Even Conference organizers charged with assembling provocative panel discussions and speakers can end up pleasantly surprised when one topic strikes a noticeable chord with attendees. That was certainly the case with the ExecutiveBiz The New New Internet Conference afternoon panel discussion – Software as a Service: Benefits Beyond Delivery.
As I exited one conference room two attendees approached separately and told me to rush over and poke my head into the SaaS panel because I’d be surprised how packed it was. I devolved into the awkward walk-run hybrid and busted through the doors.
Inside, I found Reed Overfelt, Partner and COO at Mural Ventures Corporation, Johy Daly, VP, Global Architecture Services at Keane, Mike McDermott, CEO at Freshbooks, and IceWeb Chairman & CEO John R. Signorello addressing an energetic, packed conference room of entrepreneurs, executives and IT professionals who embodied the momentum behind SaaS within both the public and private sector.
Ironically, it was during a separate armchair discussion on Web 2.0 that Peter Coffee, Director of Platform Research at Salesforce.com, summed up how ingrained SaaS has become in how we work. In talking about the ubiquity of SaaS and Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS), Coffee queried “when was the last time you told someone how excited you were to order software, receive a CD in the mail, load the CD, download the software from the CD and finally run the application?”
While Coffee wasn’t on the SaaS panel, he simply summarized why the Web has become the preferred vehicle for delivering business services and software. In observing the most lively Q&A of any session I attended it also became clear that this is a fast-growing segment in some ways adjusting the playbook as it goes. The exchanges reflected the challenge for SaaS companies to adapt to end user-created demand, as well as to address public misconceptions about the security of these services.
In addition to the SaaS companies represented by the panel executives, the current and potential role of SaaS within Web 2.0 for business and government could be seen with exhibitors such as Digital Now, Kapow, and others delivering powerful software and applications via the Web.
I believe the reason SaaS was so well received by attendees was two-fold. First, while some areas of Web 2.0 have been long on hype and short on revenue streams, SaaS delivers a tangible business path for companies instead of, as Leonsis put it during his keynote, a model that simply piggybacks on Google’s revenue stream.
Second, SaaS hits a pain point in the Federal government, where Agencies are seeking a simplified delivery model for services and applications that fits with budget and manpower constraints.
Brian Lustig is co-founder of Lustig Communications, a Rockville, MD-based communications firm that works with growing technology and government IT firms. Lustig is also a contributor to local business and industry publications.