Estimated reading time: 4 minutes, 18 seconds

Cecil as a Service

When I arrived at my client's offices I found them deep into a discussion about how they were not going to use software any more. Now, you have to understand that I've spent my working life installing, training, fixing, and at times developing software. So to hear someone (especially one of my clients) in the midst of this kind of discussion took me by surprise

I've been a busy guy over the last few weeks. As usual, I've been cris-crossing the country at the whim of my clients. At times, all the conflicting demands have made me wish I were a virtual consultant rather than flesh and blood. But those thoughts are short lived, particularly as I cruise the back roads and come across the occasional dining secret. It's those wayside stops that make me happy to have such a diverse range of clients, and why I restrain myself from even mentioning the term 'virtual'. But more about that later.

On my way from Dallas to El Paso (a long and flat trip along I-20) I pulled into Johnny's Bar-B-Que in Odessa. I was directed there by a local gas station attendant whose parting words were "Go hungry!" I'd never been to a B-B-Q buffet before, and they live up to their motto, "We offer a true home cooked meal for your guest no matter what size." I'm guessing they meant no matter what size your guests might be, because by the time I found my way out the door I felt at least three inches bigger. I think I bit off more than I could chew.

But back to work
When I arrived at my client's offices I found them deep into a discussion about how they were not going to use software any more. Now, you have to understand that I've spent my working life installing, training, fixing, and at times developing software. So to hear someone (especially one of my clients) in the midst of this

Rather than ask what they meant, I nodded my head and continued to listen to their discussion. Essentially they were in the process of converting to an online service for their EDI needs, and dismantling their internal EDI operations. This made good sense for them since they are a small shop and their lone EDI manager had recently announced that he was leaving for greener pastures.

Some time ago they had requested quoted from a couple of EDI service providers that both claimed to offer SaaS, or Software as a Service. This would mean that they could simply replace their internal operations with a set of applications and services that were managed and housed outside their own offices. On the face of it, this looked like a winning proposition for them as they contemplated replacing an employee and bringing the new staff up to speed.

Now, I understand SaaS enough to know that the main difference between it and traditional software is that there is no such thing as "installing" SaaS. It's a SERVICE. That means you connect to it through an Internet connection and use it as you need it. That was their understanding as well, based on presentations made to them by a couple of service providers. And that's where the story gets interesting.

If it walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck...
The CFO turned to me, holding up a CD and asked if running software that was on the CD could be considered Software as a Service. Of course he didn't wait for my reply, and said that of course it wasn't. It seems that during the course of presentations made to them by TrueCommerce representatives, the software he now held in his hand had been represented as SaaS.

Based on that, and on the other representations made to them, my client signed up with TrueCommerce and waited for their login information and a phone call to walk them through the setup process. What they received instead, was a package that included a CD with instructions to install the software on their computer. That receipt was followed shortly by a call to TrueCommerce inquiring about the company's definition of Software as a Service.

The folks in the room wouldn't repeat the conversation they had with TrueCommerce for me, but they said it was not a happy one on either end as they accused TrueCommerce of lying about their offering being a host based, Internet accessible service. Apparently my clients were convincing in their explanation that they didn't view software they received on a CD to be a 'service,' because they eventually received a refund from TrueCommerce of the funds they had paid.

What about me?
With all the talk about providing services on demand across the Internet, I started to wonder about delivering my own services in a more demand-driven way. But then I realized two significant drawbacks. The first is that I couldn't be any more "demand-driven" than I already am, responding to my clients' requests as they come up. But secondly, I'd miss out on all my favorite meal-stops; those I already know about, and those I haven't yet discovered.

Till next time... Cheers!

Cecil

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