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Why Platform as a Service (PaaS) is the next big thing in professional services

One of the best ways to grow a Professional Services organization fast and profitably is to spot early the next trend in technology and become the experts in it before your competition. In my previous business (Edenbrook) we backed .NET as being Microsoft’s first serious enterprise class contender to Java development.  Our investment in cross training our most talented Java consultants into .Net paid dividends. As our clients began to also adopt the Microsoft technology stack for the major development projects we were able to win some of the UK’s largest projects as many of our competitors had failed to spot the trend and didn’t have the skills available.

So what is the next trend? Anyone who has spoken to us over the past 2 years will know that we have long been advocating platform as a service (PaaS) as being the next big thing.  We have obviously based our business on PaaS, by building Kimble on the Force platform, which is designed and operated by Salesforce.  But we have also been recommending to the Professional Service businesses that we meet that they invest in PaaS skills themselves.  So it was great to see a recent 10-country survey by Gartner conducted in June and July 2012, which has vindicated our views.

We’ve observed that we no longer need to convince our prospects of the benefits of Software as a Service (SaaS).  I can think of only one occasion during the last 2 years when we have been asked to justify SaaS over on-premise software deployment.  The Gartner report had similar results with SaaS replacing existing systems in mature markets, while often being the first solutions being implemented in emerging markets.

According to Gartner companies are not only accepting new SaaS solutions more than ever but are also replacing legacy on-premise applications with SaaS alternatives.  This pattern has gathered significant momentum recently with 71% of those surveyed saying they had used it for less than 3 years with Brazil being the fastest growth area for SaaS.  Furthermore the majority said they planned to increase investment. Gartner highlighted that although this shift towards SaaS had been reported for over a decade the popularity had increased significantly in the past 5 years.  The report supported our experience that organizations are now confident in the security, response time and service availability of SaaS.  For Kimble being on the mature and trusted Saleforce platform has given us an even stronger position in this respect.

One of the factors that influenced our decision to use PaaS rather than using more traditional software like .NET was the productivity benefits.  We analyzed a client project we had developed in .Net in 2009 and estimated that using Force we could have written it with a quarter of the development effort.  In addition, the cost of support and maintenance would have been significantly reduced.  So any services organization offering PaaS custom development against competitors offering more traditional approaches would have a significant price advantage.

Many of the professional service organizations we sell Kimble to are specialists in implementing SaaS package solutions like Salesforce.  But there are relatively few who have built significant PaaS capabilities and so we believe this still remains an area in which early investment could provide a good return.  Now that SaaS is established we believe that many businesses will start moving their custom solutions and building new applications to PaaS.  The Gartner survey confirmed this with 56% of companies saying PaaS was ‘very important’, another 22% termed it a ‘requirement’ and 18% said was ‘somewhat important’.  So there is clearly a market emerging for a professional services business to develop these skills.  So come and join us before it is too late, the next big thing is already here!