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Posts tagged ‘Selling SaaS Applications’

Microsoft’s Cloud Computing Strategy and Roadmap Evident at Convergence 2013

cloud-multi-tenancyKirill Tatarinov’s keynote this morning at Microsoft’s Convergence 2013 marks a subtle, yet very significant shift in how this technology leader is marketing itself to partners and the outside world.  They are humanizing their marketing, messaging and products.

Gone is the Spock-like precision of presentations packed with roadmaps, mind-numbing metrics and intricate feature analysis.  The Nick Brophy Band made the keynote complete by delivering excellent sets.

Microsoft is learning that telling a good story trumps terabytes of metrics. They delivered a strong keynote today starting out showing how attendees reached out to the local community and helped Habitat for Humanity.  Kirill then based the majority of his keynote on four customer success stories taken from the Microsoft Customer Excellence Award winners. Chobani, Shock Doctor, Revlon and Weight Watchers shared how they were able to better connect with customers and run more efficient businesses using Microsoft Dynamics.

The only aspect of these award winner’s stories that fell short was how the complexity of back office system integration was glossed over.  No mention of third party or legacy system integration was made, which could have shown how far Microsoft and its partners have progressed on this point, especially with the help of integration partners like Scribe Software.

Microsoft’s Cloud-First Strategy Playing Well With Partners

For Microsoft to succeed with Windows Dynamics and Azure, they are going to need each partner and reseller to believe in the vision of a cloud-first strategy, then translate their unique expertise into sales.  That’s going to be a challenge that Microsoft will have to deal with daily as it looks to further strengthen its partner and reseller base.  The recent Azure outage caused by an expired SSL certificate is on the minds of many partners and resellers here too.  Microsoft is promoting their Windows Azure Service Dashboard heavily here as a result.

Despite that recent outage, Microsoft’s ecosystem on Dynamics is flourishing , as is evidenced by the attendance and participation in this show.  The cloud-first strategy has infused a sense of hope and anticipation in many partners and resellers.  Walking the floor yesterday and today, nearly eight of every ten partners offered up how they are planning on the cloud without being asked about it.

Microsoft 2013 Roadmap Embracing the Cloud, Devices and Services    

Kirill Tatarinov’s keynote underscored how committed Microsoft is to becoming as cloud, devices and services company.  He cited the statistic that there are more devices connected to the Internet today than there are human beings on the planet.

Through several examples he also showed how Microsoft is moving full speed into being a devices and services business.  Microsoft Windows Azure is the foundational component to this strategy.  While Kirill did not specifically say that, it is clear from an architectural standpoint Windows Azure will be the foundational element of their devices and services strategy.  Microsoft is already competing with market leader Amazon Web Services, Google, Rackspace and many others.  For more information on the competitive landscape of this market, please see my previous post, Demystifying Cloud Vendors.

From a roadmap perspective this will also force Microsoft to support many more mobile operating systems and environments than they ever have before.  For their device and services strategy to succeed for example, they will have to support Google Android and Apple iOS device interfaces capable of integrating with SQL Server, at a minimum.

The following table showing recently announced updates to the 2013 Microsoft Product Roadmap first appeared on the Redmond Channel Partner website on march 18th.

Microsoft roadmap analysis

Source: Redmond Channel Partner Magazine  

Microsoft reports that Office365 will go to an accelerated release cycle, further capitalizing on the nature of a cloud-based architecture.  Resellers at this conference like the  Office 365 Open licensing program because it allows them to direct-bill customers for use of the suite, in addition to paying for the bundle of their services. Windows Azure-hosted versions of Dynamics NAV and Dynamics GP will arrive in mid-2013 according to the article as well.

For the cloud, device and services strategy to succeed Microsoft must also succeed in convincing enterprise accounts to migrate their applications to Windows Azure.  This is one of the most critical areas for the future of their cloud strategy in the enterprise, so expect to see customer stories and ongoing messaging on this point.

