RightNow Proves SaaS Isn't Perfect

RightNow Proves SaaS Isn't Perfect

BananaGenerally speaking, software as a service (SaaS) is a great business model for tech companies and their customers. But a flood of press coverage has suggested that SaaS specialists are immune to an economic slowdown or recession.

Once again, MSPmentor wants to go on the record stating that this just isn't true. The latest example: RightNow, a leading SaaS provider, has delivered a disappointing financial forecast. Here's a quick look at the situation at RightNow, and some big-picture thoughts on SaaS.

You're probably familiar with SalesForce.com. But RightNow is a key SaaS provider that should also remain on your radar, as SaaS and managed services continue to converge.

RightNow specializes in on-demand CRM software. The company signed up more than 250 new customers in 2007. Many of them are household names, including Activision and Epson America.

Sounds great -- until you consider RightNow isn't meeting Wall Street's financial expectations. After the US financial markets closed on January 30, RightNow disclosed that its Q4 2007 loss was larger than analysts expected, and the company also predicted 2008 losses will exceed Wall Street's original projections. Shares in the company fell nearly 9 percent on the news.

RightNow has been working to change its business model from one-time licenses to recurring licenses. In other words, the company wants to enjoy a true SaaS/managed services revenue model. But so far, that shift hasn't occurred as quickly as Wall Street would like.

Still, the glass appears half full (not half empty) for RightNow. Sales will likely grow 25 percent to $135 million or $140 million in 2008, the company predicts. Wall Street wants higher growth rates, but plenty of solutions providers would welcome RightNow's growth challenges.

For MSPs and solutions providers, partnering in the SaaS market remains a prime opportunity. SalesForce.com has been extending its platform to third-party ISVs. And NetSuite is now promoting "micro verticals" that allow VARs to write targeted accounting applications for super-niche markets.

As more SaaS companies prepare to launch initial public offerings, it will be easier for MSPs and solutions providers to closely evaluate the health of potential SaaS partners.

Keep a particularly close eye on the open source market, where SugarCRM is charting a long-range course to an IPO. Yes, SugarCRM can be installed on-site. But it's increasingly deployed by VARs and solutions providers as a hosted SaaS offering.

The bottom line: There are plenty of SaaS partnerships awaiting managed service providers. And the SaaS market remains hot. But don't think of SaaS (or any technology, for that matter) as a cure-all to an economic slowdown.

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