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The maturing of the internet has made possible the offering of nearly every imaginable type of software application in the cloud, or via a software-as-a-service (SaaS) model. The option offers the benefits of scalability, low barrier to entry and "a network effect that cannot be achieved in other platforms," says Joseph.
He draws a distinction between the terms "cloud" and "SaaS." The first might mean accessing a particular, stand-alone application. In a true SaaS environment, there’s just one version of the code with no need for customization of multiple apps. On-site upgrades and reinstalls are never needed. The so-called network effect results in "a true single instance," in a multi-tenant environment. All of the partners involved in managing a supply chain are able to share one set of data.
Scalability is an especially critical aspect of SaaS. As companies and managers take on additional supply-chain responsibilities, it becomes more of a challenge to expand the number of users and tasks that are accessing a particular application. True SaaS removes that problem, Joseph says.
The cloud has not been accepted equally among all aspects of information technology. Enterprise resource planning was slow in adopting it, possibly because of the complexity and ubiquity of that application. The success of customer relationship management in the cloud paved the way for ERP to embrace SaaS. Transportation, warehouse and yard management soon followed.
Today, says Joseph, the mid-market has found success is deploying ERP via an SaaS model. "I believe that it will continue to scale with large organizations," he says.
A few shippers still don't trust SaaS as a means of running their applications, but their numbers are dwindling. "Today, that's a smaller part of our conversations," Joseph says. "But it still does exist."
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