(Photo by Flickr user U.S. Department of Defense Current Photos, used under a Creative Commons license)
We know by now that software is eating the world. Thousands of Software as a Service (SaaS) companies have sprung up since 1999, when Salesforce proved it was possible to charge a monthly fee for an application hosted and managed in the cloud.
And those businesses have thrived. But today, the challenge is integration. If you’re reading this, I can guarantee that you use and pay for SaaS. Use Mailchimp, Salesforce, Basecamp, Hubspot? If you do, you may have wondered, “When something changes in one app, can it automatically change in another?”
The answer, for the most part, is yes. IFTTT and Zapier are the services that shuttle bits from one app into bytes in another. They are primitive, but they work for plenty of cases. (Indy Hall cofounder Alex Hillman even wrote about his automation tips for when a new member joins the coworking community.)
But I think these companies are just scratching the surface with the new possibility that APIs afford developers.
As APIs mature and apps like Zapier get better, it becomes easier and easier to buy multiple apps for your business and string them together.
If you’re in the tech space, you’ve been watching this happen for the last three years, and nothing I’ve said is all that surprising. But what if you’re not in tech? What if you run a small business, and some of your operation is run on some combination of paper and Excel?
Here’s the breakdown for how CRM is handled at most companies:
That’s right: 53 percent are using either spreadsheets or paper!
Enter the ‘SaaS Navigator’
They are the person who can evaluate a business’s processes, and can not only recommend the software that is needed, but also how it can be integrated together to form a cohesive system.
What does this mean in practice? Consider that you’re a behavioral therapy center, and you need track the hours your therapists spend with their students. This sounds like you need a time tracking system. And there are many time trackers available. But does it need to be HIPAA compliant? How many time trackers can do that? Does this system need to built from scratch, if not, what components can be bought? Once the time has been tracked, forms for insurance companies need to filled and sent out to collect payment. Does the system cover that use case?
The reality is that there are certain apps that do each piece of what I described above remarkably well, but there’s no go-to person a business owner can turn to for help. Often, you’re left to evaluate each component yourself, and guess how they might be strung together to make your business run.
The SaaS navigator helps the business owner by not only knowing what apps to use, but by being opinionated about their UX, extensibility and ability to meet the business owner’s needs. It is a major need in today’s market, and it’s majorly underserved.
This is important because we’ve put a tremendous amount of effort into evangelizing coding skills for students, while we’ve dedicated so little time toward teaching students how to use systems design to solve real-world problems.
I firmly believe the future lies in the hands of not only those with the ability to build the tools, but with those who know how to wield the tools effectively.
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