Bottom line: Microsoft is transitioning to a more humanized approach to marketing while embracing a cloud, device and services strategy. It will be the partner ecosystem that transforms that vision into a profitable reality.

Intacct’s CEO Robert Reid On Growing A Successful Cloud Business

Robert-Reid CEO IntacctSelling software to accountants, auditors and Chief Financial Officers (CFOs) takes accuracy, precision and software quality to an entirely new dimension.

Having worked at a start-up selling hosted accounting and finance applications to small and medium businesses, I’ve seen first-hand how demanding these professionals can be.  And rightly so, the system of record they manage keeps their businesses financially strong and growing.  Intacct is one of the companies I’ve tracked for the last few years in this area, and I recently had a chance to speak with their CEO, Robert Reid.

While there are many cloud financial management and accounting companies creating interesting products and winning customers, Intacct is unique.   Rob has infused a passion for customer centricity into the company along with a mindset of continual innovation in their applications’ user experience.  Rob is a longtime veteran of the enterprise software industry, having served previously as CEO of LucidEra and previous to that, group vice president of Siebel CRM On Demand for Oracle Corporation managing the SMB sector.  He also served as president and CEO of on-demand CRM innovator UpShot, where Rob grew the company tenfold before it was acquired by Siebel.  He is also one of the executive founders of Documentum.  You can find his LinkedIn profile here.

I recently had a chance to speak with Rob regarding his perspective on cloud computing in general and regarding Intacct’s business specifically.  Here’s a transcript to my interview with him:

What are the three biggest challenges you see to Intacct’s growth over the long-term and how will you and the management team address them?

Our biggest challenge by far is finding great people.  People who are curious,  people who want to learn and continually grow while also being customer-centric.  We’re looking for great people with these attributes and those who want to do rewarding, challenging work.  That’s a high priority for us today.

Second, we’re looking to add more partners who have expertise in accounting and finance to grow along with us and help customers anticipate what they need to do today and in to the future to deliver value to their organizations .

Third, anticipating the growth of the business and being able to effectively plan for the pace and direction of change is critical to us.

SaaS-based applications have proved themselves very well in small and medium businesses.  How and why are small businesses adopting SaaS-based accounting and finance systems today?  How is this going to change in the future?

We’re seeing usability and excellent customer experience designed into cloud applications being essential for the growth of our business.  In fact we’ve done intensive studies of how our customers can save time and be more productive with greater usability improvements, quickly released into our applications.

Intuitive design of application workflows, in accounting and finance, is another key success factors we’re seeing today.  This is leading to a consumerization of financial management systems.

Accounting and financial professionals are after greater visibility into their financials.  Analytics and modeling from an accounting perspective is also a high priority for our customers today.  The 21rst century CFO needs to have these analytics and modeling tools with real-time data to do their jobs, and we’re very focused on delivering them.

A critical success factor for any SaaS-based accounting system is the ability to integrate with 3rd party systems and also migrate legacy data.  Can you speak to this aspect of your company’s product and service strategy, and what your plans are in this area going forward?

Our architecture includes Open Application Programmer Interfaces (APIs) that simplify the complexity of integrating with homegrown, legacy and 3rd party databases and systems.  Over the last decade we’ve fine-tuned these APIs, publishing them free for our customers.  We’ve learned much from listening to our customers, continually fine-tuning APIs to stay in step with their needs.  Our APIs are making it possible for our systems to have inbound and outbound data from systems throughout our customers’ businesses creating a reliable system of record.

With SaaS it’s possible to accelerate the release cycles to any pace a company chooses.  Right now Intacct is committing to four major releases a year.  Are there plans to accelerate the release cycle and do more?

We’re staying with four major releases a year out of respect for the change management aspects of our customers.  Doing releases more often than that would force our customers to continually be educating their accounting, finance, reporting and services teams of new features.  We do make tens of smaller releases a year to incrementally add features customers ask for.  And our customers can choose to enable these features as they are added to our applications.  We are finding that balance between agile development and quality assurance of configurable features, while striving to make usability and the user experience  paramount.

