Thursday, February 11, 2010

SaaS - additional monetizing opportunities

Software as a Service (SaaS) solutions have a significant advantage over enterprise software: they store data in the same version of the software in the same schema across all / many of their customers and this gives them opportunity to setup business models to monetize that information in creative ways.

Software as a Service solutions have established beachhead in a large percentage of enterprises. Early on they started out in processes like Customer Relationship Management (CRM), Human Capital Management (HCM) / talent management etc. These processes are more standardized across enterprises and don't need much of customization. CRM had the additional advantage that many users are not in offices and having a vendor who is skilled at managing access to these mobiles users was a big advantage.

In the last three years, enterprises have started adopting SaaS solutions in processes like procurement, inter-company collaboration including retail collaboration, transportation management. These processes have significant data exchange with parties external to the enterprise. That gives a significant advantage for the SaaS solution providers.

One major advantage of the pure SaaS companies is that many of them are multi-tenant and keep all of their customers on the same version of the software and the same data schema. This allows them the ability to aggregate data across enterprises if their customers would allow them to.

IRI and Nielsen buy store level sales data, loyalty card information etc. from retailers for 100s of millions of dollars, massage and aggregate the data to extract intelligence, and sell that intelligence back to the retailers and the retailers' suppliers.  The credit bureaus get data from the banks, collate that information by customer across multiple sources, make judgments, and then sell that intelligence back as credit score information to banks and other credit providers. I have not see that model successfully applied in many other areas. Is there a significant opportunity for a SaaS vendor who has gained significant market share in certain processes? The vendor can sell their customers the idea that vendor can pay the customer for the data, then aggregate the data, and utilize it for intelligence: benchmarking and forecasting trends.

Let us take an example of a multi-tenant SaaS equivalent of a B2B company like Sterling Commerce or GXS/Inovis dealing with a group of OEMs and their suppliers.  

Benchmarking for a supplier could be against competitors or even unrelated suppliers. Benchmarking could be used to see what percentage of business has a new product garnered at the various OEMs and which OEMs provide the highest opportunity for better penetration. Suppliers are good at measuring themselves based on their internal metrics, but they are not that strong in figuring out how their customers perceive their performance. The benchmarking from a SaaS vendor could provide that "view of the performance through the customers eye" to them.  The OEM could buy this information to use as a supplier scorecard in terms of on-time delivery, order completeness, etc. to get continuous improvement from the suppliers.

The suppliers could get trends on which OEMs are increasing procurement for different products, how does that jive with what is happening in the market, what of the demand is for inventory restocking versus demand for increased sales (bull-whip effect) etc. 

Of course, the security concerns of the customers have to be addressed. But a path forward has been blazed by the syndicated data providers in terms of best practices. They have worked out what can be shared and what can not be shared with an eye towards confidentiality of information.

Thoughts on the opportunity for SaaS vendors to utilize rich data that they are accumulating to monetize it in a way which will be a win-win-win for the customers, their trading partners, and the SaaS vendor?


1 comment:

  1. Karthik -

    a) Benchmarking is being done even without SaaS. Companies with significant market share in a specific domain/industry/segment can share benchmarking information - as a research report, or to aid sales. SaaS certainly opens up a huge opportunity for benchmarking.

    b) SaaS vendor is like a viewer watching a Texas Hold'em Poker game, where he can see everybody's cards. Think of hosting 5 competitors in SCM space each providing pricing, margins and notes of their client meetings, internal notes, discount approvals. SaaS vendor is now in a position to comment who should fold their cards. Neither participant in the game would want the viewer to do that, because he has already invested in the game.