OpSource SaaS Summit Takeaways

Posted on March 3rd, by thinkstrategies in Microsoft, Omniture, OpSource, SaaS, SaaS Summit, SaaScon, Salesforce.com, Software-as-a-Service. Comments Off on OpSource SaaS Summit Takeaways

Last week’s OpSource SaaS Summit was a milestone event for the on-demand services market on a number of levels.

The first SaaS Summit in Silverado in 2006 was a gathering of industry pioneers to discuss the potential of the on-demand movement. Last year’s Summit in Monterey was an opportunity to celebrate the growing success of the SaaS movement. This year’s Summit offered a chance to take stock of what it will take to scale SaaS to meet the needs of the mainstream market. The theme was platforms and web services, but the event also raised other issues.

With over 600 registered attendees, this year’s SaaS Summit was the largest vendor-oriented conference focused entirely on the rapidly growing Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) market to date. While Salesforce.com’s Dreamforce user conference is still the biggest SaaS event of all, OpSource’s SaaS Summit has represented the benchmark for vendor-oriented conferences since its inception in 2006.

This year’s Summit marked the first time that many of the leading names were overshadowed by lesser known players with far more compelling messages.

Microsoft’s General Manager of U.S. ISV and System Integrator Partner Businesses, Greg Urquhart, outlined the company’s SaaS enablement capabilities but did little to convince the conference attendees that Microsoft is committed to quickly delivering its own SaaS solutions.

By the same token, Salesforce.com’s President and Chief Customer Officer, Jim Steele, wasted an opportunity to convince the Summit attendees that Salesforce.com is a leader in the rapidly evolving cloud computing market by dwelling too long on the basic virtues of SaaS.

Everyone I spoke with at the Summit agreed that it was Josh James, Co-Founder and CEO of Omniture, who stole the show. James provided an engaging and enlightening presentation about the factors which have led to the phenomenal success of his company. James provided valuable information and insight, punctuated by a key takeaway that every successful company should have a ‘number’ that drives its growth. In the case of Omniture, it is a monthly statistic based on a formula calculating sales growth specifically for its web performance metrics business.

I was privileged to moderate a panel of journalists that concluded the Summit. The panel consisted of Eric Knorr, Editor – Infoworld, John Pallatto, West Coast News Editor – eWEEK.com, Ben Worthen, Staff Reporter – The Wall Street Journal, and Aaron Ricadela, Writer – BusinessWeek. These prominent business and tech industry writers offered their candid perspectives regarding the state of the SaaS market and the key obstacles that must be overcome in order for SaaS to become truly mainstream.

Ironically, Forrester Research issued a new report prior to the Summit suggesting that the SaaS market will cool off in the small- and mid-size market in 2008. A drop in the rate of growth is conceivable because of the law of big numbers, but is unlikely because there are so many vertical and horizontal market segments still to be addressed.

As is often the case, the real value of last week’s SaaS Summit was the opportunity it gave attendees to network with their peers and get a reality check about industry best practices from informal discussions rather than formal presentations.

My guess is next year’s SaaS Summit will be far bigger someplace in Vegas and we will be discussing an even broader array of business opportunities and challenges.

In the meantime, this month’s SaaScon user-oriented event will be the next opportunity to gauge the state of the SaaS movement.

Until then, we should all be thanking OpSource for making the SaaS Summit possible and using it to help drive the success of the SaaS industry.

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