If you have been around for a little while, then you may remember the old conversation that everyone seemed to have an opinion on about 15 or 20 years ago. The conversation was around whether it was better to buy or lease computer hardware. At the time, it seemed to me that each person polled had a different answer, and reason, to lease or buy. For the most part those conversations have died because hardware has become much more affordable.
Computer hardware and software automation are certainly different, but the point I’m trying to make is that now people really struggle with the idea of whether to buy or rent the software that runs automation the same way they used to struggle with the purchasing decision for hardware. That’s right, you can rent software. It’s not like renting an apartment or leasing a piece of equipment. It’s rather, the concept of using software-as-a-service (SaaS). A few weeks back I blogged about keeping your head out of the clouds. I don’t want to make the same point on this post. So, what’s my point in this blog?
Keep in mind that just because the service is being hosted by someone else doesn’t mean that it is software-as-a-service. I know, I know… here comes more nerd talk, where the details are only apparent to tech people who take a close look at it. Some of that is true, however, true software-as-a-service has some very apparent and useful outcomes/benefits that other hosted services don’t. One of the big benefits is that a true software-as-a-service is already up and running. Therefore, it is more closely akin (good southern word) to renting. Think of it this way. When you rent a house the house is there – it is already built – usually the utilities are on – the floors are covered and the walls are painted. All you have to do is move in your stuff. So, after a few sore backs, scrapes and bumps you are done and the “home sweet home” living begins. In a sense, software-as-a-service is “move-in-ready”. The software is up, the coding and the testing have been completed and all you have to do is configure (move your stuff in) the software and the “software sweet software” benefits begin.
Let’s contrast that with a non-software-as-a-service offering that is hosted (meaning it too is on the web like software as a service, but… well, read the story…) The service provider will need to create your instance, install their software, test it, configure it for you and then you are off to the races. Imagine needing to rent a house, seeing a posting or ad that sounds perfect… 3,500 square foot, brick, 4 bedroom, 3 bath, 1 acre of land, and in your price range. You call the person and you set a time to go see the house. As you drive to the location you are greeted with the owner of the home who is wanting to rent with a big smile on his face and a blank plot of land. As you pull up a little shocked you say, “where is the house?” And he says, “well we haven’t built it yet”. Then to add value he says, “we custom build all of our rental houses that way you can get what you want.” But you say, “I need to move now!” and he says “dang”.
Now if you have the time, staff, money and desire to go though a custom process the outcome can be really good. But if your goal is to minimize setup (maybe do a non IT project) and create an environment in a cost effective way, than a true software-as-a-service, or SaaS offering, is for you. The point I want to make is that you have to know your goals, which means you need to do your homework before you start taking with service providers. In my latest book, “The Argument to Automate” I introduce, and spend a lot of time on, the difference between service providers’ offerings and how you are able to cut though the “sales thunder” and get right to the service provider’s true benefits.