Friday, November 24, 2006

SaaS for Enterprise Learning?

I have long though that there was a significant potential role for ASP or Software-as-a-Service learning solutions for large enterprise organisations, but I'm not sure whether the vendors really see this (beyond those that SaaS is their main offering anyway). Yes they get the fact that SaaS is a good approach to sub-Enterprise customers (mid-tier etc), and that it is a useful tactical tool for accelerating enterprise customers. But they don't seem to see it as the long term platform of choice for them, believing that privately hosted or behind the firewall are the likely options.

I'm not sure I agree. Tactical platforms have a habit of being more long term than originally envisaged - especially given the challenge with the strategic ducks lined up! I'm also unconvinced that the perceived cost of SaaS over the longer term is disadvantageous compared with fully-costed internal or externally hosted solutions. And you would seem to get much greater flexibility with SaaS, both in terms of commitment, and in terms of flexibility of service, compared with the detailed terms and conditions that a hosting service or internal IT department wants to impose.

I'm interested to know what you think ...


donaldt said...

David, I agree that the SaaS model works for the provision of a wide variety of learning solutions, and others for others, too, like skills and talent management technologies.

As you say, the vendor community is split on this, but I think there's another reason for it beyond a failure to grasp a strategic view.

Some vendors will only ever be able to offer a SaaS service as a tactical tool, not for business, but for technical reasons. They can't provide a solution which allows enough customisation and data import and export to a client's internal systems for a SaaS solution to be anything more than an adjunct to general HR procedures.

And what are you doing posting at 4:17 in the morning? Watching the cricket? I think I would have gone to bed after that first ball.


Ian Page said...

I agree with David, lots of room for a range of approaches.

Seems to me the advantages of the SaaS model are obvious.

1. You know as well as I do one of the biggest problems training managers have is getting "IT" to do anything quickly.

2. There are good reasons to suggest it reduces cost for specified outcomes.

3.It makes it easier to involve external training specialists (knowledge holders if you like) in the content design.

4. It encourages inovation.

Tony Karrer said...

The question of SaaS vs. installed is over. A recent CIO panel that I moderated - each and every CIO said that they would prefer SaaS solutions. The only exceptions were when the data needed to be controlled because of regulations or because they couldn't find a SaaS solution.

I'd be surprised if we don't see SaaS dominating in eLearning. Only execptions will be some specific multimedia authoring where its still difficult to do via the web.

David Wilson said...

So, strong consensus so far in favour of an SaaS model as a series options for large Enterprise.

Tony - not sure that it quite that clear cut as yet. CIOs might be clear on the matter, but I'm not so sure their staff are - especially when a subset of those people have a strong vested interest in a behind the firewall ERP/HRMS solution. I agree, I'm hearing the same kind of directional statements, but I'm not convinced the direction is acted upon all the time!

We are also doing some detailed analysis on the true requirements and reality of the SaaS offerings, particularly in the LMS arena. Still early days, but definitely some embedded challenges - both about technical architecture, and also about delegated functionality from the host ... i.e. what are you restricted from doing as an SaaS customer. Will post some more stuff on this in due course.