Last year, we published part one of our review of SaaS. There we described the 300-year path of industrial revolution – and how progress from steam, to manufacturing and digitization has vaulted the world into a next chapter: Industry 4.0. The second part of our SaaS review focuses on the last decade of SaaS.
Certainly the fourth industrial revolution has well and truly arrived. Internet-age breakthroughs where smarter machines, systems and software are not just re-shaping industry narratives, but writing a new story altogether.
This new world, the central role of SaaS and its impacts on enterprises are discussed today.
SaaS at the center of Industry 4.0
Consider this: The country of Estonia recently brought its economy onto blockchain software by creating the world’s first e-Residency program. The program gives foreigners the ability to apply for digital residency in the country, even though they don’t live there.
The country’s aim – and the bigger point surrounding software’s advance – is to create the first digital nation according to country officials. This worldwide business environment without national borders, restrictions, commercial frictions, infrastructure impediment and transactional limitations will be online, remote and hassle-free.
This is the reality as the next decade unfolds – our SaaS review suggests that this industry won’t just be everywhere, it will be at the core of everything.
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Pushing the potential of the Internet
The World Economic Forum was the first to highlight the emergence of a fourth industrial revolution. It concluded that the velocity, scope and systems impact of progress shows a new phase. Clearly, we’re not just sitting in a prolonged Third Industrial Revolution.
In its research, WEF highlights key introductions on both the supply and demand sides. They claim that, on the supply side, global digital platform access means better research, development, marketing, sales and distribution.
This means more competition for incumbents from small upstarts. Entirely new software will be built to push quality, speed and prices to not-yet-seen levels as these competitors vye for market leadership.
On the demand side, new patterns of consumer behavior will force companies to adapt their design, marketing and delivery of products. Sharing and on-demand structures will upend traditional industry structures.
Because of smartphone access, these will “...convene people, assets, and data—thus creating entirely new ways of consuming goods and services in the process.”
WE Forum concludes that government and public authorities will have to adapt; proving themselves capable of embracing change. Remarkably, once the regulatory, efficiency and transparency levels of global governments improve, the pace of innovation could actually speed up even further.
Trends for the next ten years
In the next decade, SaaS applications will build on the tech that has gone before. It will unlock and expand the latent potential of past innovations – from database technology, to smart machines.
Based on industry research, the following is a selection of key SaaS-related progress areas anticipated in 2020 and beyond.
Artificial intelligence in the mainstream
In their own review, one leading software company declares this the most impactful SaaS trend. Autonomous and self-learning software delivers better value from data, and lets companies automate and personalize services while supplementing human capacity.
The consumer demands for industry 4.0 are personalization, efficiencies and competitive insights from heaping data sets. As ML and AI techniques are fused into workloads and activities, businesses are taking the opportunity to capitalize on these in the near future.
A sample of improvement areas led by AI SaaS include:
Automation: Machine Learning is utilized in SaaS to automate responsiveness in customer service reports and applications, such as AI-powered chat operations with live chatbots. It will also automate the onboarding process of SaaS.
Personalization: Software is easier to use with technologies such as natural language processing (NLP), which automatically processes human speech patterns, and voice control. This can be deployed across customer service functionality to improve customization and better address client needs.
Speed: Artificial intelligence-enabled SaaS speeds up internal processes and operations, allowing businesses to obtain fast answers to questions, make quick forecasts, and speed up their overall level of responsiveness.
Security: Due to artificial intelligence-enabled automation, and the ability of machine learning to recognize patterns, SaaS security is enhanced by the quick identification and remedy of potential threats with built-in self-recovery.
Growing universe of APIs
The ability to integrate applications seamlessly, including legacy systems, will be a defining trend in the next decade of SaaS. Unlike industrial revolutions of the past, where incremental progress slow drove a noteworthy breakthrough, improved interconnectivity means the world can make technological leaps.
Data, computing power, integrations and platform decoupling will be mainly responsible. In the fourth industrial revolution brilliant minds can now focus on specific services, not simply broader platform development.
One analyst notes that abstracting away operational issues unlocks progress in software. The premise is simple: by not worrying about logistics and operations, business objectives can move faster. APIs highlight the next chapter of abstraction in terms of the way business uses technology to move faster, maintain agility, and leverage data.
Better integration pathways via APIs should result in SaaS explosion. With harmonized systems, developers will be free to create new services across a range of platforms. Consumers will demand new capabilities as integration limitations dissolve too.
Rise of PaaS
Demands for PaaS (platform-as-a-service) grow when companies need to expand their app offerings or create add-ons to their core services. In a world where any business can use technology to become competitive overnight, rapid expansion of apps and services (the “arms race” of consumer and enterprise differentiations!) is a must-do.
Moreover, with Industry 4.0, robust, flexible and accessible platform infrastructure will remove any final barriers to digital product growth. Customization, security and affordability will pave the way for expanding a product suite.
The million dollar SaaS management question
If the last decade of SaaS is anything to go by, its place in Industry 4.0 foreshadows a major enterprise challenge. This means heightened license proliferation and expense and management concerns. Further, more data and cost-effective development tools will make testing and optimization more common.
The apps your team uses are only going to get more essential and addicting. Employees will associate productivity with better tools. In-demand talent will expect dozens of apps at their disposal.
For example, in an article on tech trends predictions for 2020, Forbes notes as follows–
“The cloud provides huge benefits for agility and speed of innovation, but enterprises have recognized that costs can spiral out of control if they are not carefully managed. Next year, we will see an even greater emphasis on financial governance in the cloud as CTOs seek to understand their cloud ROI and hold departments responsible for their cloud usage.”
Additional research by Forbes highlights how the problem is compounding as the period of Industry 4.0 unveils. Today, the average company pays 20x more for SaaS subscriptions today than five years ago.
In Cleanshelf’s The State of Business SaaS Spend 2019 report, we find that the typical employee is using 44 apps in their job. This amounts to over $13,000 annually per head.
Utilization, security, expense and optimization management are a typical enterprise's greatest software challenge. As SaaS’s influence expands, the challenges will grow along with it.
What we wrote nearly a year ago is more true today than ever. The journey to the cloud is well underway, but far too many enterprises are still not ready. Especially when it comes to the plans and processes required to secure, manage, deploy and capitalize on their SaaS tools. To succeed in Industry 4.0, this has to change.
Ready to start controlling your enterprise SaaS?
Cleanshelf is the leading enterprise SaaS management platform focused on tracking, controlling, and benchmarking SaaS applications. Their SOC 2-compliant and AI-powered technology helps companies save up to 30% on their SaaS spending by automatically identifying unmanaged contracts, duplicate licenses, and wasted cloud software subscriptions. Based in San Francisco, Cleanshelf provides an enterprise-grade solution to over a hundred clients, including Hilton, Looker, and CoStar Group.