In the last decade there has been a major shift in consumer behavior. The combination of mobile access to information along with the exponential growth of online purchasing, has strengthened the notion of globalization and the ability to conduct business across borders. Simultaneously, the software industry has radically changed. With the domination of Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) as a new paradigm, this new business model has allowed businesses to remain competitive in a continuously changing economy. In today’s current economic climate, consumer expectations are at an all-time high. Consumers are expecting instant results without compromising quality. At the same time, seller profit margins have shrunken due to a more competitive global workforce driving up the demand to access affordable talent. As a result, the alignment between SaaS and this new economy has become a match made in heaven.
Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) has allowed businesses to quickly scale while delivering the latest technology and features to today’s demanding consumer. Although many industry insiders claim ownership of the vision and success of SaaS, one should not ignore the fact that timing and consumer readiness to embrace a service economy has also played a vital role in where SaaS stands in our new economy. In fact, the meteoric rise in the popularity of the “App Marketplace” in the B2C world almost a decade ago was a major driver in legitimizing online services in the minds of consumers, way before SaaS was embraced by the business world. As history goes, this legitimization eventually bled into the enterprise world in which SaaS was catapulted from a model of uncertainty to today’s leading software business model of choice. Hence, the rise of today’s service economy in which both products and services heavily rely on the customer service experience delivered via the Cloud.
SaaS PSA: Selling a car to a mechanic
More than any other industry, the professional services market understands the critical importance of effectively managing service delivery in this new service economy. In fact, services organizations live and die by their services strategy. Moreover, the enabling cloud technologies that have empowered quicker service delivery across all industries have created a highly competitive business climate for the professional services organizations. In turn, this has forced them to seek compelling solutions to optimize their bid-to-win strategy within their respective markets. In light of this, the Professional Services Automation (PSA) software category is faced with the challenge of delivering highly performant solutions that are both affordable and flexible enough to adapt to the varying needs of service providers and their customers.
For professional services organizations to maintain their competitive edge, PSA solutions need to manage the entire lifecycle of their customers without disrupting their recipe to success. In many cases, this means that there needs to be a seamless experience binding the CRM systems that are responsible for growing their sales pipeline with their accounting/financial systems that ensure they adhere to their fiduciary responsibilities while maximizing revenue. In addition, The PSA solution needs to quickly adapt to the changes in the services industry. As a result, the SaaS business model has allowed this to be achieved by offering a very efficient “plug and play” business model that always delivers the latest features on a powerful cloud platform at a competitive price point. That being said, although professional services organizations understand the benefits of SaaS, their deep understanding of the services model has challenged PSA vendors to exceed the norms typically delivered by other SaaS markets.
What makes SaaS PSA different?
There are a number of industry specific factors that have pushed SaaS PSA to the forefront of the SaaS marketplace. Some of the main market drivers from services firms that have set SaaS PSA apart include the highly remote and mobile nature of its user base, the varying complexity of project-centric services and the additional need to integrate with other systems.
Today’s professional services teams are often working and collaborating with each other and their customers across regions, time zones, jurisdictions and in some cases, languages. The nature of this market demands a cloud platform that can scale, expand and sometimes contract based on market conditions. The SaaS model not only allows disparate teams to access a single source of the truth, but also allows to easily add, remove, or redirect access to this single PSA system with minimal disruption to the business. In addition, due to the nature of the services workforce, mobility was a key driver to delivering effective PSA early on. The quicker a services firm could bill, the quicker they would get paid.
The other driver that makes PSA different has to do with the varying nature of project-centric work. The project component of PSA, is one of the functional areas that requires flexibility to adapt from the simplest engagements to highly complex multi-year projects. The collaborative nature of project work and the ability to effectively track different types of projects has always been one of the more difficult areas to effectively address. In this regard, SaaS PSA allows for the evolution of methodologies and features required to run projects. Since SaaS solutions inherently deliver the latest in features and technology, the “Project” feature as a moving target can be better addressed with this model.
Finally, the need for integration in which PSA acts as the glue between front office and back office systems for services firms has made the SaaS model recently more compelling. Many organizations are increasingly running their business’ critical applications (CRM, Accounting, etc) in the Cloud. Since these other SaaS applications deliver standard web platforms, this has allowed SaaS PSA solutions to deliver on their promise to provide an end-to-end experience to the services organizations that are managing their businesses in the cloud and the end user customers whom expect to seamlessly engage with their service providers.
In the end, the affordability of new technology (such as SaaS) cannot be taken for granted. In order for SaaS to deliver the goods it must be at a competitive price point and the customer will determine the fate of SaaS.
About the Author
Kevin Sequeira is the General Manager for PSA by Upland. Kevin has been in the frontlines of the Professional Services Automation space for over 10 years and manages the PSA and Timesheet.com product lines at Upland Software. In addition to driving the business success of these products Kevin also leads the Upland Product Management Center of Excellence.