Stephen O’Grady writes:
[For enterprises thinking of implementing SaaS,] there were two major concerns:
1. Allowing mission critical, highly sensitive data to be stored and accessed on systems outside the firewall
2. The inability to customize the application
Fast forward a few years to the present day, and the climate is very different. Night and day different. As is often the case, it now seems that SaaS may have been overhyped, but undervalued. Salesforce.com is growing apace, and we’re seeing the expansion of the model into new traditional application categories like ERP with Intacct (whose application is PHP based, BTW).
Many of the concerns, be they broadband access or immature application sets have been satisfactorily addressed, and the number of businesses that trust their customer data (and what data is more precious?) to Salesforce would indicate that the comfort level with storing information externally is at least less of a concern than it once was. But nonetheless, one major objection remained: the ability to customize the application.
As any systems integrator can tell you, enterprises love to customize their applications. Live for it, in fact. Despite dire warnings of the difficulty in maintaining or upgraded heavily tweaked applications down the line, the committee/consensus based approach used by just about every management or systems consultant virtually guarantees that an enterprise will bend the software to its unique needs rather than adhere as closely as possible to standard workflows and processes. There are exceptions to this of course – SAP implementations being one partial example – but for those used to molding packaged applications into their desired form, SaaS was a tough sell.
The difficulty lies in the approach: the SaaS approach is predicated on economies of scale, in that you design an application and deliver it via the network to many customers. Every customer, in theory, works off the same version, just with a different dataset. It has inherent advantages in feature rollout and ongoing maintenance, but typically offers little in the way of customization. For enterprise buyers long accustomed to having their packaged applications behave the way they want them to, rather than one size fits all, this is a negative.