Your killer SaaS app

Is your SaaS value proposition convincing enough without automatic data entry? 
Imagine you’ve just created the next ‘killer’ Software as a Service (SaaS) app and you are absolutely convinced your new software service is going to revolutionize a particular industry or solve a significant pain point for organizations all over the world.  You create some compelling sales and marketing materials with a heavy emphasis on Return on Investment.  After all, you have conviction that your service is going to help businesses decrease operational costs, improve worker productivity and provide much better access to information which all translates to achieving tangible payback on your customer’s technology investment.
So you’ve done your research, you’ve developed the software application; you created awesome marketing materials, assembled a sales team and created a terrific support structure but for some reason your totally revolutionary SaaS application just isn’t selling as well as you had hoped.  Do you think that you might be overlooking a feature or function that is so fundamental to providing tangible Return on Investment that customers simply cannot say “No” to immediately deploying your innovative solution?
whats missing_data capture
Time is money
I might really be overstating the obvious but employers pay employees to work, not do data entry.  Whether your core expertise is in accounting, customer service or mechanical, your employer pays you to spend a majority of your time focusing on your respective skills.  However, organizations often overlook the total amount of time that is consumed with such tedious activities such as manually entering data from a bank statement into an accounting system.  Or how many total hours field service technicians are spending collecting and entering work order data into an ERP system.  These are real, tangible costs that the organization is paying.  This directly relates to unrealized business productivity and effects the financial bottom-line significantly.  Time is money and time utilized manually entering data into systems is, quite frankly, a waste.
Use cases for Information Capture
Let’s take a look at a few use case scenarios and focus on Mobile Information Capture, specifically, since there is a lot of interest in this area and there is an abundance of data to support that this is one of the greatest opportunities to achieve quick return on investment.
First, consider the industry of Field Service technicians.  According to a November 2011 study by Dave Wood of Harvey Spencer Associates (HSA) entitled “A Study of the Mobile Capture Marketing in the United States”, he cites DF Blumberg Associates as sizing the Field Service market at $225 billion in 2011 and growing to $500 billion by 2018 with nearly half of the 3 million workers using mobile productivity solutions by then.  Since a good majority of these mobile devices will most likely be equipped with a camera this translates directly into a great opportunity to provide these workers with the ability to nearly effortlessly snap pictures of objects such as work order signatures, checks for payment, assessment photos or even invoices and then automatically have the data extracted from these images to populate database fields in a Field Service SaaS application.  Just to name a few of the Field Service benefits for Mobile Capture could be enhanced customer service, the ability to realize the payments quicker and, of course, improve overall worker efficiency.
In a second use case scenario, also taking data from the same Mobile Capture Market survey, consider the Transportation industry.  For the survey, they focused on Long Haul Trucking.  They found that this particular market featured 1.9 million trucks and 1.7 million deliveries daily.  The research showed that each delivery generated a packet of documents that must be captured for invoicing, with an average of 5 pages per packet.  This translated into a total capture volume of this market of 8.5 million documents PER business day.  The types of items that needed to be captured will slightly vary depending on the particular trucking organization, yet generally documents such as Bills of Lading, Trip Sheets, Scale Tickets and Vehicle Expense Receipts were common amongst most organizations.  After some calculation of the projected number of drivers that will have access to dedicated scanners or multifunction devices, the survey predicted that approximately 400,000 drivers will have only smart phones as their primary capture device.  This presents a terrific opportunity to capture all these documents DURING the trip instead of waiting until the trip is complete which could be days, or even weeks later.
The last use case scenario shared by the HSA survey was general Capture to Cloud.  This was predicted to be, by-far, the largest growth opportunity for Mobile Capture and anyone would be hard pressed to argue this prediction.  With the prediction of 2 billion smart phones by 2018 and cloud storage vendors competing like crazy for market share, it only stands to reason that these factors are going to contribute to huge growth for Capture to Cloud applications using mobile devices.
Bringing easy to use, yet highly-effective Ubiquitous Information Capture into the mix
Now that you have your killer SaaS app ready for prime-time.  Your story is polished and you are earning business because your SaaS application is addressing customer pain points such as decreasing operational costs, improving worker productivity and providing better access to information.   You can prove, without a doubt, a tangible Return on Investment with reduced labor costs associated with manual data entry and you recognize the unbelievable potential in the Mobile Capture market, so the question begs, ‘what do you do to make your SaaS application even more appealing to potential customers?’
current solution offering
‘Add Data Capture to you SaaS’ is the answer.  It’s really that simple.  The technology has evolved over the past couple years so that the technology offers extremely advanced features and functions that are completely transparent to the users themselves.  This helps achieve a pleasant user experience which helps drive adoption of the solution among users.  Additionally, the behind-the-scenes technology is performing tasks traditionally done by humans so the processing is highly effective from an automation standpoint.  The user simply snaps a picture and this technology can automatic recognize the type of document and will intelligently extract all the information from the image.
enhanced solution offering
With this new Data Capture capability not only will your SaaS application provide a much more elegant user experience but you can absolutely guarantee cost savings to your customers with the quantifiable amount of time that is recouped by not having users do manual data entry.  The benefits of your SaaS can be incrementally increased with this new Data Capture capability.  Overall you can offer a truly appealing ROI story before you even being to discuss all the wonderful capabilities of your particular application.  The additional features are just like icing on the cake to solidify the sale.

