The Weight of SaaS

Vintage Kodak Studio Scales Set and Bottle
Image by Capt Kodak via Flickr

Does Software as a Service (SaaS) truly scale? Just a question I’ve been thinking about recently. Not to knock SaaS companies, because I think that the good ones are definitely needed. That being said, most large organizations have varying requirements for the same type of tool. I would argue that in a lot cases, an SaaS company simply won’t provide all of the features needed to satiate a large organization.

And if that large organization is smart, they understand that they don’t need to put up with that.

For example, with all of the Twitter applications that currently exist, there isn’t one application that does exactly what a few different departments need in my large organization. Which begs an important question:

“Should we create our own team to build tools that truly work for us?”

Obviously I’m biased, but I would argue that in this day and age, the answer is yes more often than not. I realize that the approved solution has been to outsource as much as possible for some time now, but I think that mantra needs to be analyzed on a case by case basis in lieu of being accepted as a default. Here are some reasons why:

scalability One time development costs that can be depreciated over time may be cheaper than recurring monthly fees for your user population

inspiration I’ve seen first hand how working on “cool” projects can serve as an intrinsic motivator and recruiting tool

corporate knowledge Creating marketable specialties outside core competencies could provide added value to your customers

agile project management Six month dev cycles begone. Loose ideas can be brought to market rapidly and iterated on once they are tangible

the open api It is easier than ever to tap into external data sources and use those sources to do interesting things

overhead My organization is paying for the inefficiencies of my vendor’s organization… At some point I need to ask why

Opportunity Cost

I realize that there are a lot of factors in a make or buy decision in any given situation. I’m just arguing that making things has become less onerous than valuable in certain situations. I opened this post with a question about scale, and I keep coming back to it in my head. If I have thousands of associates, it just doesn’t scale for me to pay a monthly seat charge per person, if I want everybody to have access to a specific tool.

I do love the idea behind SaaS for a lot of reasons. However, it may not always be the right option in the long run.