulting in greater net profits.”
David Batchelor , President & Co-Founder of DialMyCalls.com
“Now is a great time to start a SaaS company. While SaaS has been a hot buzzword, it’s more than that, it’s a whole shift as to how people function with their devices. You’re going to see plenty of niche verticals with their own unique software, things that were never online before. You could argue that Uber is one of these types of hybrid SaaS solutions, connecting the old world to the new world with a simple, easy-to-use software.”
Steve Fredette, Co-founder & President of Toast
“SaaS will have fully expanded outside of the traditional corporate desk worker world and into the mobile workforce, with many more apps being native apps and mobile-first versus web-based desktop websites. SaaS will also take over small business services, where revenue models may shift from purely fixed software models to transaction-based models where you have AWS, Twilio, Zenefits and Gusto as examples today.”
Chris Bryson, CEO & Founder of Unata
“When it comes to enterprise retail software, the pace of innovation is continuing to accelerate to the point where traditional waterfall development and enterprise licensing can’t keep up; SaaS and its inherent agile nature are the only solution to stay current or even get ahead. The fact that large corporations are embracing SaaS is proof of it; companies are changing their traditions out of necessity, not curiosity. Change is not easy, after all! As a SaaS provider for grocery chains to power their customer experience, we have seen how grocers have warmed up to the concept given that SaaS can enable them to have a customer offering that is frequently being updated over time. Traditionally, Grocery has been the last retail vertical to embrace technology trends; given that even the grocery vertical is finally embracing SaaS, we are convinced that it is most certainly here to stay.”
Steve Benson, Founder & CEO of Badger Maps
“The future of SaaS will bring the world access to applications that can solve and manage many different problems and tasks in their lives. I think that the software companies will look a lot different than software companies in the past where just a few companies had a lock on the software industries because they controlled closed platforms that other pieces of software didn’t work together on. In the future, there will be platforms like the browser, the iPhone and Android that will allow people to load up the exact software they want from the companies they want to work with. This will mean a lot more but smaller software companies. People in the past may have used 5 software applications in a day, today they might use 25, in the future, they may use hundreds.”
Catherine Dahl, CEO at Beanworks
“The future of SaaS is in accounting.
All the big players are getting on board with a cloud offering: Sage has three cloud products (Sage 50, 100, 300 and 50) to replace its desktop models, which include SageOne, SageLive and X3; Intuit is focused on moving their user base to QBO as Xero and QBO battle for market share; and even Microsoft is revamping Dynamics GP to a cloud offering.
SaaS has too many advantages for both the companies managing the application and the end user.
Accountants are smart: once they get the feel of the cloud version of their role, the entire accounting software space will begin a true disruption. Thus far, the innovators in this sector are driving the change. Accounting is a conservative, risk-averse group by nature. They waited while every other sector tested the cloud apps before dipping in. When they do make the switch, the world of SaaS will explode!”
Brian Rich, Managing Partner & Co-founder of Catalyst
“SaaS will be pervasive and there really won’t be a SaaS industry per se, because all software will be delivered in this fashion (unless it is legacy). I also think that intelligence will get pushed to the edge of the network, so it won’t all be cloud based. The reason is that as SaaS continues to increase its share of consumer, SMB and Enterprise computing, the network demands will multiply. Simultaneously, computing power will increase and computations can be done locally. So, it will be a hybrid of cloud based and local solutions.
A chief component of this trend is Artificial Intelligence, Robotics (driverless cars, for example) and visualization like virtual reality and augmented reality. These three technologies will be an integral component of SaaS offerings and compound the aforementioned trends.”
André Gauci , CEO & Co-founder of Fusioo
“The future of SaaS is all about automation, elements of artificial intelligence and predictive analysis. Right now we live in a world where highly paid business development managers are wasting most of their time prospecting, curating and inputting data. In the future, most SaaS offerings will be able to automatically fetch data and transform that data into highly relevant information. You can already see this happening in multiple SaaS offerings, especially in customer support channels where support is being automated with AI chatbots. This, mixed with large-scale consumer SaaS acceptance.”
Sheila Lindner, President of Octacom
“With the overwhelming amount of data being transmitted these days, SaaS will have to continue to evolve to make meaningful use of this data. This will involve new and increasingly sophisticated strategies for efficient means of gathering and organizing data. We are currently seeing signs that this could involve an increasing artificial intelligence component, training programs to analyze data internally, streamlining the end user process.”
Rob Bonavito, CEO of JAGGAER
“Software as a service has a very bright future. Leading organizations have embraced SaaS cloud applications as the preferred way to deliver mission critical technology, including supply chain and spend management applications. SaaS has already established a strong position in industry, but it’s still evolving rapidly. We see new advancements being made all the time. People continue to experiment alongside large mission-critical implementations. As people become more knowledgeable and familiar with SaaS, they will embrace new methods, new ways of working. We think this will translate into sustained growth, increased spending and plenty of opportunities for those who were quick to embrace its potential.”