Total Hours x Dollars per Hour = Tangible Cost Savings

This helps achieve a few things in your favor as the preferred software vendor of choice:
* Encourages your customers to make a quicker decision on purchase and implementation of your solution because every day they choose not to make a decision they are squandering money and resources
* Helps differentiate your application from competitors with valuable business functionality that makes the user experience much more enjoyable and helps drive higher adoption rates
* The likelihood of selling more subscriptions to your customers is higher because they can justify adding more licenses due to the fact that they have proven ROI
So, are you ready to take your killer SaaS app to the next level with Ubiquitous Information Capture?


Crossing the ECM/Capture Chasm – ‘This is the Renaissance’

Marc Benioff, CEO, has been famously quoted on his opinion of cloud computing in terms of saturation-point, as well as technology innovation, for a viable business model.

“This is the heyday of the Cloud. This is the Renaissance. We are in the Great Time. ”

…and he continues…

 “So we’re still at the very, very beginning.

We are in the first innings of Cloud Computing.

This is still the Renaissance. ”

While this is just one man’s opinion I personally happen to think he is absolutely correct.  We truly are in the first innings and, in particularly, as it relates to Capture and ECM moving to the cloud.  Future innings have yet to be played.  In this baseball analogy the convergence of old-school “traditional – behind the firewall” technology and new “innovative – cloud collaboration/mobile” technology are on a crash course of epic proportions.

Then on 9/6/2012 as Jeff Bezos, CEO, proudly introduced his companies’ new Kindle Fire tablet device he was quoted as saying the following:

“We want to make money when people use our devices, not when they buy our devices.” reinventing themselves

Let’s take a high-level look how’s business has changed over the years since the company started business in 1999.  They started with their (1) core Customer Relationship Management (CRM) service and then they (2) offered a development platform.  Next, they (3) built an ecosystem of development partners, and then they created sales and marketing programs to (4) resell third-party as well as additional branded-services.  All along, they have been strong in their advocacy of (5) using mobile devices so they have provided pre-built applications and also development tools for integrators to create mobile applications for


salesforce reinventing themselves

Just like reinventing themselves; has also done a great job on continually enhancing their business and the formula to success, at a high-level, is amazingly similar.  First, had their (1) core business of electronic commerce selling books and music items.  Next, they (2) built a platform and exposed their product information via Web Services.  Once they offered these Web Services, third-party web sites could integrate and (3) sell products directly from the online catalog with Amazon Affiliates.  Amazon realized their Web Services were world-class and their data center infrastructure could be additional sources of revenue so they started offering Amazon Web Services (AWS) for software developers to (4) create new applications other than just e-commerce.  And, of course, with the recent aggressive announcements with Kindle Fire, Amazon has made a huge investment in the future of (5) delivering content, over the long-term, to mobile devices as a financial business model, not when customers purchase the hardware itself.




