My earlier article on Saas applications was largely about Saas applications that focus on productivity. The benefit of those apps is to allow users to ‘outsource’ their IT needs using a hosted service, thereby resulting in a lower TCO. While Saas and hosted applications did set out to primarily create that benefit for users, it is unfortunate that most people who think of Saas limit the definition to just that.
In today’s world where the ‘community’ aspect of the internet is over-emphasized to a fault, it is only logical for productivity apps to incorporate that aspect. Business, after all, is about interactions with your network and productivity, largely depends on how best one can source and manage these interactions whether these interactions are with consumers, buyers, suppliers or with internal employees for a firm.
Saas allows such interactions within the context of an application much better than desktop software ever could, owing to its very nature as a hosted service. There are two models in which the productivity and community aspects of Saas can be deployed:
Productivity Apps on a Social Networking Platform
This is the more obvious (and widespread) model. A social network with an engaged user base is a great hook for developers to create apps. Most general-purpose social networks primarily serve as a place for entertainment and casual connections but there still are a few apps that solve use cases like:
CRM on a social network: Enables small businesses to engage with their clients and keep a tab of the latest updates at their client’s end with relevant analytics
Partner management apps: These work more on niche social networks that are targeted towards business networking. E.g. YouCanDo.Biz is one of the best examples of business apps enhancing the value of a social network
Productivity Apps with Social Features
CRM apps, in particular, plug into your existing social networks to update customer information on the app based on his live feeds. Hence, if your customer is also a friend on Facebook, all details relevant to him will be analysed and extracted from his feed and added to the app
HR management apps, especially those into recruitment management, are closely integrated with LinkedIn to manage a constant inflow of leads based on the HR exec’s requirements
One would expect marketplace apps like Alibaba and Indiamart to go several steps beyond the basic client discovery and lead generation service that they provide to include online client management apps. While sites like YouCanDo.biz are attempting something similar, Alibaba, with its already mammoth user base would be the ideal platform to deliver this and potentially open itself to new business models by bringing the entire transation and client management process online.
Zoho is clearly a leader in the social SAAS space but its customer base is largely non-Indian. The only Indian website providing a productivity app to businesses over a network (at least, the only on that comes to mind) is probably Burrp Small Business Solutions which helps small businesses connect with their customers, get interesting analytics around what customers are saying and run marketing campaigns among target customers. As more businesses come online, this will be an interesting space to look out for.
Any others implementing these features?
[Sangeet Paul Choudary is a leader in the New Ventures group at Intuit Asia-Pac and frequently analyses hot technology spaces at Pluggd.in. He likes chicken soup (for the stomach) and post-modern satire (for the soul) and heavily dislikes an under-emphasis on business model and an over-emphasis on powerpoint. The article was first published at Venturati ]