Posts Tagged ‘saas’

Heat but no light, SaaS security questions.

August 22, 2009

Things have got excitable if not exciting in the world of SaaS finance applications recently.

It would be easy to join in with some cheap shots at Duane Jackson, who after all has previously used security issues with Sage’s entry level Sage Live product to generate free publicity.  Wouldn’t be fair though. 

First the issue reported by Dennis Howlett is actually very different, as it is really a feature choice (and yes I do know that security is a fundamental aspect of a software application’s architecture) not a flaw as such. 

Secondly the guys at Accounting Web  have apparently checked (haven’t they noticed the sun has been out this week) how much has been written about it and, at more then 12 000 words, too much has already been said about an issue which just isn’t core to the customers that Kashflow target.

SaaS does raise questions.  Security is one of them.  It is appropriate to ask who can access your data, but actually it’s far more pertinent to ask whether secure (as in continuing) access to your own data given all likely futures for your SaaS supplier.  Sorry, aside over.

The real issue though, is that (some of) the SaaS boys (and yes it does seem to be gender specific!), are more interested in the whys and wherefores of SaaS in the abstract than what it actually does for the customer. 

Kashflow is the result of a whole series of compromises.  Duane Jackson’s fortunes will wax or wane according to how well those compromises match his target audience needs (and the success or otherwise of his trumpet blowing).  That’s as it should be.  Dennis Howlett’s invective is entertaining, but ultimately empty.

I could go further.  Risk and security are not cost free.  It’s easy to promote a stance that more security and less risk is better, but it’s far more complex than that.  Who in business wants to be frightened and risk adverse?

Saas and why it doesn’t matter to Sage.

July 24, 2009

It’s great when you can make a quick decision about whether to bother reading an article.  Even better when the decision making process itself sums up the article!

If you’ve got this far, you’re unlikely to be just a user of Sage products.  Far more likely that you’re involved in the provision of advice or products to accounts software users.

That distinction distills the essential point that Dennis Howlett and others miss when discussing Sage and their disinterest in Saas.

Sage customers don’t use Sage products because they are great technically.  Rather they use them because:

  • Sage are going to be around for a long while
  • the products are known by professional advisers and are quite likely to be familiar to new staff
  • the products are good enough feature-wise
  • there are lots of choices for suppliers of advice, training and support

So from a customer point of view, the issues are about confidence not technology. 

Given this it’s perhaps unsurprising Sage haven’t really been a software / technology company for many years.  Instead they are a company that generates recurring revenues through services.  An extreme view would be that they only bother with software licence sales because such sales top up their recurring revenues.  And their financial performance says they are getting something right.

Dennis Howlett contends that Sage are more interested in keeping their financial analyst community happy than their customers.  To my mind this is to fundamentally misunderstand Sage. 

It is absolutely the case that they are a public company, so their financial performance is their primary concern.  But customers are without question next on their list.  Indeed one of my frustrations is that it is the weight of customer requests that seems to drive their decisions about what features to add, rather than original or imaginative thinking on Sage’s part.  So when customers want Saas, or even what it represents, Sage will give it to them.  Meantime Saas evangelists will continue to be disappointed!

One of the arguments for and consequences of Saas is “disintermediation”.  Or in simplistic terms reducing costs by cutting out middlemen.  But what happens if the middlemen perform an important service?  At this point I should declare an interest as one of Sage’s middlemen in the UK.

Given that I’m not exactly disinterested, lets instead look at Sage’s view.  Their primary accounts products for the small and medium sized products in the UK are Sage 50 and Sage 200.  The interesting point is that they sell and support Sage 50, which is aimed at smaller businesses, directly (as well as through resellers), whereas they don’t sell and support Sage 200.  Given their primary focus on profitability, this must reflect customer needs.