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Of Saabs and SaaS

In a recent CIO Magazine blog entry, editors state the importance of APIs by suggesting that many SaaS vendors “don’t realize that these can be a major roadblock to the adoption of their applications.” It was in considering that message that I realized that my Saab sedan and many SaaS solutions have more in common than alliterative spellings.


"Does Not Play Well With Others"

Saab cars have always been quirky and my 9-3 is no different. My Swedish-built sedan has an integrated mobile phone that, in spite of the then-leadership of Detroit-based General Motors and a build order clearly showing a shipping destination port in the United States, uses a GSM frequency useless on these shores. Unfortunately, any attempt to reprogram the phone or change the stereo system to anything but the factory-installed unit voids the warranty for the whole car, as the Saab’s entire electrical harness runs through the entertainment center. Thus, upgrades to third-party stereo, telephone or navigation equipment is, at best, a risky proposition. And this is just one "quirky" feature of the Saab line. It is no surprise, then, that Saab has struggled under a number of corporate owners, has never reached beyond a niche group of buyers in the United States, and was nearly shut down last year when a struggling GM could not find a buyer for the brand. (It was saved at the eleventh hour. For now.)




And so it seems this insular, defensive approach to the market, CIO magazine points out, may also be handicapping SaaS acceptance as well. Like my Saab and its parochial approach to third party electronics and their odd geographic priority of building telephony systems compatible to its factory and not my garage, SaaS vendors often overlook the critical importance of building applications with amenable APIs and thus the ability to integrate with one another. It is interesting to me that years after widespread adoption of open systems in IT, the decline of the ‘walled garden’ in telecom, and the commoditization of hardware, that the requirement for SaaS vendors to be able to integrate with one another isn’t already considered ‘table stakes’ to be successful in the cloud. While APIs to ease integration between and among SaaS applications should be a given when considering a SaaS solution, it apparently is not as widespread as we might think it is.


"Quirky" Is Not A Complement

The industry – vendors, buyers, media and analysts – have been predicting a rapid ascent of the SaaS model over the past – and coming – several years. The driver of much of this optimism has been the clear benefits of the model and the strong interest among CIOs. As CIO Magazine points out, while some companies prefer to buy fully integrated application suites, a key driver for SaaS adoption will be the ability to integrate so the IT professionals can ‘pick-n-mix’ best of breed solutions. It is in this way that SaaS vendors will develop new partnerships, create new profitable routes to market and deliver better solutions to customers. After all, to do otherwise would make SaaS “quirky”, a euphemistic term that while embraced by Saab enthusiasts, is not one that will propel SaaS to new levels of widespread adoption. 


The most experienced and professional SaaS vendors understand this and offer not only an outstanding solution with a flexible API, but like HP, also offer the experienced support, education and professional services to help integrate to other SaaS – and on-premise – applications.


Yes, integrating with other applications seems like it should be an expectation of every SaaS application. I’m certain one day quality APIs will be standard as part of every SaaS vendors’ offerings…  just as I also believe that integrated mobile phones in ‘quirky’ Saabs will one day work on these shores. In the meantime, however, be sure to ask your SaaS vendor if their offerings work with other applications as you would expect. Otherwise, you just might start feeling ‘disconnected’. 


Related links:

HP Software-as-a-Service

Video: HP SaaS for Service Manager


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About the Author
Jim is a technology marketer with over two decades experience in product launch, branding, and product marketing

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