In a SaaS world, is CI dead?

Bob Warfield has a insightful post on SasS and it’s interaction and potential disruption it brings to traditional software partnering models.

It got me thinking about the changes Competitive Intelligence gathering and analysis would go through in a world dominated by SaaS vendors.

Obviously this is a very long way off. Though in Asia Pacific, research firm Springboard has weighed in, stating in an October 2006 report that:

“Unlike many hot IT industry buzzwords that come and go, all evidence we gathered points to the long term staying power of the SaaS model. Early adopters report significant savings and high satisfaction, vendors are investing heavily, and ecosystems to support SaaS growth are taking shape quickly. We do not believe SaaS will replace the traditional software license model any time soon and we envision an environment where both models coexist; however, SaaS will eat into the share of the traditional model and the traditional software license approach will need to adapt.”

Now I could debate the merits of the On Demand model for days on end, but at the risk of not sending you all comatose, I’ll summarize my personal opinion as being bullish on application focused SaaS and rampant fanboy-ism for infrastructure or software utility models.

With a rise in SaaS, market intelligence gathering should become an easier proposition, particularly for the installed base. Market Intelligence professionals are likely to get access to what customers use, when they use it, how much of it they consume and to use for what purpose. This will make tracking up-selling trends as well as when customers are likely to switch or terminate their service possible, if not predictable.

CI, on the other hand, while benefiting from this increase in demand-side information still has to do battle with competitors outside of their own ecosystem. Having information on what customers use, tracking ROI or usage figures provides compelling selling points in competitive situations. The nature of CI itself does not change radically.

There is still going to be the need to understand how the competitor prices, their terms and conditions, discounting structure, etc. Getting this information should become easier as pricing becomes more of a fixed service.

Getting information on sales tactics, customer recruitment and the technical aspects of the SaaS offering do become significantly more difficult, however, as the use of the web blossoms into a more tangible (and closed) method of gathering leads, holding seminars and downloading trial solutions. Getting focused primary research from potential users on their buying plans and perceptions of SaaS vendors, I feel, will become a more central part of CI’s remit as we move closer to a one-to-one style of marketing and selling through the web.

I’d love to hears others comment on where they see the challenges for CI practitioners as we move towards a utility model. Perhaps some Telco brethren can weigh into the discussion.



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