“Tear down this wall”- the Lawson version

Tear down this wall” was the famous challenge from United States President Ronald Reagan to Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev to destroy the Berlin Wall.

The best thing to do when you have only one strategy for your company is to say there is only one strategy in the world. It makes you right automatically which is a great boost for anyone’s ego. When Marc Benioff came with the famous no-software tagline, he was trying to make a point. As the only SaaS game in town, in a market dominated by Siebel, playing the no-software card helped Salesforce.com differentiate itself and win, leaving all its competitors far behind. I understand the marketing wisdom behind “no software” but I don’t agree with this claim. It will be as reasonable for Toyota to declare the death of a non-hybrid cars.

But why do I even bring “no software” up? It is all because Lawson CEO predicted the death of SaaS and carefully explained that he has only one strategy too: YES software.  I don’t even want to get to the argument who is right: Benioff or Debes . Debes is entitled to have his own opinion even if I think he is terribly wrong. Nonetheless, most of the reasons he provided to support his point of view are either wrong or bluntly anti-customer.

When I wrote the post titled Is SaaS for me? I realized that SaaS strength stems from the fact it is a model where the vendor and the customer are fully aligned. The vendors need to work hard to earn their customer business time and again. Just think about it: SaaS company with as little as 1000 customers will get 5 reminders per business day to keep working for its customers.  Apparently, some of the on premise players do not subscribe to this idea. Judge for yourself:

Debes on the SaaS market

SaaS is not God’s gift to the software industry or customer community. The hype is based on one company in the software industry having modest success. Salesforce.com just has average to below-average profitability.

Look at Salesforce.com vs. Lawson performance in the last year. I think one chart is better than 1000 words… Lawson is in business for 33 long years and its net profit is lower than the 9 years old Salesforce.com. Debes also conveniently forgot Webex that was sold to Cisco for 3B last year, and ignores the 100s of fantastic SaaS companies that generates billions in aggregated revenue and can beat many on premise companies when it comes to customer satisfaction hands down.

Larry Ellison has the same perspective as I do. He accidentally funded the CRM product and NetSuite. He didn’t really mean to. They’ve had small successes but, overall, they’ve been spectacularly unsuccessful.

Translation: The CRM product (AKA Salesforce.com) and Netsuite worth together almost $8B: 5.5 times more than Lawson. I am sure Larry Ellison wants to go back in time and put his money on Lawson instead of SF and Netsuite. After all, Lawson share price was cut in half between 2001and today.

Debes on customers’ wisdom

People are stupid. History has shown it repeats itself, and people make the same mistakes.

Should I add anything?

Getting signed up as a SaaS customer is fast, but getting out is just as fast, whereas traditional software is like cocaine — you’re hooked. It’s too difficult and expensive to switch providers once you’ve invested in one.

I am sure even Lawson customers didn’t expect this kind of honesty: Lawson adopted the East Germany cold war strategy: it was a horrible place to live in, but high walls and blood thirsty guards kept you in. No customer (and no German) wants high walls- they like flexibility. And it is not only about moving off a product- it is about adjusting the payment to the need. Case in point: you bought 1000 seats of Lawson 2 years ago and now your company needs only 300 due to major downsizing: would anybody buy back those 700 extra seats you paid for only 2 years ago? A customer using SaaS will just pay for 300 the next time he is up for renewal so cost can be adjusted to revenue. Think about that for a low wall.

As long as it’s working, people are happy to stick with one product.

Where was innovation in the world if everyone thought that all you need is a product that works?

Debes on hype (and right for once)

People will realize the hype about SaaS companies has been overblown within the next two years.

To end with a positive note, I will give him that. SaaS is not a religion, nor  a strategy. It is a delivery mechanism that in some cases is better, in others not. There are good SaaS companies and there are bad ones, but the bad ones don’t last, since their customers don’t let them to. This is the only reason why SaaS is not going anywhere.

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“Tear down this wall”- the Lawson version

One thought on ““Tear down this wall”- the Lawson version

  1. I think the fundamental question that a business must answer when decided between client-server vs. hosted (SaaS)CRMs or Contact Management systems is that you have to spend as much time selecting the right SaaS vendor as you would spend hiring an IT employee to baby sit the client-server system internally.

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