SaaS (software-as-a-service) and cloud services are still a relatively nascent industry. There is a strong temptation as companies evolve to try and do it all, but trying to be all things to all customers typically leads to doing none of them well. Companies should stick with their core strengths and collaborate rather than compete with complementary services.
It's important for a company to be in touch with what its customers want, but it's not necessarily wise to try to fill every need alone. Doing so requires either building a new capability from scratch internally, or identifying a company that is already delivering the capabilities you need and acquiring it. Both options take time and money. They distract from the core value proposition that customers came for in the first place, and they spread resources thin.
Ian van Reenen, CentraStage CTO and co-founder, explains, "When it comes to offering your customers what they want, I'm a big believer in accepting that sometimes somebody else might offer them something that you can't. Technology vendors shouldn't try to be something they aren't."
Rather than trying to build your own capabilities and compete on yet another front—one that is outside of your comfort zone—why not just identify the company that meets your customers' needs the best and form a collaborative partnership? You can find a win-win-win that benefits your company, your partner, and your customers at the same time.
The reality is that most customers don't really want a company that does it all anyway. Inevitably, a company that "does it all" is mediocre at best. Customers would rather work with the best product or service in each area, but welcome opportunities to have those services integrate smoothly together.
No longer will customers have to search for one technology that does everything and inevitably fails to do much of it well. SaaS technologies, combined with private or published APIs, allow customers to choose the best technology fit for their business and seamlessly integrate them, without the need for extortionate professional services.
CentraStage is an example of a SaaS service that has chosen to stick with its core strength. Reenen says, "It's clear that the old days of managing Windows-based PCs and servers are over. Cloud services and the mobility, scalability, and flexibility they offer are now starting to appeal to small, medium and large businesses. So vendors, like us, need to respond and fast. We need to enable our customers to bring in best-in-class solutions easily and affordably. We should not be creating needless barriers or anti-competitive walls. We need to be flexible and open to collaboration or integration."
Other cloud and SaaS companies should adopt this strategy as well. Focus on being the best at what you're the best at, and find strategic alliances that enable you to expand the value you provide for customers.
Tony Bradley is a principal analyst with Bradley Strategy Group. He is a respected authority on technology, and information security. He writes regularly for Forbes, and PCWorld, and contributes to a wide variety of online and print media outlets. He has authored or co-authored a number of books, including Unified Communications for Dummies, Essential Computer Security, and PCI Compliance.