A few weeks ago, I decided to take some time and rewrite the software as a service (SaaS) article on Wikipedia. The older version had multiple issues and was tagged in need of attention from an expert on the subject for a long while. As a frequent user of Wikipedia—like more and more human beings on this planet—I’ve decided to give something back to others; in this case: my time.
A few days later, and after having spent several good hours (obviously more than originally anticipated), I felt that the result was within reason. It included some background and history (evolution from on-premises software), some blurb around pricing (recurring, contrasted with traditional software products), architecture (multi-tenancy), characteristics, and adoption drivers and challenges.
Going through this process, though, caught me a bit by surprise. Clearly, the move of software into the SaaS model is happening, and is no longer a speculation or projection. Yet, it was interesting to see how little information was out there about SaaS (no up-to-date Wikipedia article? You got to be kidding…?). Information about specific areas within the SaaS ecosystem (software lifecycle, pricing, sales, operations, support, …) was almost impossible to find. To date, there are still no meaningful books about SaaS on Amazon.com (really, check it out).
What was peculiar about this lack of information is that I’ve always perceived the move to SaaS to be a monumental change to how software is being created, delivered, and managed; a change that is perhaps not smaller than the proliferation of personal computers (combined with the client-server software paradigm).
When personal computers became a commodity in the 1980’s—first in businesses and then at homes—the role of technology in our professional and everyday life was changed. Essentially, a software industry was (re)born. A set of new professions emerged, having had limited or no use with mainframe software: product managers, technical writers, UI designers, and more. A set of methodologies, supporting tools and best practices followed.
For a while now I have felt that the SaaS revolution is making a comparable impact on the rules of the game when it comes to software delivery. In a decade, will we still see new software that is aimed at individual users with no connectivity capabilities? Will we still see software vendors releasing software annually (“2011 Edition”)? Will software vendors still be relying on user surveys to understand how to improve their products? Will software remain an independent industry, or will it overlap with Internet services, media and advertisement?
It’s not impossible that the lack of information on SaaS on the web is due to different competing terms: cloud computing, web applications, and others. Yet, it occurred to me that it would be worthwhile to a have—at a minimum—one blog that focuses on SaaS products: discussing the impact of SaaS on both software products at large, as well as on product design, product lifecycle, product management and such. I will try to carve out some time to share ancedotes, best practices or otherwise opinions on these topics, with the hope of spurring further discussion and thoughts.