Software-as-a-service (SaaS) will bring the overdue demise of great swathes of the IT industry. So say the evangelists of the SaaS delivery model.
Not least among the walking wounded will be systems integrators, whose lifeblood will dry up when end-user organisations rid themselves of their tangled infrastructures in favour of Internet-based computing.
But the idea that direct delivery of software from vendor to user will put paid to middlemen is confounded by the success of BlueWolf, a SaaS-only IT consultancy that launched in 2000 and opened in the UK earlier this year – its first European office.
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According to Penny O’Rourke, newly appointed MD of BlueWolf’s European division, the company is as distinct from traditional consultancies as SaaS is from traditional software delivery.
Its adherence to agile development principles makes it a quintessentially different beast, she says.
“With traditional consulting projects, by the time the systems have been installed, the requirements have changed, or the marketplace has changed,” she says. “The agile methodology allows BlueWolf to deliver on projects much more quickly, often in 30, 60 or 90 days, therefore delivering what the business needs in a much more timely manner.”
Much of BlueWolf’s work relates to online CRM provider Salesforce.com.
The pioneering work which that company has done to build a platform and development ecosystem around its core application accentuates the benefits of the agile methodology, says O’Rourke. “Salesforce.com, as a tool, allows us to develop business requirements in an iterative manner, which enables rapid time to value,” she says.
BlueWolf also exploits Salesforce.com’s AppExchange – an online marketplace where developers can sell their supplementary applications – to drive business. The company sells Integrator – the software it uses to integrate Salesforce.com implementations with on-premise software – through the AppExchange, thereby tapping into a ready-made user community to produce leads for consultancy contracts.
It also uses software from third parties that is available on the AppExchange to develop systems for its clients, such as a marketing module from BigMachines. “We are moving beyond CRM to create new applications,” says Sklar.
But in a familiar refrain that proves that BlueWolf is – at least in part – a typical IT consultancy, the company insists that it is an understanding of business process, not new-fangled technology, that makes its service offering compelling.
And if its existence proves that SaaS does not portend the death of the IT consultant, BlueWolf is equally keen to dismiss the idea that it also spells the end for the IT department.
“As far as we are concerned, SaaS is not about getting rid of IT staff,” says O’Rourke. “It is about making IT staff into heroes, by allowing them to deliver users what they want, when they want it.”
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