Much has been said regarding single tenancy and multi-tenancy. Can Intacct customers choose between these options?  Is there a price premium for choosing one over another?

We are exclusively multi-tenant as it makes the most sense for our customers economically.  If a customer chooses a single-tenancy solution it takes a ton of time from an operations team to run it; so it ends up being a bad economic model for the company.  Since the hardware, and resources aren’t being shared, a single tenant system ends up being the most expensive way to go. There is a tremendous amount of cloud washing going on out there, where software companies and providers are trying to put a glow on old technology by calling it single tenancy, when it is really just a hosted version of that old application. It is important to choose a cloud system that was built from day one to be in the cloud and deliver tremendous value.

Do you partner with a cloud provider or own your own hosting center?  Are your long-term plans to own your own data centers? 

Our global hosting partner is Savvis.  We manage the servers and have complete control over our Service Level Agreement (SLA) monitoring and reporting.  We’ve also provided every customer with 24/7 transparency into our applications’ stability and reliability.

What percentage of your sales are from North America relative to Europe and Asia?  How do you see this changing in the next three years? 

The majority of our customers are located in the United States, but have on average five locations around the world..  Our multicurrency, multientitiy, and consolidated roll-up features are heavily used by this group of multinational customers.

Intacct has done well selling to accountants and financial professionals, a community known for valuing accuracy, auditability and precision.  How has Intacct been able to both evangelize cloud computing and cloud-based accounting systems to this pragmatic, at times skeptical market segment?  

We’re selling to the 21rst century CFO really well, stressing the need to have real-time visibility into operations and the ability to define metrics and modeling of current and future financial performance of their business.  As we’re selling them more than a system of record, but a system of engagement.  Our approach is to show how they can accelerate their growth as a business with better insights for all of the knowledge workers into their overall performance.

In 2009 the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA), and its subsidiary, CPA2Biz, chose Intacct as the only preferred provider of financial applications to CPA professionals and AIPCA members.  Intacct was given an exclusive five year agreement that was extended for another three taking the agreement to at least 2017.  In addition, the International Federation of Accountants (IFAC) has chosen Intacct as their internal accounting and financial management application as well.  Much has been said about the role of trust in enterprise software in general and cloud-based applications specifically.  The AICPA and IFAC have given us the chance to be the trusted solution to customers as a result.

You’ve often said that Intacct is very focused on getting customers back their time.  How are you designing in greater usability and performance improvements to Intacct’s applications to make this happen?

We have a feature called dimensions, which gives our customers the flexibility to create and track the metrics that are specific to their business.  One of the most compelling cases of the value of dimensions is the example of a airplane leasing company that was able to grow their business 30% faster each year based on the increased insights gained.   Using our dimensions capability, the plane leasing company was able to track plane leasing data, track how many times a given plane had been leased, compare costs of other planes and also track the lifetime value of the planes as well.  One of the most fascinating aspects of this analysis is the finding that over time planes initial values drop and then increases  in value, just like a Ferrari.  Using dimensions gave the company the ability to analyze their data in new ways and, in turn, manage their assets more effectively and profitably than ever before.

The Intacct Accountants Program is one of the more unique in the industry.  Can you discuss how your company was successful in recruiting partners, and what your plans are for 2013 and beyond with this program?

This is one the top three strategic initiatives we continue to invest heavily in.  We’ve been able to build a successful program by concentrating on partners with strong accounting domain expertise, excellent command of billing and profitability analysis, and a broad base of accounting and finance expertise.  Our alliance with the AICPA has also helped in making our Accountants Program a success.

Do you use personas as part of your product development, product management and marketing strategies?  Can you comment on them briefly and how they are impacting your approach to product development and marketing?

