Friday, December 7, 2007

Software in your Stocking

As a busy year draws to a close, everyone's thoughts seem to be turning to the holidays. So what software should you ask Santa to put in your stocking?

I'm sure software vendors are smiling. Budgets are now becoming available to buy the latest greatest software. Let's face it there's lots of super duper new software about and the old software dogs have many new tricks up their sleeves. My fellow software junkies and I would love to play with all the new toys about, but the last thing the world really needs is more software.

Are companies using what they have to full potential? I would argue that more can be done with what we already have in place. So rather than considering what new software to buy, perhaps CIO's should think about existing features available in the software they have already implemented. They are likely to find that quicker and cheaper results will follow, that could have a huge impact on their company performance.

Just as we only use 3% of our brains, we leverage a fraction of the potential that our enterprise software offers. It's time to start working smarter. A good way to begin is to identify the constraints in your company. Is there duplication of effort? Are there manually intensive processes? Where could you still cut costs or improve efficiencies? Is there a gap in the market your competitors have overlooked? Then re-look at software already being used in your business to see whether features exist or can be configured to meet your needs.

Why re-invent the wheel when it's already turning? Your wagon may have a steam engine hiding under the hood if only you would look.

The future of Software as a Service in SA

The potential of software as a service/hosted application services is huge. And the market is growing rapidly. nFold's local software research so far shows that almost 30% of companies now prefer to rent, lease or subscribe to software as a service - double the percentage in 2005. Most of our survey respondents agree that this trend is very important, but few have implemented it. The reality in South Africa is that our high cost of bandwidth is preventing local companies from keeping pace with their international counterparts. Ironically, affordable Internet connectivity services to the SOHO market, such as ADSL and HSDPA, have meant that smaller companies are adopting software as a service more rapidly than corporates.

So locally, we tend to see smaller companies able to streamline their operations using robust technology that would have been unaffordable to them a few years ago. This makes it possible for them to conduct business anywhere, anytime. There are no limits to the type of applications that can and are being offered as a service - from the simplest RFP automation system to the most complex ERP system. Current software licensing models are inadequate. Enterprise software suppliers need to partner with hosting companies and may need to redevelop or re-align their solution to suit this model. Many shy away from taking a bigger up-front risk than they have in the past, for the promise of more predictable subscription based revenues instead of purchase and support revenues. Software suppliers ignore this trend at their peril.

nFold has predicted since 2006 that "Anywhere Anytime" and "Payment Flexibility" are important trends in the local software industry. Software as a Service (SaaS) taps into both of these concepts. While the adoption of SaaS is constrained by the high cost of bandwidth in South Africa, the global market seems to be exploding. And according to our software research, local adoption is growing rapidly. SaaS solutions already available vary from point systems (like survey or proposal services) to enterprise systems (such as ERP or CRM services). There are new entrants well-poised to tap into this market, so incumbents in the software world need to beware. I would agree that for the moment incumbents should hedge their bets by offering software services over the Internet as well as more traditional download/install options. Most companies still prefer tradition.