Cloud Capture Convergence

This is not to say that this convergence of Traditional technology and Cloud technology is necessarily a bad thing and, in fact, can be quite good.  For example, ECM systems (or Systems of Record2) have a long history of positive results if implemented and governed properly.  There really is no question about this, however the truth of the matter is that with this legacy comes baggage which slows down technology innovation.  Baggage just means that there is an existing customer base that you must support and there is a feature improvement list gathered from customer feedback that is probably quite extensive.  Also, from a software architecture standpoint, the software was not engineered with modern capabilities such as mulitenancy, web services connectivity or thin client design.


However, on the complete other end of the technology spectrum you have a whole host of cloud-based, Software as a Service (SaaS) applications (or Systems of Engagement) which are highly collaborative with these modern capabilities, yet most of them lack the most basic capability in terms of enterprise-type features that have proven ROI over the years.  One of the most basic productivity-enhancing and cost-reducing capabilities missing, of course, is automatic Data Capture.  The cost of your investment is really easy to calculate just with the number of labor hours that can be recouped simply by eliminating manual data entry.  I admire these companies of being so forward-thinking that they overlook the obvious.



The formula to success is rather obvious

So what’s the point of me pointing out these bold comments by these CEO’s from some of the more successful cloud companies?  The point is that both and have quite similar business models now, yet they were born very different companies as their core business.  These companies are quickly transforming into “services” companies.  Both of these companies have fully-embraced cloud as a business model, not just a casual interest, or a fad that will fade away.  Both companies have built amazing technology and integration platforms for developers to quickly and easily create powerful applications like never before.  Each company has created two of the most thriving and robust ecosystems in computing history with partners gladly and enthusiastically promoting solutions built on these respective platforms.  Then one of the newest similarities of these two successful cloud companies is their absolute focus on using mobile devices as a delivery method for their content and services.


The application of the future

So now for my own bold prediction.  As these cloud applications evolve they, too, will start to incorporate core functionality such as automatic Data Capture themselves directly into their applications or mash-up software applications will be created that deliver the realization of best-of-breed solutions.  Let’s use two famous companies and describe the future of a best-of-breed business productivity software application, with specific details.  First, in the “traditional/behind-the firewall” ECM business let’s take Microsoft SharePoint Server.  Unquestionably one of the most popular ECM systems in the industry and very ‘disruptive’ since Microsoft starting sincerely promoting SharePoint as more of a true ECM solution instead of just a collaboration tool.  Secondly, in the “cloud/collaboration-mobile” business let’s take a look at Box.  Box is also a leader in their respective market space of cloud storage with high-security and easily accessable content via mobile devices.  (Admittedly, Box is a much smaller, newer start-up company but a leader none-the-less.)  ‘Where am I going with this vision?’ you might be asking yourself since you might be aware of Box’s infamous bashing of SharePoint as seen below in this billboard advertisement.  Well since these early days the rhetoric has been tempered quite a lot, in my opinion, and might I even dare to say that using each products respective strengths can help achieve the ultimate in business efficiency?


From a pure data capture and ECM standpoint, SharePoint has features that Box simply does not offer.  This includes a robust metadata framework, this also includes enterprise search and managed metadata just to name a few features that inhibit Box from serious contention if an organization requires these traditional ECM capabilities.  However, SharePoint has its own deficiencies and right now one of these areas is poor support for mobile devices.  Box absolutely excels in the area of mobile application development because their service was built with a “mobile first” mentality.  So what if we could blend the positive qualities into one to provide users with the functionality they desire on mobile, yet still adhere to traditional ECM policy and governance with metadata support?

The answer is “you can”.  Through the beauty of modern integration techniques users can now view, manage and edit documents stored in Microsoft SharePoint through the Box user interface on mobile devices.  Just imagine the enhanced productivity that can be achieved through a highly usable experience for the users themselves but also the piece-of-mind that your organization is not sacrificing critical features necessary to run an effective business.




This is the vision of the application of the future.  Remember, “we are in the first innings – This is the Renaissance.  We are in the Great Time.”


More information:

1Geoffrey Moore:  “Crossing the Chasm: Marketing and Selling High-Tech Products to Mainstream Customers” ( paperback)

2John Mancini:  “A future history of content management” ( presentation)

Governance Gone! Wild!

