2009 was a banner year for SaaS. With all the banter around Cloud Computing as an advancement in technology and it glories bandied around I would still be hard pressed to find a more compelling reason behind the larger success of SaaS – than the distressed economy. Companies with dwindling IT budgets ratcheted up the exploration and subsequent adoption of SaaS as a technology choice. Up until that time SaaS was anything but a new technology fad with some calling it a reincarnation of the ASP model. Some even likened it to Service Bureaux and predicted its extinction by 2010. Something tells me that Nostradamus-esque prediction will not happen this time.
Anyway I digress. Now that we have had a successful year of market share gains for SaaS vendors behind us, it is time for CEOs of SaaS companies to make their new year resolutions. Having spent some time meeting CEOs of SaaS companies and their clients, I thought the least I could do is to create a new year resolution template to help them out. So here goes.
- Resolution #1: Improve Customer Service: My customers have been incessantly complaining of lack of adequate customer service. This coming year we will spend enough money and resources to provide A+ service, excellent documentation and foster a community that can support itself. After all, we will need customer references to gain new customers now that we have cornered the easy pickings. The last thing we want when the economy recovers is for the customers to move in droves, to a competitor.
- Resolution #2: Provide better on-ramp process: We managed to get a bunch of customers online – kicking and screaming. Not to mention, our profit margins on those customers went down the toilet. Considering that we do not need to spend all that money on cross-platform porting/certifications, on supporting multiple versions concurrently, we should make it easy to get new customers online and using the product.
- Resolution #3: Provide a real integration framework: Following up on my previous resolution, we should make sure the engineering team designs the product with the knowledge that we will not be an island onto ourselves. Companies require that the information loop is closed with their other cloud applications or existing on-premise (or do those fall under the category- Clunkers now?) applications. Standard APIs/Web Services should be moved from nice-to-have bucket to must-have bucket early this year. In fact, we should be working with our customers to identify the adapters that we should be providing out of the box. This will then make good on all the blabber we made about TCO during the sales cycle.
- Resolution #4: Be the best customer advocate I can be: I MUST become the biggest customer advocate in the company. I don’t need to be the great visionary all the time. Customers have made big commitments by taking a chance on us and signing up to our service. Now it is my job to support them and help them succeed in their business. While I am at it, I should make it a point to ensure my entire organization makes only those commitments that they can follow through. Memo to Sales team – “SaaS is not a hit-and-run sale, we will be engaging with the customers for a long time, so let us not start on a wrong footing by promising the impossible/non-existent.”
- Resolution #5: Be Transparent: Every time we had service outage this year, we have had to have a embarrassing meeting to customers/press. This year invest in being transparent. Trust builds when we are transparent. Do what Intacct and Big Dog Salesforce.com has done with their service level dashboards. We definitely do not want to have a public boo-boo day like Workday did. While am at it, I must put in place a process to share the audit certification and governance reports as well with our customers.
As a CEO if I follow-through on all these resolutions and we execute we should be able to have another great growth year ahead while keeping the customer churn down. Now that I have captured my resolutions, it is MBO time for VP of Products, Service and Sales !!