What is SaaS? Software as a service (or SaaS; pronounced /sæs/) is what is commonly known as web-based software. When a website’s software runs on the web and not on a user’s local computer typically that is a SaaS product.
We touch SaaS products multiple times a day for all types of reasons. For example, I keep interesting article topics on a Google Docs document, this topic was one of them. I copied that topic into my Grammarly app and wrote this article there. Both products are run from the web and not installed on my PC as such they are SaaS products. Google Docs is actually a SaaS Product Suite in that it’s an umbrella for multiple products (or functionality), i.e. Docs, Sheets, and Slides. The power of Google goes far beyond that. Check out the G-Suite!
A missed table stake means a poor User Experience.
But why are SaaS products so powerful and desirable? The 4 S’s:
1. Simplicity — I no longer have to understand protocols and domains to set up an email address with my company name after the “@” symbol. I only need to get a cup of coffee and choose a platform. The key UVP for many SaaS products is the simplicity of its use -OR- the simplicity it provides for other sometimes frustrating processes.
2. Spend — The cost of any SaaS product is cheaper by far than it’s manual counterpart in almost all circumstances. Using the above example, you could spend an exorbitant amount of time and money building a custom CRM or you could use Salesforce or AgentCubed or something similar.
3. Seamless Integration — I manage a CRM which plays well with other APIs and Apps. It’s a UVP for our business. While there are some SaaS apps which do not integrate well, they are by and large outnumber and falling out of existence. Users want to be able to get their emails on the phones. It’s what’s called a “table stake” at this point.
A table stake is a poker term, but when used in the context of technology it means a feature or functionality which is expected to be present for a positive user experience. For example, a cell phone should be able to send and receive texts in our day and age. If someone designed a cell phone which could do all types of things and install all types of apps but couldn’t send or receive text, that would be considered a table stake for a phone that was missed and the user’s experience with that product would be negatively affected.
4. Scalability — One of the key features of a SaaS product is its multi-tenant capability. This allows for there to be multiple and separate secured users for an app. That is, there are millions of people with a Gmail email address and access to their G-Suite apps. I can access someone else’s documents only when provided direct access to them. For SaaS product managers scaling a SaaS product is a half-won battle. Higher adoption rates are a possibility from a business perspective because the product is built to scale up and down. The SaaS application is hosted in the Cloud, access is easy, and with no hardware to install the barriers of entry are reduced to nil, excluding price.
SaaS Drawback #3: Code for the 80%, not the 20%. If your needs fall in the 20% however, you’re out of luck.
Typical SaaS Drawbacks
1. Low Customization — If you don’t like the layout of your GMail Inbox there are a few things you can do to change it…but it’s a very limited list. Customizing any SaaS product outside of its provided customization options is typically difficult. This goes for personal apps and enterprise level applications.
2. Difficult Enhancement Request Processes — I was recently reviewing a Salesforce forum and there were thousands of requests for a particular product enhancement — literally thousands. Still a no-go for Salesforce. However, to their credit should the community provide enough points (up-votes) for that particular enhancement Salesforce will take it under consideration.
3. One Size Fits Most — It’s a common mantra in any technology organization: “Code for the 80%, not the 20%.” That is you should spend your design and production dollars on 80% of the uses cases in mind. If your need falls in the 20% however, you’re out of luck typically.
Some other common examples of SaaS products are:
Microsoft Office 365. This differs from your typical Office Suite in that the products are available as apps online and are hosted in the Microsoft Cloud.
Salesforce. With nearly 20% of the $26.2B CRM market firmly in its’ grasp most people employed with any customer facing firm is familiar with Salesforce.
Slack. Just hit a valuation of $5B! Slack is a messaging, archiving, and search tool for team communication. The idea of pulling communication vs. pushing is harnessed with Slack. Properly utilized a firm could get rid of emails altogether. What would you do with that 6.3 hours a day?
OK. You get the picture. We all know was SaaS is now.
So what are my 3 Favorite SaaS products?
I coach entrepreneurs and ministry leaders in my spare time. It’s fun to delve into other industries and product fields. Just recently, I was helping a young lady to get a new innovative devotional type product out. Using my product management knowledge to help new entrepreneurs understand some of the mission critical information and pointing out the clear pragmatic steps to accomplish product launches and sales and service goals is so fulfilling.
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I closed on a new home recently. Google Drive was like my secretary throughout the entire process! If I needed a tax return, I’d look in the appropriate folder. If I couldn’t find it in that folder I’d search common phrases in the document and find it then. many times the underwriter would need a document I’d sent over already and I could just go to that folder in which I was keeping all my home buying related documents and send it over post-haste. I’ve had one of the smoothest home buying processes in my own personal history — and my underwriter says I was an absolute pleasure to work with because of how fast and clear my responses were. When asked how I keep all my things so organized I point to a well organized Google Drive. Check out this video from Google with tips on keeping an organized Google Drive. While there have been enhancements since last year, the video is still valuable.
That’s another thing about many SaaS products what you get out its use is what you put in. Your Slack user experience, for example, can be disjointed and confusing or it can be rich and helpful dependent upon the rules of use you’ve set in place.
A free grammar check and writing enhancement app. Word has a grammar and spell check as well. But I’ve been trying to write in the cloud more as to keep my writing DR (disaster recovery) ready. However, it’s not just the grammar check. One of the coolest features of Grammarly was an unknown gem: the word count summary.
At the end of the week, Grammarly sends me a little note to let me know how much I’ve been writing that week and how much that is in comparison to other Grammarly users. It’s so motivating! Writing more is one of my goals. Just getting the words out is the most important part. Grammarly helps me not only get the words out but make sure they make some sense grammatically and even keeps a count and lets me know how I’m doing. That little feature by itself is invaluable to me. If you haven’t checked out Grammarly yet — Click Here.
What does this list say about me? I think it says, I like free stuff. Just kidding, I believe it says I like to know that I’m improving and moving towards my goals. The SaaS products I use help me do that. I’ve also put some rules of use in place for myself which makes my user experience that much better, i.e. labeling my docs before uploading them to Drive. The last thing I think my favorite products list says about me is that my favorites probably exists on a spectrum of how much I use it. But that’s to be expected. One of the key metrics of a SaaS product is user engagement/use metrics. My use is on a spectrum of what’s going on in my daily life as SaaS use should be.
I appreciate you taking the time to read this article and I would love it if you shared it with your associates! What are your favorite SaaS products and what does that say about you?
Hi, I’m Sean; I’m passionate about CX and Products. Over the last decade, I’ve been privileged to lead product organizations at some of the most impactful companies in the world. Mainly in the healthcare space and most recently focused on an internal platform managing work for hundreds of clinicians and care for millions of patients. SeanLAdams.com is my little corner of the internet; stop by anytime.