By: Steve Robins
If it’s SaaS, is it a solution? Can a vendor offer an open source solution? Of course they can. A solution is the complete answer to a customer’s problem. If that answer happens to contain open source (OSS) or Software-As-A-Service (SaaS) then it’s still a solution.
Let’s define what a solution is:
Definition: A solution encompasses whatever it takes to solve the customer’s problem from their perspective. Complete solutions address all aspects of the problem including people, processes, information, technology and services (see diagram).
A Complete solution incorporates people, process,
information, technology and services.
Solutions can include a combination of multiple vendors’ and partners’ products and services, proprietary and open source software, SaaS, solution frameworks, integration tools and services, strategic and technical services, solution training, solution-level support and more.
Just One Solution?
Math solutions tend to be precise – for a given problem, there’s usually just one correct answer or solution. But in software, as in business in general, the same problem may have multiple answers or solutions. So another company, technology or business model may be able to meet your customers’ needs as well, if not better than, your company’s solution. And problems don’t change as quickly as solutions. Think of the “transportation problem” solved by railroads and later by airlines; think of the “news problem” solved first by newspapers, then by radio, TV and more recently the Internet. So don’t be surprised if new solutions arise – such as those including SaaS and open source.
More than one solution to a problem: A solution centered around proprietary on-premise software might compete against one with open source and another built around SaaS. Or the same solution might include all three, as well as other components. The key requirement: the solution must solve the customer’s problem with whatever components are most appropriate.
Open Source, SaaS and proprietary on-premise software each bring unique advantages that may be more applicable in certain circumstances and solutions than others. But each can absolutely be a part of a solution. Same problem – multiple solutions.
Advantage: Open Source/SaaS? By their very nature, open source and SaaS companies may be more solution-oriented than proprietary software companies. Solution-focused companies have the most complete solution vision. SaaS offerings are often turnkey and frequently provide the required functionality right out of the box so they have to go further than on-premise software in many cases. In fact, a SaaS solution includes not only software functionality but also data protection, service level guarantees and other technical requirements typically provided by an in-house IT department.
In a similar way, many open source companies earn revenue and differentiate themselves on the basis of their complementary value-added products and services. These paid, value-added services and features integrate closely with the product to provide a more complete solution. So these companies may actually have a broader view of solving the customer’s problem than proprietary software companies.
Conclusion. A solution can just as easily include open source (OSS), SaaS or proprietary software. However, companies may find that OSS and SaaS are actually more solution-oriented than traditional proprietary software.
Check out The Practical Advice on SaaS Marketing blog. Relevant posts:
- Open Source:
- Overview of open source marketing: Interview with Jeff Whatcott, the former marketing VP of source company Acquia
- Interesting post on open source business models from 451 Group