We use personas extensively throughout our development, marketing and selling strategies.  Our personas include titles and roles, as well as problems and needs.  We also have a Follow Me To Work Program which is invaluable in fine-tuning the usability of our applications.  Intuit pioneered many of the advances in Follow Me Home research programs to fully understand customers’ needs.  We have much of the original Intuit QuickBooks product management and engineering teams working for us today, focusing on how to continually improve usability and our customers’ experiences with our software.

Where The Highest Paying Cloud Computing Jobs Are

jobs-are-in-cloud-computing-200x300Using analytics to better understand the cloud computing job market is fascinating.

One of the most advanced companies in this area is Wanted Analytics, who aggregates job postings from over 500 job boards and maintains a database of over 600 million unique job listings.  They specialize in business intelligence for the talent marketplace, providing insights into how one company’s salary range compares to competitors for the same position, also calculating the difficulty to hire a given type of candidate.  They’ve developed a unique Hiring Scale to accomplish this.

I recently had a chance to test-drive their analytics applications.  Using the parameters to analyze all cloud computing jobs that pay $100,000 a year or more for the analysis, I ran several queries.  Key takeaways include the following:

  •  San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA leads the MSAs with a salary range $118K to $144K and one of the highest Hiring Score index values of 81, meaning it is very difficult for employers to find candidates who are qualified for their open positions. Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk, CT is next with a salary range of $117K to $143K and a Hiring Index Score of 75.  The SMA for San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont, CA shows a salary range of $114K to $140K and a relative high Hiring Scale of 88.  Salary range for cloud computing professionals charted by metropolitan  statistical area (MSA) is shown below:

  •  Professional, Scientific and Technical Services (31%), Information Technologies (30%) and Manufacturing (12%) lead the top ten industries hiring cloud computing professionals in positions paying $100K or more. Wanted Analytics uses the NAICS taxonomy to organize this area of their database.

  • A total of 5,299 positions are open today for Computer Software Engineers, Applications and Architects as is shown in the following graphic.  What is surprising is the rapid increase in Marketing Managers (1,076 positions),  Sales Representatives, Wholesale and Manufacturing, Technical and Scientific Products (576 positions) and Sales Engineers (452 positions).   Wanted Analytics uses the Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) taxonomy too organize this area of their database.  The results are shown in the graphic below:

Demystifying Cloud Vendors

cloud-computing landscapeCutting through the hype of cloud vendors starts by evaluating how ready their Cloud Services, enabling technologies and Professional Services are to serve customers today.

That’s one of the key take-aways from a recent webinar I attended titled How Cloud Computing Changes the Vendor Landscape by David Mitchell Smith, VP and Gartner Fellow last week.  The slides are available for download here (Free for download after Gartner registration if you are not a Gartner client).

What made this webinar unique and worth mentioning is the framework that was presented for evaluating vendors.  Beginning with the well-known Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS), Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) structure, Gartner added in a Business and Information Systems layer that includes brokerages, management and security.  This is the layer where Gartner says they are seeing enterprise clients most concentrate on emerging technologies.

The cloud vendor landscape is defined by Cloud Services, Professional Services for Consumption, Enabling Technologies and Professional Services for building and running applications.  Green designates a vendor area of emphasis, yellow are those areas serviced by partners and white areas are not addressed by the vendor’s strategy at all.

Using this framework, nine different companies were analyzed including Amazon, Google, HP, IBM, Microsoft, Oracle, Salesforce.com, SAP and VMWare.

  • Microsoft has the most ambitious cloud strategy of the nine companies profiled, and their cloud-first design initiative shows they have faith in Azure performing in the enterprise.  Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 will first be released on Azure, then on-premise is a case in point. Microsoft is impatient  to move into a subscription model with its evolving cloud platform. Gartner’s analysis of Microsoft’s cloud strategy is shown in the following graphic.

