That’s right, once upon a time (and not in a galaxy that far away, or that long ago) if you wanted to use software you, or the software vendor, had to install it. On every PC in your business. There was a whole industry of beautiful packages that combined user guides and software disks. Everyone had their own instance, and that meant every instance had to be maintained.
(Now bear in mind this was a significant development compared to installing systems software on large monster machines that needed a dinosaur of their own. A few of us will remember commands to mount tape, batch upload to the server and so on. But let’s keep the track simple.)
When a new version came along, so did new disks and new instructions. If it were a significant release you might get more bits of paper. The role of an IT manager would be to walk around with those disks and get everyone up to the current version.
Ignoring the technical time sinks, there were issues that had more resonance with the CFO. For every user you had to have a licence, and for every licence you normally had a ‘maintenance’ agreement. Frequently running at over 20% pa it meant you got the new disks every time they came out, and there were different types of licence – you could have ‘named’ users or ‘concurrent’ ones – the latter allowing you to mix and match who would use it, as long as a maximum wasn’t reached.
The output of this era, software, was expensive to buy, maintain and to manage, and guess what? Software companies made their money from the maintenance contracts.
Software as a Service (SaaS)
Then along came a company with a ‘no software’ motto. Salesforce envisaged the cloud when everyone was envisaging the next generation of software packaging. Their idea was simple – that you’d never take a disk out of a box, that software would be on a server a long way away and you would use the software without ever seeing anything physical. Thus started the ‘Software as a Service’ revolution.
As well as a much more streamlined experience – it was downloading, not installing; it was updating not re-installing, it also offered much more ease in the purchase. SaaS started off the ‘freemium’ revolution giving businesses the chance to try before buying. It introduced the flexibility of different levels of product for different pricing bands. All accessible from the browser.
It could be said that SaaS drove the virtual business – a sales person could run their accounts wherever they were, without needing to sync information at any stage. A finance team could handle accounts from offshore locations. And everyone could share the same instance of data everywhere.
However, Software as a Service didn’t change one fundamental. It was still contract driven. Sure the Ts and Cs were online, and the contract rarely got printed out, but commitment was still key. As a small test, look at the software you buy this way: view the monthly fee and then find out if you can actually pay monthly. My guess is not that price is based on an annual subscription. This isn’t restricted to the business world, have a look at your Linkedin subscription for a classic example.
Let’s not focus on the negatives, the upsides of SaaS have changed the business world. But being blur, we wanted to change it more substantially.
Software as a Transaction (SaaT)
Step forward Software as a Transaction – SaaT. This model gives the beauty of SaaS: no on-premise software, no overheads, no upgrade issues, but it takes away the commitment. If you really only want to use the software on a one-off, you pay for the duration. blur Group’s s-commerce platform is the first enterprise example of SaaT. Users of the Exchange use the software and apps that run their project from brief to delivery and payment, and pay just for that duration. If they want to use it multiple times they have the option to ‘bulk buy’ with our premium accounts, but they can dip in and out as they want.
Delivering business services without retainers and contracts has been part of blur’s mission from the beginning. We wanted to bring the transaction that we’re used to as consumers in the online world to business – simplifying, streamlining and taking away the commitments that often fail to deliver for the duration of that relationship. Now this transaction applies to the platform on which it runs. And – whisper who dares – that payment is just a percentage of overall project costs. In the world of collaborative consumption where you share rather than buy, this is the first software model in business that fits with the sharing economy. You share the platform we’ve built and just pay for the time you’re there. It’s Software as a Transaction and it’s the next part of blur’s reinvention of commerce.
Featured Image Courtesy of Hsing Wei.