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May 10, 2008

SaaS in the Engineering Field - A Profile in Leadership

I am a really big fan of the Software as a Service approach. A big fan, in fact I have a few ideas I am toying with myself. I have no doubt that Gartners' forecast of 25% of business software by 2011 is going to be delivered using the internet as the delivery mechanism. has to take a lot of the credit for this new area, ushering in an era when Microsoft, Oracle and SAP have all tried to crash the market.

Yet before all of the craziness of the last few years - there was eMaint. eMaint is a software company delivering computerized maintenance management software via the internet. And they have been doing so since the late 1980's!

I recently caught up with company President Brian Samuelson about this area, and about his outlook for the future. Fantastic company, great vision - and I have always loved true dedication to service int he consulting industry.

Q1. Is the area of physical asset management benefiting from the global surge in interest in SaaS?

Absolutely! The benefits of SaaS offer substantial benefits over the traditional software models and users of EAM/CMMS are no exception in wanting best of breed applications, delivered in an on-demand environment, with a pricing model that is buyer-centric.

I believe the emergence of the term Saas (Software as a Service) over ASP (application service provider) actually illustrates at a high level why there is this global surge in interest – ASP sounds like a technology – perhaps simply a new way of delivering the same old thing – and in fact, many of the early entrants into the ASP market were simply quite that – delivering legacy apps over the wire via some sharing technology like Terminal Server or Citrix.

True SaaS vendors provide software and services in a model that, if done right, provide a higher level of value through the combination of service and product. There is a sales technique which has the salesperson ask the prospect if they were presented with a triangle and the three corners of the triangle represented Service, Quality, and Price – which two would they pick? I believe the value in SaaS is that the prospect doesn’t have to pick – SaaS delivers all three!

Q2. Commentators talk of SaaS being purchased at department level rather than at corporate levels. Is this the case with on-demand maintenance management systems?

I definitely see that department level purchasing of SaaS is leading the trend in on-demand EAM/CMMS. And why not?

Corporate decision makers take way too long in making those decisions and, more often than not, don’t make the resources available to the maintenance department (financial, technical, and personnel ) to properly implement legacy-style products. In the meantime, has the maintenance organization gone into “hibernation”?

Of course not – the potential realization of benefits from a maintenance management system only increase with time. So, the ability to reduce the overhead required to get started with a SaaS maintenance system along with often eliminating the need for capital requests is a perfect match for the predicament maintenance departments often find themselves in.

Q3. In other areas on-demand technologies have also opened doors for vendors to provide more outsourcing services than they have done in the past. Are you seeing this in your field? And if so, in which sectors or functional areas specifically?

In our case, when our customers realize that our SaaS mentality and delivery means that we are a service provider as opposed to a commodity provider, the doors begin to open. Customers will naturally ask any vendor who provides exceptional service – “how else can you help us?”

Consulting services ranging from CMRP consulting for assisting clients in the areas of reliability and efficiency, integration projects tying the maintenance system into the corporate level app (SAP/Oracle/etc), and extending the desktop into the mobile arena are some of the main areas that are well suited to be driven be the success customers are able to experience with the SaaS solutions they employ.

Q4. What do you think is missing in the on-demand space for asset maintenance?

I believe this is related to the question of the department level vs corporate level purchasing. I am optimistic that the next couple of years will really present opportunities that ARE driven from the corporate level. We are now beginning to make headway with corporate level decision makers who see the value in the SaaS model.

I suspect that the cost benefits combined with the increased acceptance of hosted solutions will continue to drive SaaS into the “boardroom”. Industry leaders like are paving the way and we only see the acceptance levels increasing with time.

Q5. What is the future for eMaint in terms of continued expansion and growth? Are there other markets and sectors on the horizon for you or is there still space in your natural sectors now?

The good news is that the “natural sector” for eMaint is so large that there still exist huge opportunities for growth. We have put significant energies into relationship building with other providers in the maintenance and reliability marketplace and feel that those relationships will provide significant opportunity for growth. Time and again, we see the SaaS model as really providing an excellent platform for partnering with other organizations to provide value-added solutions to our customer base.

Our solutions have been engineered from the ground up for scalability and expansion – so our main challenge will be will be keeping up with the demand from a sales and marketing perspective. So that is an enviable position to be in.

We continue to have subscription renewal rates over 90% and the great thing about SaaS is that the vendor who provides exceptional service will share in the rewards equally with the customer.
So while we are currently working on further expanding into areas such as mobile technologies and targeted consulting services – our core competency will continue to be service, service, service backed by a great software product.

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