SaaS (Software as a Service) is by no means a new concept. In the consumer space there are many cloud based services that just makes your life so much better: LinkedIN, Facebook, Evernote, Microsoft Office 365 etc.
As I have been launching my own company the increasing importance of SaaS in the B2B space has become very apparent. For instance, I use Dinero for accounting, Zenegy to handle salaries and my website is developed using WordPress hosted by UnoEuro (except for WordPress, all of them are Danish but there will be something similar in your country).
The (small) subscription fee I pay gives me access to cloud based scalable solutions, which are based on the knowledge of thousands of customers with similar (and more complex) issues to me. They use crowd sourcing, AI and all the latest technologies to solve these, and help me in a cheap and fast manner. This means, the old adage “it takes 10 years to get 10 years’ experience” no longer holds true. My “network” provides it – and even better I am up and running in hours and I can basically exit whenever I want (Microsoft kindly, and unsurprisingly, shares some further technical insight in this article.)
I am obviously not out to compete with your company (whatever it is…), but others are. And they will have the same advantage over you. You will have legacy systems that have become part of who you are as an organisation. Systems and process that make your colleagues roll their eyes, but when you try to change them, ironically they do not want you to change anything.
However, you do have options, not least because your customer base will be significantly bigger and stronger than any startup’s, and to me it comes down to asking the question: Why are we actually winning business?
Sounds like a simple question, but in my experience a lot of companies will include too many statements in their answer. Some of it will be true, but I doubt you win any business because you have the best invoicing system, or you handle your travel expenses better than anyone else. And while I am at it: I am not sure you win any business because your website online experience is different from everybody else’s either. That is not to say that customers won’t leave you if you don’t have a website or a mobile platform, because they will. They just won’t join you because you do.
The great thing about SaaS solutions is that you can get going immediately, and the smaller you are, the more it makes sense. As a freight forwarder, if you are afraid of K&N, UPS or Flexport, why not run with a white label solution to handle customer interactions. Is it your knowledge of the customer that makes them stay or the online interface?
Or if you are heavily involved in trucking/rail why not take a look at some of the platforms that are expanding, such as Transporeon. Yes, there is a cost and a risk involved, but there is also an cost and risk to limited sales coverage and doing what you have always done.
In my book you should go with SaaS as much as possible – and only when it is truly your competitive advantage should you attempt to digitise it/develop your own proprietary solutions. You will gain economies of scale that you in the “old economy” would not be entitled to.