The Missing SaaS Platform
Software as a Service, or SaaS for short, is the way of the future. It offers tons of advantages however, as with all new things, some issues need to be resolved.
One of the biggies is that when the switch from classic desktop apps to SaaS was made, a crucial part: the platform or operating system (e.g., Windows, macOS, or Linux) that helped us organize essential elements, like users and documents were lost.
But not just problems will be pointed out — we have some solutions, too. We'll examine the obstacles related to SaaS and share ideas about fixing them.
Note: This article is a summary of The SaaS 2.0 Manifesto, which presents its ideas in a simple way.
The Current SaaS
When you use a SaaS app, they are terrific. But when you use many in an organization (a company, an NPO, or a group), they are inadequate. Let's discover why.
Users and Documents
Users and documents can be distributed over all the SaaS apps an organization uses.
When a new team member joins, they have to be added to different apps.
What's more, documents appear in odd directories, and are impossible to organize.
Keeping track of a discussion about a project can be a game of hide-and-seek. The conversation might be obscured in emails, lost in a chat app (such as Slack or Zoom), or suppressed in a document's comments.
It's worse when a new team member joins the project and spends hours catching up.
Indeed, communication is often a fiasco in many organizations.
Most SaaS apps have similar features, such as:
- Document organization (e.g., gathering several related documents into a folder).
- Document sharing (e.g., sharing a document with an organization's member or an external collaborator).
- Communication about the documents with comments, mentions, reactions, etc.
- User management and notifications.
- Subscriptions, invoicing, and payments.
- General settings (e.g., organization profile, language, or appearance).
Apps have similar features, although they are presented differently. It's akin to learning a new language while using various apps. This leads to a poor user experience overall.
In the world of SaaS apps, pricing can be challenging. Most apps follow a similar model — you pay for a number of users and features through a subscription plan.
Alas, it's not always that simple.
In practice, this model can be complicated for organizations. They pay for features they don't need or use, and adding new users can become expensive. It's like paying for a whole meal when you want a few bites.
Organizations face tough choices. Too many options, but not enough space. Limitations are a reality, so that means cutting back on the number of apps they use.
Something has to change.
The Next SaaS
The Web platform wasn't designed with app development in mind, and SaaS apps are affected. Vital features like users, organizations, folders, conversations, and invoicing are absent.
What are SaaS apps to do?
They have to improvise and create solutions, ruining the global user experience and making it complicated for app vendors.
We have an idea to address the struggle. Envision a new platform — a SaaS platform based on the Web platform — that takes care of the annoying features and lets app vendors focus on their core business. No more shattered global user experience, no more burden on the app vendors.
What It Looks Like
Here's a prototype of what a user would see when using a SaaS platform:
Notice the following:
- A user can join multiple organizations and switch between them with ease.
- Creating folders and documents is effortless.
- Say goodbye to document chaos! With the platform's organization and search capabilities, finding what you need has never been easier.
- Particular folders and documents are a click away by creating quick-access favorites.
- Need to discuss a document? The platform's conversation feature makes collaboration a breeze.
And here's what it looks like when a user works on a document:
The following can be noted:
- Users can view and edit documents without leaving the platform. No more juggling multiple tabs and windows.
- All the platform's features are still available, to access everything in one place.
- Need more room? The "Favorites" and "Conversation" panels can be minimized, providing more space.
- Regarding conversations, you can link them to a document or specific parts within it.
Picture this: all the possible SaaS apps are one click away from the platform's "Create" button.
But first, app vendors need to examine the pay-as-you-go model used by most cloud service providers like AWS, Azure, or GCP.
This is fair because the model doesn't charge fixed costs, and customers pay for what they use.
Thus, no more subscription plans. Instead, customers will get one bill showing how much they used each app feature and what they owe for operation and storage.
We are not building a SaaS platform that takes over the world. It's about setting a standard from which multiple interoperable platforms can be created.
For example, the following should be possible:
- A consumer using a platform could communicate with a user or organization using another platform.
- A document created from a platform could be shared with a user or organization using another platform.
- A user or organization using a platform could move to another platform while maintaining its data.
For this to transpire, a nonprofit organization needs to oversee the standardization and operate a registry for identities. This assures that consumers can claim their identities and aren't stuck inside one platform.
We noticed that the existing SaaS apps are made on the Web platform, and this causes some problems.
After that, we shared our idea of creating a SaaS platform (based on the Web platform) that would improve user experience and developer productivity.
For this to occur, some modifications are needed in the following areas:
- Architecture: SaaS apps should be built upon a SaaS platform.
- Economic: SaaS vendors should change how they charge customers.
- Standardization: A standard needs to be set to make it possible to create many platforms that collaborate.
Indeed, it won't be simple, but we believe that this is the way to build a more sustainable SaaS model.