Telco SaaS lacks meat

Camille Mendler/Informa Telecoms and Media
13 Dec 2012

Microsoft Office 365 is becoming to telco SaaS what the Big Mac is to fast food.

That’s not a health warning, but a fact, based on a 38-country study* of 51 communication service providers’ business SaaS portfolios that I’ve just completed.

Microsoft powers an astonishing 51% of these CSPs’ productivity and collaboration offers. Want a SaaS equivalent to The Economist magazine’s Big Mac Index? Et voilà!

A tall order

CSPs hope Office 365 – viewed as well featured and from a trusted brand – will acclimatize enterprises to SaaS, trigger volume migration and, ultimately, enable top-line revenue growth.

Maybe it could all come true – if only CSPs had more to sell and less competition.

The term ‘SaaS marketplace’ sounds big and sexy, but it’s aspirational for now. The typical CSP works with no more than six business SaaS partners.

Utilitarianism rules: Portfolios are designed to benefit the widest horizontal base of employees.

Worryingly, most CSPs (based on their current portfolios) believe this to be a white-collar employee working on a PC in a traditional office. Really?

Empty calories

It will take more than a one-size-fits-all commodity SaaS strategy for CSPs to profit. According to Informa’s 2013 Industry Outlook survey – which polled more than 200 CSPs worldwide – LTE and cloud services lead top-line growth expectations.

Yet barely a third of CSPs bundle broadband (their core revenue stream) with SaaS as a standard offer in their official SaaS marketplaces.

Islands of SaaS also exist in siloed fiefdoms – like mobile app stores and M2M marketplaces – often marooned by incompatible service delivery platforms.

Meanwhile, CSPs’ competitors are multiplying. There’s Microsoft’s own Office 365 Marketplace, Amazon Web Services’ Marketplace, Rackspace’s Cloud Tools Marketplace, and the marketplaces of IT distributors Ingram Micro and Tech Data, to name a few.

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