by Roberto Michel, senior contributing editor
March 16, 2009 10:20:00 AM
The big name in the Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) model for enterprise software delivery—Salesforce.com—focuses on customer management functionality, but that doesn't mean SaaS stops at the front office. Some lesser-known vendors are offering SaaS solutions with a supply chain bent, covering processes such as supplier and quality management.
Quality out in front
Two well established vendors of quality management software—AssurX and Pilgrim Software—have offered their respective solutions on-demand for years. According to Nikki Willett, VP of marketing with Pilgrim, its on-demand option was first offered about 2-1/2 years ago, and in 2008, the company saw its on-demand solution sales grow by 300 percent.
While the Plex Online suite now consists of more than 350 modules to manage operations from the shop floor to the top floor, Plex Systems CEO Mark Symonds says a good starting point is quality management as a stand-alone solution.
On-demand quality and supplier management isn't exactly new, concurs Simon Jacobson, a director with Boston-based analyst firm AMR Research. "It's not a whole new growth area—in the sense of whole new market—but it does continue to be an opportunity for vendors," he says.
Jacobson cites SupplierSoft's use of the Salesforce.com platform as a differentiator. However, he sees one of the strongest opportunities in on-demand quality functionality coming at the statistical process control (SPC) level, rather than higher-level workflows. At this level, InfinityQS offers an on-demand, Web-based SPC solution.
Michael Lyle, president and CEO of InfinityQS, says its eSPC on-demand solution is meant to allow a company and its supply base to proactively manage quality in near-real time. The solution has been on the market for about 1-1/2 years, says Lyle, but differs in focus from systems that manage procedures.
"[Our solution] is literally used on the production floor doing real-time quality monitoring," explains Lyle.
Vendors differ in their definitions of what constitutes a SaaS-based offering versus something that's delivered on-demand. Yet everyone involved with this niche agrees that with the pay-as-you go aspect of the model, solutions can be approved and deployed rapidly.
As El-Kareh at KLA-Tencor explains, a similar solution acquired under a traditional delivery model would likely require more IT costs and IT approvals. Concludes El-Kareh, "If we had tried involving the larger resources in the company, it never would have happened."