Digital adoption among businesses all over the world is expected to continue despite macroeconomic uncertainties. Barring a drop in year-on-year growth rates, worldwide SaaS spending is forecast to increase by 16.8 percent in 2023. Moreover, a recent IDC report states that Indian businesses prioritise digital transformation and IT modernisation "to increase or maintain the competitiveness and efficiency of business operations". Given the greater weightage businesses give to their cloud migration strategies, the following are some technology areas they will focus on next year while adopting SaaS for their operations.
As business leaders and employees find their footing in the post-Covid era, both parties will settle for a hybrid work model. Gartner says "hybrid-flexible," a form of hybrid work model that incorporates location flexibility, will be wildly successful if executed and managed right. Companies that opt for hybrid workplaces will look for online collaboration suites that streamline both synchronous and asynchronous communication and also enable contextual tie-ins for users—both remote and in-office—to swiftly switch from one communication form to another.
Additionally, tools with intuitive attributes that allow team leaders to practice empathy in a virtual environment will also fare well. For instance, live messaging apps that support automated task reminder settings can empower managers to let bots do the work instead of micromanaging their team. Even companies that go back to on-site work will look to expand their usage of online productivity tools, having realised during the pandemic the benefits they can offer.
The SaaS landscape has been witnessing waves of consolidation over the years—financially and technologically. In the coming years, the early SaaS adopters will contribute to another technological consolidation in the industry. To maximise ROI from their SaaS investments as well as enjoy a greater amount of flexibility, these businesses will go beyond integrated multi-product agglomeration and prefer "interoperability over integration," i.e., unified cloud platforms that support interoperable SaaS offerings.
Demand will rise for platforms as a service (PaaS) that allow businesses to hand-pick SaaS applications or services. They can: a) smoothly interoperate with each other, b) include customised workflows built using low-code/no-code provisions, and c) have the entire platform up and running with their data in no time, along with the ability to oversee operations from a single web/mobile console.
PaaS offerings that employ common data models will be preferred by companies aiming to infuse organisation-wide AI programmes with their digital operations and extract context-rich business intelligence.
With cloud computing touted to be the way of the future, companies will seek to go further and deeper with their digital transformation agenda to remain competitive in the market. They will experiment with new-age technologies like AI and blockchain as part of their cloud strategies, either as standalone offerings or as part of other SaaS deployments. Offered over the cloud, AI/ML becomes widely accessible and easily deployable, which acts as another motivator.
To keep up with this market demand, a lot of industrial R&D in areas such as machine learning, computer vision, and NLP will result in modern SaaS apps being equipped with advanced capabilities to improve CX/EX. For instance, these technologies will help businesses equip their sales teams with powerful sales enablers, like trend anomaly detection, productivity recommendations, prediction building and more.
New B2B markets for SaaS will continue to emerge as nations and businesses across the globe catch up with their cloud policies. Establishing a stronghold in different regions as and when they become digitally aware and building a globally diverse client base will require SaaS vendors to adapt their offerings to fit each market's expectations. Product or service localisation, aside from regional language support, should also include adaptation in terms of product design and navigation, ease of use, GTM strategies, service delivery, after-sales training and implementation support, and more.
Every B2B SaaS vendor sits on two different but equally valuable data piles—one involving confidential info about its customer organisations and another belonging to the application end-users (employees and customers of the customer organisation). To protect both business and individual personal data, SaaS vendors should consider investing more in an array of data security and privacy areas. Because businesses will look to procure software from vendors who can vouch for the safety of their customer data with necessary technology investments. This includes data centre security, regulatory compliance, DevOps security, internal communications, privileged access control, and privacy-enhancing technologies. Additionally, vendors who can boldly make a public declaration that no customer data will ever be monetised to serve their revenue needs will rise in brand value and trustworthiness in the eyes of the end user.
Vertical SaaS has seen good growth in the past few years owing to digitalisation taking over more industries. Typically, the 80/20 rule applies to every organisation's business IT needs, irrespective of the industry. Be it a real estate, a hospitality, or an IT services firm, 80 percent of the digital requirements are standard for all of them, while the remaining 20 percent are industry-specific. The industry cloud will include horizontal offerings with platform-play that are deeply customised to fit each industry's needs, custom applications built on low-code development platforms to serve small-scale needs that horizontal tools can't serve efficiently, and tailor-made vertical SaaS solutions. Vertical solutions will have a stronger play in areas where compliance is a lot more stringent and processes are well-defined, like the healthcare industry.
The author is VP - Marketing & Customer Experience at Zoho Corp.
The thoughts and opinions shared here are of the author.
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