Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) is awesome but broken.
SaaS is awesome because companies are producing some all-star niche solutions that tackle their chosen problem with the kind of vigor and focus the business world hasn’t seen before. Entire organizations are being stolen away from the grips of legacy systems built over a decade ago to enjoy the land of focused solutions and beautiful user interfaces.
Businesses of all sizes are adopting SaaS applications at a feverish pace, using more of them and using them more often. This widespread adoption is also the reason SaaS is broken. It’s led to what is called SaaS fragmentation.
SaaS fragmentation refers to that space between applications where all kinds of ugly takes place. We’re talking tedious, demotivating, error prone, below-their-pay-grade manual data entry to get data from one application to other applications. Jason Lemkin, a SaaS authority and visionary, said the following about this manual data entry on Quora:
The web is great for workflows and data retention and analysis in the enterprise but we are still doing way, way, way too much data entry by valuable, non-clerical employees (e.g., sales reps, VPs, etc.). So making 95%+ of the “work” in SaaS automated (via leveraging mobile, inboxes, APIs, whatever) is a huge next frontier.
Data entry is horrible. Data entry by high-priced employees who aren’t paid to do data entry? Unconscionable.
So why would the man who puts his money where his mouth is by investing in early stage SaaS companies bring to light this problem of SaaS fragmentation — a problem created by the kinds of companies he invests in?
Because he, and in fact we at Blitzen, see SaaS fragmentation as an opportunity and our chance to shine.
SaaS fragmentation is just a necessary consequence of today’s workforce choosing to use a bunch of SaaS apps that each do their job incredibly well instead of a single antiquated system that does everything decently. Until recently, there was no incentive to build a scalable solution that makes all of these best-in-class SaaS applications play nice with one another. SaaS has only recently hit its inflection point and it’s clear now that SaaS is the future of the SMB and enterprise workflow. SaaS is great and SaaS fragmentation is just a big problem that needs solving.
4 Steps to Solve the SaaS Fragmentation Problem
1. Structured Data – a Logical Starting Point
For technical reasons, it makes sense to start with structured data. This is where the online form, the unsung hero of the internet, shines. Smashing Magazine had this to say about online forms in their online form usability guide:
Standing between the user’s goal and the organization’s goals is very often a form, because, despite the advances in human-computer interaction, forms remain the predominant form of interaction for users on the Web.
It’s a lucky coincidence for us that online forms, a common source of structured data and something we know a lot about at Blitzen, is one of the main ways people interact with the internet. This is why our first order of business was to create a stunning form builder that is a pleasure to use. It’s just about ready to launch into private beta.
2. Integrating Online Forms with SaaS Applications
Online forms are just a tool to collect structured data and send it to a database — they don’t inherently do much more than that. However, the desired destination for form data is one or more SaaS apps. If the user had a form builder wish list, they would take it a step further and wish that responses to different fields could be sent to separate SaaS apps.
For example, contact information from an online lead capture form would flow to your CRM and create a new entry, and to your email marketing tool to create a new subscriber. Credit card information would go to a payments SaaS application so the trial user can be automatically charged if they don’t opt out at the end of their trial. The possibilities are endless. Form data needs to traverse the gap present between online forms and the apps used to work with that data.
After your form data is distributed to other SaaS apps, people work with that data and it again gets passed along to other apps and teams.
Of course, as Jason Lemkin stated, this data isn’t simply “passed along”. Rather, it is manually transferred by employees that should be doing other things with their time (and your money).
3. Integrating SaaS Applications with other SaaS Applications
The next step is to ensure that the manual data entry that occurs between SaaS applications is automated, just like the manual data entry that occurs between online forms and SaaS apps can be. This is accomplished by creating an easy-to-use workflow builder that leverages API’s of today’s best-in-class SaaS apps.
API’s are the bridges that bring together fragmented SaaS applications. An easy-to-use workflow builder is the tool that enables someone that isn’t a programmer to make use of the API’s to streamline their own day-to-day tasks.
The automation between applications is made possible by event based triggers and actions. You select a trigger (an event that triggers some actions to take place) and then select actions associated with that trigger (the things you want to happen when a trigger is activated) and let the software do the rest.
This example of a simple sales workflow illustrates the power of triggers and actions:
- A 14 day free trial sign up form on your website captures a new lead’s contact information (trigger) and credit card information (trigger)
- Free trial form data creates a new contact in a CRM such as Salesforce (action), a subscriber in an email marketing application such as MailChimp (action), and a potential customer in a payments application such as Stripe (action)
- After the 14 day free trial ends, they don’t opt out of becoming a paying customer (trigger)
- So their contact information is updated in Salesforce (action), they are moved to a new list in MailChimp for paying customers (action), and the credit card bill is sent out and payment received by Stripe (action).
- A contact is also created in Zendesk for customer support (action) and Gainsight for customer success management (action).
Today, between triggers and actions is manual data entry instead of automated data flow.
Bringing together the best in online forms, an easy-to-use but powerful workflow builder, and API support for the best-in-class SaaS apps would put to rest much of Jason Lemkin’s concerns.
However, SaaS fragmentation presents itself in yet another form — that of the fragmented user experience.
4. A Common User Interface – the Final Frontier
People are using multiple SaaS applications and therefore having to navigate many different user interfaces. A fragmented user experience is an inefficient one. A common user interface addresses this fragmentation of the user’s experience.
While it is indeed a lofty goal, we do intend to be the SaaS application that allows you to see and work with all of your data across all of your SaaS applications in one place. Right now, this is only partially achieved by large companies that build their own version of each type of application (e.g. CRM, CSM, storage, email etc.). However, these attempts leave much to be desired as it completely alienates what we said is awesome about SaaS applications — a laser like focus on creating a stellar solution for a single problem. These all encompassing solutions are just attempting to sidestep what is currently broken in SaaS.
At Blitzen, we will preserve what is awesome about SaaS and fix what is broken — not side step it.