Strategy: SaaS Productivity Apps

Aug 31, 2011


Are SaaS Productivity Apps Ready for Your Business?

Software as a service (SaaS) is making its way deeper into the office via email, productivity and collaboration applications. Google has led the charge, building on its Gmail franchise to create a full suite of productivity products for business. Microsoft, fearing the erosion of its wildly profitable Office line, has countered with a SaaS offering that meshes the thick Office clients with online versions of its communication and collaboration servers. While these two battle for market leadership, other players are wedging their way into the spaces left by the giants. Apple’s iCloud service, promising automated file syncing for its iWork suite, remains an intriguing wildcard.

Although Google and Microsoft take different approaches, either service can extricate IT from the business of running email and collaboration servers. For companies willing to embrace the browser-based, thin client paradigm, SaaS even eliminates the chore (and expense) of managing a significant amount of desktop software. Replacing hardware investments, software licenses and administrator time with a monthly subscription per user can reduce total cost of ownership while freeing IT to focus on business-specific service development. But the savings are hollow if SaaS productivity apps can’t replicate the features employees expect. Microsoft solves this problem by building its service on top of Office, while Google uses its JavaScript wizardry to make browser-based clients a credible alternative to thick-client apps.

In this report, we’ll examine the SaaS productivity market, compare the two major offerings, review the pros and cons of cloud-based messaging and collaboration services, and outline some deployment scenarios for introducing these services into your company. We’ll show that it’s not necessary to fully embrace a browser-based existence to enjoy many of the cloud’s benefits, and that a mature service like email is a great place to start gaining experience with SaaS office services. (S3150811)


Research Report