The IT Renaissance - Embracing SaaS and Cloud Products
For the last 50 years, we have been in the age of IT. It all started with IBM, which invented the first processor and mother board. IBM then helped create software like C and UNIX. Most of the tasks, which were manual and calculation intensive, were moved to machines. Many manual jobs were abolished because of the software programs, which were cost effective and provided a business edge to enterprises.
It has completed a full circle. With recent rumors that IBM is laying off 110,000 software engineers and staff, the game has reached its next level. Let us go back and see what went wrong or in other words, what changed. In 1998, when Java came into mainstream, the programming community grew at an astronomical rate. Business had enough resources that could automate their workflows and integrate them to other businesses and markets. We saw the same set of software, developed by Big 5 System integrators like Deloitte, IBM, and TCS, implemented into IT departments of various companies over and over again. The same set of software and functionality was repeatedly developed because this was the revenue model for service based companies. It was not an IP but number of consultants deployed to finish the Job.
The cloud and SAAS based companies have now changed the rules of this game. If we glance over the crowded CRM space, (which used to be custom implementation or configuration of systems from SAP, Oracle or Microsoft) it is currently dominated by SAAS players including Saleforce.com and MS Dynamics. This has now enabled organizations move away from traditional IT infrastructure and IT development and focus their talent and efforts on solving business problems (which they are good at), rather than IT problems.
MS Dynamics is a great CRM tool for small to medium size companies who want to start small and use the power of cloud to manage their customer data, goals and leads without investing heavily into their IT infrastructure and resources. The feature which made me a fan of MS Dynamics is its familiar Microsoft office user experience. Since we have been raised on MS office, MS Dynamics (being true MS office applications) provides most of us a natural comfort in using it. One feature that I like is its in-line analytics, which most other CRM systems don’t currently offer.
MS Dynamics, similar to other SAAS and cloud services, also has a vibrant App(lication) Store with thousands of Apps already live and many other offerings ranging from Geospatial to Apps tailored to specific needs of the public sector ranging from free to few dollars per month subscription. This collaborative approach of providing a platform for small innovative companies, unleashing the creativity and solutions, has taken away much of the burden from CXOs and CIOs looking for CRM implementation. They can now pick and choose functionality in an agile manner without having to invest into Custom CRM functionality and configurations -which the Big 5 consulting has juiced over the years. This approach from Microsoft and Salesforce has created a level playing field for smaller companies like VLink, which can provide more cost-effective and agile delivery with fewer resources than the Big Consulting companies because they don’t have the overhead.
Microsoft partners, like VLink, can help their clients and provide a turn-key solution with pre-configured MS Dynamics. The client saves time and IT dollars by starting to use the CRM system within its Sales and marketing organization within days of engagements, which enables the CIOs to spend their IT dollars solving Business problems rather than Technology problems.
In the end, Cloud and SAAS based CRM systems like MS Dynamics, provide more flexibility for the IT organizations of small to medium sized business and public sector domains where regulations can create multiple complexities/challenges for custom development. Moving towards a product based and SAAS based approach will help the organizations become leaner and more agile towards future changes and also take advantage of the innovation happening outside their IT organization within the Application Exchanges and Stores. IT dollars will be saved by not reinventing the wheel again and again.