Microsoft Cloud Strategy

  • Oracle is one of the most persistent cloud washers according to Gartner, often bending the definition of cloud computing to align with their strengths.  Their continual efforts to redefine the cloud are also designed to get their formidable customer base to upgrade to the latest generation of their applications.  Of the vendors compared they also have the greatest strength in enabling technologies, evidenced by their Exalogic and Exadata systems, Oracle Linux and Solaris operating systems.

Oracle cloud strategy

  • SAP’s cloud strategy looks to make the most of the large, highly profitable R/3 installed base while partnering with IaaS vendors to build out their cloud platform according to Gartner.  The point was made that of the vendors in the comparison, SAP prioritizes enabling technologies over owning the entire cloud stack as Oracle aspires to.

SAP Summary Chart

Bottom line: If you want to know  the truth about a given cloud vendor evaluate their Cloud Services, Professional Services track record and how well they transform enabling technologies into successful products.  The following graphic provides a summary of the vendors included in the webinar:

Summary Chart

Roundup of Cloud Computing & Enterprise Software Market Estimates and Forecasts, 2013

157989221When the CEO of a rust-belt manufacturer speaks of cloud computing as critical to his company’s business strategies for competing globally, it’s clear a fundamental shift is underway.

Nearly every manufacturing company I’ve spoken with in the last ninety days has a mobility roadmap and is also challenged to integrate existing ERP, pricing and fulfillment systems into next-generation selling platforms.

One of the most driven CEOs I’ve met in manufacturing implemented a cloud-based channel management, pricing, quoting and CRM system to manage direct sales and a large distributor network across several countries.  Manufacturers are bringing an entirely new level of pragmatism to cloud computing, quickly deflating its hype by pushing for results on the shop floor.

There’s also been an entirely new series of enterprise software and cloud computing forecasts and market estimates published.  I’ve summarized the key take-aways below:

  • Enterprise sales of ERP systems will grow to $32.9B in 2016, attaining a 6.7% CAGR in the forecast period of 2011 to 2016.   CRM is projected to be an $18.6B global market by 2016, attaining a CAGR of 9.1% from 2011 to 2016.   The fastest growing category of enterprise software will be Web Conferencing and Team, growing at a 12.4% CAGR through the forecast period.  The following graphic compares 2011 actual sales and the latest forecast for 2016 by enterprise software product category.  Source:  Gartner’s Forecast Analysis: Enterprise Application Software, Worldwide, 2011-2016, 4Q12 Update Published: 31 January 2013

Figure 1 enteprise spending

Figure 2

figure 3 cloud computing

 public cloud forecast

Forrester Wave

  • IDC is predicting Cloud Services and enablement spending will hit $60 billion, growing at 26% through the year and that over 80% of new apps will be distributed and deployed on cloud platforms.  Their predictions also are saying that 2.5% of legacy packaged enterprise apps will start migrating to clouds.  Source: Top 10 Predictions, IDC Predictions 2012: Competing for 2020 by Frank Gens. You can download a copy of the IDC Predictions here: http://cdn.idc.com/research/Predictions12/Main/downloads/IDCTOP10Predictions2012.pdf

The Marketing of Cloud Multitenancy: How Early Adopters Are Killing The Hype

It’s impressive how quickly the teams evaluating CRM cloud-based applications are learning how to deflate the hype surrounding multitenancy.

One gets the impression that hype-hunting has now become a sport in these teams.  In engineering-centric companies it’s a badge of honor to find out just how multitenant a cloud-based application or platform is.  Multitenancy isn’t the only area they are looking at, but given the massive amount of hype surrounding this issue on the part of vendors, it generates more attention because evaluation teams are skeptical.

Teams evaluating CRM applications aren’t satisfied with an easily customized and used graphical interface or series of workflows, they are getting more interested in the architecture itself .  In some cases they’ve been burned by claims of an application being SaaS-based when in fact the architecture is a glorified series of Citrix-like sessions running in the background or worse.  I have seen a healthy amount of skepticism in the evaluations going on right now and recently completed of SaaS applications and entire cloud platforms.  Gartner’s inquiry calls from corporate accounts must be accelerating as their clients look for guidance on how to sort out the multitenancy hype.