While to some the acronym, ‘GGW’ might conjure up beautiful visions of fancy tour buses traveling the country capturing everything in sight on video for the whole world to see (as long as you pay the $9.99 per DVD, or opt for the $19.99 for full-DVD collection, or get their online subscription for $9.95 per month — or whatever it costs), I have just witnessed a different version of ‘GGW’ that is anything but beautiful.  In fact, ‘Governance Gone! Wild!’ is down-right scary!

I just attended several days of the Dreamforce 2012 conference in San Francisco and, as always, I was impressed with the innovation, which is clearly evident at these events.  I was impressed with the creativity of all the Software as a Service (SaaS) applications available built upon the Force.comheroku and/or other Salesforce platform services.  There were apps for this, and apps for that, and apps that work with other apps, and integrated apps.  In fact I’m on “app-overload” right now and tonight, instead of sweet sugar plums dancing through my head, I will most likely have a nightmare about all the possible lack of governance issues that are not being addressed in this quickly-evolving ‘cloud’ environment.  It’s truly like the Wild West!

This is not to say that these SaaS application vendors have overlooked governance issues completely.  In fact I suspect many of them take these items seriously and have built their respective solutions accordingly.  However, I can tell you what is an obvious generalization is the main pitch-points in these solutions is (1) easy user experience with a simple, familiar web-interface and (2) ability for organizations to self-manage or re-configure solutions without the need for costly professional services or software development.  These are not bad pitch-points in the least but what I must say is that conversations seem to rarely dig too much deeper than the surface of some point-and-click functionality and a demonstration or two.  I admire these vendors for their passion to solve very specific needs for enterprise customers and I’m invigorated with their energy to quickly have their Killer SaaS app deployed and being utilized by their customers to improve operational efficiency.

Yet, as I put myself in the shoes of the SaaS vendor the last thing I would want to do is possibly slow down the sales cycle by bringing up governance and organizational readiness topics such as policies, processes or people that wasn’t directly related to my particular technology.  These topics are somewhat related to the technology but it’s more about the organizational readiness by the customers themselves.  We must remember that these applications are promoting their solutions to enterprise organizations, not consumer.  Therefore, I would like to give one specific example of what caused my “Governance Gone!” nightmare.


As seen below in the photo below (not to the left), introduced their new “marketing cloud”.  At the Dreamforce conference they setup an example of the ‘Dreamforce Social Media Command Center’.  They had a full-time agent at each of several work stations.  Each of these work stations was monitoring a different social media feed.  One each for Facebook, Chatter, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube and maybe even a few other social networks to provide an example of a Social Media Command Center and how this could be a reality within your particular organization.  As I saw this incredible activity of feeds, tweets, #hashtags, likes, posts and other real-time social interaction – this is where it really struck me about Governance (or lack thereof in this scenario).  It was Wild!

These are the types of things I was thinking to myself, not from a technology perspective itself, but rather ‘are these people considering the following types of items’ before going buck-wild to immediately implement this type of Command Center within their own organizations:

  • People:
    • Since these are mostly real-time conversations and, naturally, the business wants to represent themselves professionally, what type of special training will be required for this new type of social media command center operator?
  • Policy:
    • As we all know, social networks are filled with people that sometimes spew nasty, disgusting or plain hateful messages because they think they are completely anonymous to the world.  In these cases what is the organizations policy about any responses, deletion of messages or any other action?
  • Process:
    • With this gluttony of electronic information overload from such a wide ranging variety of sources, in different formats and with such a diverse contextually meaning, what is the process to accurately analyze the data?  After all, I would imagine that video-’gamers’ are quite active on these types of social networks and “rad”, “bad” or “bitchin’” don’t quite translate into the true meaning if you just consider the official dictionary definition of a word or phrase.

In summary, in our zeal to innovate and offer powerful, useful, as well as, truly remarkable technology, which is going to revolutionize the way we do business, we should not be in such a rush to not consider and overlook an organizations preparedness from a governance standpoint.  Great technology is not always good enough.  If your organization decides to not consider well-thought out governance plans then the “Governance Gone!  Wild!” bus may be paying you a visit sooner than expected!