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Interview: Marc Lehmann from Saasu.com

You may or may not have heard about a little conference we are putting on in a couple of weeks. We are particularly excited by the speakers that we have coming over. I was luckily enough to catch up with one of them: Marc Lehmann from Saasu.com for a quick chat about SaaS.

ME: Briefly explain what it is that your company does.

ML: Saasu provides secure and reliable online accounting software via the web so businesses can concentrate on financial success. In a practical sense you can create invoices, manage inventory, do the payroll and pay bills using a web browser in a synchronised way.

ME: You have been in SaaS, back when is was called ASP (Application Service Providers), how has the landscape changed?

ML: We used to call this a shared application back in 2000 before terms like Multi-Tennant and SaaS came along. The uptake was slow until eventually Salesforce.com educated the corporate market enough that they got traction in 2005. At the same time the consumer was falling more and more in love with having their stuff online. It was almost a barbelled acceptance by consumers and enterprises in 2006 and 2007. Small business and their advisers were probably the last to start the move and that was partly caused by the lack of applications targeting them. Now it mainstream with more than 20% of consumers who use computers using SaaS applications of one kind or another. I think 2010 will be the crossover year where software losses it’s grip.

ME: If you were back working for a corporation, how would you convince your manager to adopt SaaS systems?

ML: Getting people to accept they are already SaaS converts is the best way. They probably already use web based gmail, hotmail or online banking as examples. I’d then hammer it home by getting the P&L out and putting some big chunky black lines through the hardware, depreciation, software and servicing costs. Then add $20 to $200 per month for online accounting. Demonstrating the financial difference is very effective in larger companies.

ME: What are some of the challenges faced by SaaS providers, and how do you see companies like yours overcoming them?

ML: By far the biggest challenge is convincing people to kick their software habit. Fortunately they only have to try SaaS once before they realise it’s a much more powerful drug. They tend to flip the SaaS Utility switch on so they can have their business life online. Shifting their data to a high-end data centre with all it automated backups and high level of security becomes a whole new peace of mind addiction they didn’t know about. And at the same time it’s not ripping a hole in their pocket.

ME: Your background is in finance, so I’m sure you have an opinion on how SaaS will fair during this current climate – how do you see it affecting the uptake of SaaS services, and why?

ML: The low capital, fast implementation cycle for SaaS suits this financial crisis and economic slowdown very well. If you are looking to cut hardware, software and HR costs then invariably people keep coming back to SaaS as the answer. It is a user pays system that scales with business, saves capital expenditure and simplifies deployment and training.

ME: Thanks Marc!

If you want to hear more about SaaS, then head over to the Edge of the Web website and register your tickets!

What I learnt at Web Directions South 08

First off, thank to WA government for having the foresight for ignoring the actual birthday of the Queen and making today a public holiday – my couch has been-a callin’. So what has been happening over the past couple of days?

Day 0

After getting in early morning on the Wednesday, I toddled along to Stories for one of their famous egg and bacon rolls with Simon, Lachlan and Nick.  Oh how I’ve waited for that. I could have gone home at this point a happy man, but then there was work to do! Spending the day tweaking my presentation, next it was up to the Kirk for memories of last year (Yes, they still only have five pint glasses) and then on to Port80 Sydney: Wednesday edition. We had a fantastic turnout, with over 80 people – most of which were new faces. Big ups to Clever starfish, radharc and Saasu.com for throwing dollars on the bar. I’m seeing a definate pattern here in regards to free beer.

Day 1

Waking up slightly hung over, I was off to the registration desk, and then the games began. Highlights for me was Dmitry Baranovskiy’s web vector graphics  talk. I’m about to go download raphael and build some stuff – not only if the guy a genius, but his talks are hilarious. Unfortunately, I missed the JavaScript workshop, where I hear Cameron Adams wowed the crowds with a JavaScript drum machine – with visualizations. The final keynote from August de los Reyes tied software and psycology together, something that I think is the crux of what we do. It was also a great talk, although the ads were a little too much to take.

What I learnt:

  • Seeing cool stuff is inspiring.
  • When giving a presentation, find out about the audience – it’s better to pitch a bit to high than to low.
  • Don’t try to squeeze in 2 hours of material into 55 minutes

Day 1.2

Next up was WebJam8. The one big disappointment of this trip is that I didn’t get something entered in WebJam, but having a Web Directions talk to do and a stupid amount of work took priority… Some really cool stuff was shown: Dmitry came third with a live code, that added reflections and animation to images on a web page, Diana came second with a crazy funny fast presentation about governments and bike helmets and the winners, Mr Speaker and Henry Tapia did a awesome YouTube remixer. In a moment of unlike-me-ness, I wentback to the hotel at a reasonable hour…

Day 2

…and for the first time EVER made it to the first session of the second day! So no one can joke that I missed the best talk of the conference (as happened the past couple of years) and I wasn’t dissapointed. Jeffrey Veen is a brilliant speaker, and I wanted to pull my laptop out right there and then and cut some code. This is the sort of stuff that makes these conferences. After lunch, I gave my presentation on OpenID, OAuth and webservices (Available on slideshare here), and I think it went pretty well. The backchannel was only positive, so I count that as a win. Next I headed over to Douglas Crockford for a good old fashioned Computer Science lecture, god that takes me back! Whilst a little dry, and technical (Who am I kidding – I wanted that) it generated some great discussion.

What I learnt:

  • Great talks bring in personal experience
  • You need to get the audience to think
  • Dual monitor Powerpoint never works properly when you need it to

Closing night

With all of the festivities over, it was time to let the hair down at the Shellbourne, for a quick shandy.  Had a debate about designers vs UX experts (We were actually arguing the same point, it turns out), and had many an indepth conversation, including one with Charles from Opera, about webservice brokering. So much so, my plans to build one may now be possible (Huzzah!).

What I learnt:

  • Finding random “locals” to go out with doesn’t mean they know where they are going
  • Peanuts 2u is actually a brand of salted almonds
  • There is a “No redheads” policy in NSW pubs
  • Bats are weird and scary

So that was my Web Directions experience in a nutshell! Roll on Edge of the Web – only five weeks until we get to do it all over again!

Have a happy and safe conference season

We are about to head into my favourite times of the year – Australian web conference season! Ausralia’s biggest web conference – Web Directions South – is due to kick off on Thursday, and as usual the Perth Posse (sans Adrian and Rose) and heading over. There is even a few n00bs who have joined the clan, making for this years Port80 Sydney even bigger! As previously mentioned, I’m lucky enough to be speaking on OpenID, OAuth and Webservices on Friday. Not to mention always amazing WebJam 8 on Thursday night (Unfortunately a lack of rips in the time-space continuum has stopped me from presenting in that this year – I petition for a 30 hour day – whos with me?) and the always crazy post-conference drinks on the Friday. Let the games begin.

BUT! We can’t let the east coast have all the fun – don’t forget that Perth first major web conference is  happening in less than 6 weeks! Our little sub-committee has been toiling away for the past few months organising the very first Edge of the Web conference and fourth WA Web Awards. Tickets are on sale now for both events, being held on November 6 and 7. There are some awesome speakers coming from overseas and over-east. There is also a number of other soon-to-be announced activities, so what this space.