CRM, Multitenancy and the Hype Cycle for Cloud Computing

Gartner’s search analytics show that cloud computing and related terms had 29,998 searches in the last twelve months with cloud computing alone generating 10,062 searches.  SaaS and related terms had a search volume of 19,000.  These terms are among the most popular across all Gartner search terms for the last twelve months.  In comparison, CRM had over 42,000 searches in the same period.

It’s in this area of CRM applications where multitenancy has gone into hype overdrive. Looking for differentiators, some CRM vendors are claiming not just multitenancy – but their specific brand of it.  This confuses their prospects, which immediately energizes evaluation teams to do a more thorough job than they have ever done before.  By claiming their own type of multitenancy, CRM vendors are ironically not just slowing down their own sales cycles, they are making the entire industry slow down.  No wonder Gartner places multitenancy along the Peak of Inflated Expectations in the latest Hype Cycle for Cloud Computing which is shown below.

Making Sense of Elasticity and Multitenancy

It’s paradoxical that enterprise software vendors, especially those selling SaaS-based CRM applications,  are attempting to turn multitenancy into a differentiator.  What is needed is a greater focus on usability, flexibility in aligning workflows to specific needs, and better enterprise integration technologies.  Sell the value not the product features.

Given the confusion differentiating on multitenancy is creating and the calls Gartner is getting on this issue, they published Gartner Reference Model for Elasticity and Multitenancy.  It includes what Gartner believes a cloud services provider must implement in terms of a multitenant service in addition to what SaaS-based applications need to provide.  Here are their checklists for each area:

Multitenancy Service Requirements for Cloud Services Providers

  • Isolation of tenant data
  • Isolation of the tenant workspace (memory)
  • Isolation of tenant execution characteristics (performance and availability)
  • Tenant-aware security, monitoring, management, reporting and self-service administration
  • Isolation of tenant customizations and extensions to business logic
  • Continuous, tenant-aware version control
  • Tenant-aware error tracking and recovery
  • Tracking and recording of resources use per tenant
  • The ability to allocate resources to tenants dynamically, as needed and based on policy Horizontal scalability to support real-time addition/removal of tenant resources, tenants or users without interruptions to the running environment

Multitenancy in Cloud Application Services (Software as a Service) Applications

  • Be available 24/7, because of the potential global user base
  • Adopt new versions without disrupting the continuous operations of tenants, and preserve user customizations
  • Scale up or down on demand
  • Allow individual rollback and restore for each tenant
  • Not allow a “noisy neighbor” tenant to affect the performance of other tenants, or increase their costs
  • Be accessible from various locations, devices and software architectures to meet potentially global demand
  • Offer tenant-aware self-service

Gartner also released their Reference Architecture for Multitenancy, which is shown below.  One of the key assumptions of this model is that multitenancy is a mode of operation where multiple, independent and secured instances of applications run in a shared environment.  The model includes the seven different models of multitenancy Gartner has seen in their research.  These seven models, listed across the top of the model beginning with Shared Nothing and progressing to Custom Multitenancy are across the top of the model.

The majority of enterprises I’ve worked with are looking to the Shared Hardware approach in an attempt to create backward compatibility to their legacy applications via Virtual Machines. Another area of interest is the Shared Container approach which relies on a separate logical or physical instance of a DBMS, and often isolates its own business logic.  This is ideal for distributed order management systems and SaaS-based ERP systems for example.  Yet the legacy application support in this type of multitenancy can get expensive fast.

Shared Everything Multitenancy is ideal for quickly on-ramping and off-ramping applications, tenants and individual system users and is what nearly all enterprise vendors claim to do.  In reality only a handful do this well.  This approach to multitenancy is based on the Shared Container approach including support for shared DBMS sessions.  Salesforce.com’s Force.com platform, VMWare WaveMaker and Zoho Creator are all examples of companies who have successfully delivered Shared Everything multitenancy.

