We are all aware of Software as a Service (SAAS) and the benefits that it has provided companies. Its once again one of those situations where one sits back and wonder where they would be without it.

As Industry 4.0 solidifies its foundation there is a lot of thought and guessing in the industry about when we will get to a situation where everything gets offered as a service.

This future is not as far off as we think. I recently read an article on enterpriseinnovation.net where Jack van der Velde, CEO of APAC (Unit4) gave his views on the topic.

He pointed out in the article that for enterprises, everything-as-a-service (XaaS) is upending their business and operational models.

“The shift to XaaS reimagines traditional IT products, software and processes delivered horizontally rather than in vertical, separated silos, as organizations buy and engage with computing power in an on-demand fashion. The effect of that change ripples back throughout the entire business, requiring a fundamental change in how it operates — not only its IT systems but also its processes and people — to deliver results in a far more joined-up, responsive and iterative way,” said Van Der Velde.

The article adds that for the CIO and CTO, that change demands a new approach to IT systems while for everyone else in the CxO suite, it demands a more customer-centric mindset to help the customer achieve their desired outcomes.

“We expect to see enterprise tech continue its rebirth in the next 12 months and a number of key trends will continue to shape the IT strategy and infrastructure going forward,” said Van Der Velde.

Everything on the cloud

The article points out that cloud, mobility and the Internet of things (IoT) have been talked about extensively for years as today’s disruptive technologies.

Changing demographics are tearing down the last barriers of resistance (millennials that live and breathe cloud and mobility are already part of the workforce) and ultimately SaaS is becoming so pervasive that soon there won’t be a SaaS industry. All software will be delivered via the cloud independent of device.

Unbundling SaaS and marketplaces

“We’ve seen the end of big monolith applications, and in 2018, we will see more organisations embracing smaller ‘micro services’ that seamlessly work together in providing business-outcomes and empowering solutions for the enterprise marketplace,” said Van Der Velde.

The article adds that these micro services will also fuel the need for digital Ecosystems and Marketplaces – like an enterprise app store similar to Apple’s App store or Android’s Play Store. The SaaS market valuation in Asia Pacific is set to reach US$ 4.3 billion by the end of 2018, up from US$ 380 million in 2008. Businesses will integrate this with their own marketplace where users can select a wide variety of applications to use.

Educating bots

“We’re already seeing AI entering the enterprise in the form of chatbots like Unit4’s Wanda, often in combination with a conversational interface. Both Microsoft and Google are in the process of weaving more artificial intelligence into their apps to help employees work more efficiently. Using machine learning to aggregate vast amounts of data and convert this data into intelligence will lead to the point where apps will prompt users to open files at certain times of the day,” said Van Der Velde.

The article points out that next to that, predictive analytics are already leading to unprecedented levels of automation within SaaS, streamlining the user process and boosting efficiency and accuracy. Retailers in Asia like Rakuten and ASOS are in the process of weaving more artificial intelligence into their apps to help employees work more efficiently. They use ViSenze, an intelligent image recognition which convert images into immediate product-search opportunities and improve conversion rates. Managers and sales personnel will be able to spend less time prospecting, curating and inputting data and more time using their advanced “human” skills to sell and market.

The article adds that while this ‘future’ is already a reality in some domains, it is acknowledged that bots and digital assistants in use today are still parochial and naïve to some extent. They require an education. On the job learning through machine learning and analytics technologies will see bots becoming much more useful over the next few years.

Data as a Service (DaaS)

Van Der Velde pointed out that with more businesses on SaaS, and the volume of available data in cloud rapidly growing, companies will move away from user or transaction costing models and move into models where they will see an actual increase in business value.

Such examples include comparing how an organisation performs against its peers, what the differences are and what other extra value micro services can be delivered. DaaS allows organisations to get smarter in understanding processes and in strategy-planning decisions over the next few years.

Building out enterprise architectures

The enterpriseinnovation.net article adds that we come from an era where a relatively small number of companies have a stronghold in the SaaS industry – especially the market for horizontal solutions – largely because they controlled closed platforms that prevented interoperability apart from a few chosen partners. Moving forward, there will be increasing opportunities for more open platforms to integrate with a variety of complementary services.

A nice example is Microsoft’s focus on providing a platform, integrating machine learning, IoT smart operations and management and security that can be used in building solutions for customers. Imagine a SaaS model in the future that is simply a blank browser, iPhone or Android device that can upload the precise software users want and need from companies they wish to work with, all completely customized.

First mover advantage

There is no doubt that now is an exciting time for enterprises who have not seen today’s level of innovation and digital advancement before – this rebirth puts enterprise technology in a new light that everyone can understand and get excited about.

Organisations that take advantage of the smart applications on offer and take the plunge to transform their businesses for the new services economy, will get an opportunity to outperform the competition.

Asia is a market that is primed for massive growth; and this will take place at a faster pace than anywhere else in the world. However, this does not mean that you cannot get your company ready.