SwaS: Why SaaS Needs Real People to Turn Tools into Solutions

The SaaS business model has grown so fast that SaaS applications now seem to be everywhere. A recent Gartner study found that

  • 71% of corporations started using some form of SaaS over the past three years.

  • Of those companies, 77% said they planned to increase their SaaS spending in 2013.

  • By 2015, SaaS is estimated to be a $21 billion market.

But SaaS has its limits. As we have described before, there are only so many new applications an individual can learn. And, at the end of the day, it’s the archer – not the arrow – that makes the kill. In other words, SaaS is a tool, but can only go so far without a human to direct it. This is where SwaS – Software with a Service – becomes key.

SwaS describes any human element used to implement typical SaaS packages. This human element can be in the form of consultants, assistants or even customer support teams. Each of these people facilitates adoption of SaaS at the individual level.

Think about CRM software, which Gartner’s respondents cited as a type of SaaS application most often being newly deployed. Salesforce’s founders originally marketed it as being a turnkey solution. Yet, for all the focus on its being a silver bullet, many companies quickly hit an adoption wall with CRM. Though the CRM software is programmed to remember report algorithms or track next meetings, these automations are only so good. What happens when you need the program to do something a little different?

Today, companies typically hire consultants to customize, optimize and run CRM software for them. In fact, the consultant industry is booming as a result of this “turnkey” software. “I think where a buyer used to look at consulting to understand the technology and make it fit, now [consulting provides the] buyer an understanding of how it fits,” says Matthew Goldman, a vice president at Gartner. Human consultants in this case provide a much-needed service element to SaaS. At Quickskill, we call that SwaS.

SwaS amplifies the power of an existing SaaS program. Quickskill has found that people don’t need new SaaS tools if their toolbox is already full. Instead, we focus on making the tools companies already have work much better for them. We do this by

  1. leveraging people (our Quickskill assistants) to

  2. create processes

  3. around technology tools.

By adding an assistant to the SaaS equation, Quickskill ensures that adoption of the new software is kept up-to-date and consistent across teams.

In the CRM example, once consultants set up the system, assistants provide ongoing service to maintain the CRM data. From a sales representative’s perspective, there is not a lot of value to a sales tracking solution that requires them to spend hours every day adding data and meeting notes into a computer program. If assistants take care of that for them, sales representatives can get back to selling instead of learning how to use fancy new SaaS products.

Or, take expense reports as an example. There are a host of new products on the market that advertise themselves as the complete expense management solution. They take photos of your receipts, organize bills associated with separate projects and pop up reminders for when to submit your reports. But no expense app has the power to input your projects for you or to calculate bridge tolls based on your mileage.

SaaS may be in its heyday now, but it cannot progress much further without integrating a human touch to complete the solution. The question executives need to ask themselves when deciding whether to adopt a new tool is whether they can realistically eek out the time to provide that human element themselves. Usually, there is simply not enough time in the day for a tremendous number of tools to be integrated into an executive’s solo workflow. Therefore, new SaaS solutions will increasingly find that they need a service component to drive adoption.