Grady says the nice thing about plugging into an ecosystem is that when someone builds an application on the Rearden platform -- an MRO or meeting-planner app, or myriad other unique composite apps they can leverage as the grid opens up -- they’re not just publishing to Rearden and its sales force, but to all of the ecosystem partners.
As the market leader in application hosting, IBM would also seem a likely ecosystem host, but the company isn’t announcing any plans -- yet. When asked if there are any comparisons to be drawn between IBM’s community of SaaS providers and AppExchange, IBM’s Clark dances around the question.
“I can only go so far here, because obviously there are other shoes to drop,” Clark says. “The short answer is --there will be a great comparison.”
Meanwhile, Clark -- who serves as a sort of IBM ambassador to the world of venture-backed innovation -- observes that mini-ecosystems have already evolved around many of the SaaS partners IBM is working with. “Intacct will tell you that they’re a platform unto themselves. They’ve got APIs, they’ve got the abilities to mash up other kinds of things. Same is true with Employease to some extent.”
Indeed, when asked whether Employease has plans to cultivate something like Salesforce.com’s AppExchange, Jeff Beinke, vice president of product strategy and development, doesn’t rule out the possibility. In addition, Employease just built out its functionality significantly with a new payroll processing service introduced earlier this month for the midmarket.
The great SaaS mashup
IBM would also seem to be in a unique position to provide integration between its SaaS partners and enterprises, if for no other reason than the company’s vast penetration in enterprise middleware, particularly its hooks into mainframe systems. After all, for SaaS to become a serious enterprise play, that depth of integration will be necessary.
According Rick McGee of IBM Global Services, however, that’s not IBM’s focus. Instead, he says, the company is dialed in on helping traditional ISVs make the transition to SaaS and assisting startup partners with technology, marketing, and demand prediction. Ultimately, McGee says, these partner alliances will have strategic value to IBM Global Services BPO (business process outsourcing) business.
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Rearden’s Grady, whose on-demand Employee Business Services (EBS) application handles expense management, sees SaaS’s true role as a platform for BPO -- to the point where providers will play host to a range of business functions. “The next step is for organizations to leverage expert third parties to handle not just the applications, but the processes that the applications manage as well.”