Friday, June 1, 2007

SaaS as a user experience tool

Software as a Service (Saas) is an intriguing way to solve the problem I describe below. First, of of the reasons enterprise users want to avoid change is because of the cost of deploying the changes. SaaS allows a product to make changes without any deployment cost. Next, it allows incremental improvements to be made to the software. One of the great things about websites is the ability to make small, frequent changes. These small changes are not disruptive to regular users yet over time it allows substantial improvements to be made. Application middleware that requires user installation and maintenance don't inherit this benefit. But SaaS can solve this problem - buying the middleware doesn't mean you have to take it and install it and host it and maintain it... it just means you have access to it.

There are problems with this approach, of course. The biggest of which, to me, is the ability to extend a product with third-party software, which is critical in building a viable ecosystem for middleware. How do you extend something that you don't host yourself? This is tricky, but it's solvable.

Although SaaS is a new buzzword, it's not a new concept. But given the amount of time and expense that customers spend on installing and maintaining middleware, not to mention the user experience benefits, it might be useful to push the boundaries of SaaS to include traditional middleware offerings.

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