With so much to gain by positioning an application or solution suite in the 6th and 7th models, vendors are rushing to define their own versions of Shared Everything and Custom Multitenancy.  The land grab is on in this area of the multitenancy market right now.  IBM, Microsoft and Oracle are all expected to endorse and eventually have many of their cloud-based applications in the Shared Everything model.  Each of these companies and many others will have a multi-model based approach to selling multitenancy as well.

Gartner Reference Model for Elasticity and Multitenancy

Source:  Gartner Reference Model for Elasticity and Multitenancy

Bottom line: Enterprise software vendors can accelerate evaluation cycles and sell more by differentiating on the user experience and value delivered instead of trying to create fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD) by creating their own definition of multitenancy.

Succeeding with SaaS: Four Hot Tips For Start-Ups

Mark MacLeod, General Partner, Real Ventures, discusses four tips of how to succeed with a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) start-up. Real Ventures is a Montreal based venture capital and private equity partnership that specializes in early-stage investments in web, mobile, software, digital media, social and casual gaming. The majority of its investments are at the seed level, between conceptualization and the validation of the business model. Funded companies include Fabric Technologies and MConcierge Systems. Typical funding rounds are below $500K with $1M being at the higher-end. 

Key take-aways from Mark MacLeod’s discussion on SaaS revenue models include the following key points:

  • Stakeholders and investors prefer recurring billing over one-time licenses – Investors in SaaS start-ups and seed investment rounds prefer recurring revenue models, as this approach reduces risk by providing greater revenue forecast accuracy. For customers, being able to forecast monthly costs makes recurring billing the most popular model on SaaS today. Mark also mentions how this fuels the dynamic of operating expense (OPEX) versus capital expense (CAPEX) budgeting on the part of customers. He makes the point that investors like the recurring revenue model because the lifetime value of customers can be more accurately tracked.       
  • Be data driven – The best-managed SaaS start-ups rely heavily on standard metrics and many of their own unique measures of performance to better understand and predict revenue and costs. Mark contends that all SaaS start-ups need to be data-driven to not only understand their existing customers, but also see how their levels of use and satisfaction are influencing potential new customers.  The best SaaS start-ups measure every aspect of application use and customer experience. These in-house custom analytics are a competitive advantage for any SaaS start-up, as these application-specific metrics can provide insights for further product development and customer loyalty programs.
  • Pricing decisions are the most complex to make– The greater the hard benefits in terms of measurable, recurring cost reduction or revenue generation, the greater the price that can be charged, according to Mark’s experiences funding SaaS start-ups. He also mentions the cost of a direct sales force, market position, and relative benefits delivered as factors in making a pricing decision.
  • Always go for customer prepay options when possible – Prepayment is critical for a SaaS start-up, not only for cash flow but more importantly because it shows that customers trust the application to deliver value over the long-term. It is a great proxy for how much value a customer sees in the application over time.

Assessing Cloudforce 2010, Including the Keynote Presentation

Bottom line: Relying on the Force.com as the development platform, Chatter will be scalable across the Salesforce.com customer base immediately. Expect to see Chatter and its development community find innovative uses of this technology in selling, marketing automation, lead generation and service.

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Analyzing the Cloud Computing Landscape in India

This is a noteworthy study due to several insights gained from their research including the rapid adoption of SaaS-based platforms in small and medium businesses (SMB) and the prioritization SaaS is getting from CIOs in larger enterprises. There is also an assessment of the drivers and constraints of SaaS adoption in the Indian market. At 15 slides, this is a summary of their larger report, yet for the price (free) it’s an excellent glimpse into the Indian cloud computing landscape in 2010.

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An Overview of Microsoft’s Azure Platform

The following is an excellent presentation that explains the core concepts of Microsoft's Cloud Computing strategy. Included is an overview of the Microsoft Windows Azure strategy with explanations and pricing of each component.

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