Identity and the Rise of the Platforms

written by
Jackson Shaw
October 15, 2021

The times, they are a-changin’, as they say. Over the past few years, companies from across all industries have spent time and money investing in themselves and improving the way they operate. Encouraged by a mix of business necessity and pandemic-driven urgency, digital transformation is the buzzword of the year.

Digital transformation, by its definition, however, is “a rethinking of how an organization uses technology, people, and processes in pursuit of new business models and new revenue streams.” This means that companies are already beginning to change how they think about enterprise software and workforce management. This change in thinking from purely cost reduction-focused technology efforts to using technology to increase revenues is a sign that the first era of Software as a Service (SaaS) will soon be ending. 

Companies are having increasingly difficult post-pandemic problems attracting and retaining talent, in addition to capturing and optimizing new revenue streams. As companies review the lessons learned from the past few years, signs point to the next evolution being a move from individual best-of-breed SaaS solutions, that need to be integrated with each other, to a workplace suite approach where the solutions needed are incorporated in one place. 

This has several advantages from a workflow, training, helpdesk, service, and integration standpoint. This new suite approach cuts down on the need for context switching, where employees must swap from one system or process to a completely different one several times throughout their day, ruining efficiency and causing friction in their work experience. 

From Cost Savings to Increased Revenues

To fully understand this evolution, you must look at where we started from. The birth of the cloud, and the growth of SaaS, pushed companies away from on-premise technologies. Soon every vendor had a cloud solution. Despite the improvements SaaS brought over past approaches (and the promises made during the sales process), these cloud-based solutions themselves were not fully integrated with each other. They operated more like a collection of tools with differing interfaces, operational characteristics, workflows, and integration capabilities. Anticipated cost savings and efficiencies were  transitory. Friction has increased with the number of solutions that employees have to use. There simply is no common ground between these SaaS solutions. 

Instead of making employees’ work lives easier, this hodge-podge of SaaS solutions is becoming the problem. 

The Age of SaaS Platforms

As companies have moved to embrace digital transformation over the past year, they have started to realize that the way they approach enterprise software needs to change. Tools that were built only with cost savings and speed in mind, not the business problems they could solve, are now out-of-date. 

Enterprise software needs to be more than simple cost savings and an improved bottom line. Top-line business benefits that give you the opportunity to increase revenue must be the result.

In addition, the need for a large investment in consulting and/or services to build, implement, and perfect each of these enterprise software solutions for a team or a specific function is rapidly disappearing with the rise of easy-to-use and low-code technology. If employees are trained to use technology to solve their problems, then there becomes less of a need to hire a specialist. When employees are part of the solution, they are directly involved in the company’s digital transformation and are more supportive to the success of the initiative.

With the growing ability to access the tools needed from one location, as a part of the same platform, the opportunity for an employee to do what they need to from the same workflow, without context switching, is increasingly attractive. This has led to the rise of SaaS-based business platforms.

Delivering Key Functions

These business platforms, as used here, do not mean Amazon AWS, Google, or Microsoft. These new platforms belong to the business operations vendors such as ServiceNow, Salesforce, Workday, and other similar platform solutions. Their transformation into a system of delivery for enterprises, providing all of the tools organizations need to succeed— from collaboration, to marketing and sales automation, to HR, to security, to data analysis — is what makes them the next generation of business platforms. 

Organizations are looking to automate and streamline as many processes as possible across their business. This has been true for a long time and will continue to be so. Now, they are realizing that successfully doing so will result in more than savings and efficiencies — revenue is on the line. Because of this, there will be a fundamental shift in the industry.

As mentioned earlier, best-of-breed solutions have proven to create environments that are not optimized, integrated, or efficient. Context switching and the increased costs of integration remain big problems for companies to solve. Traditional SaaS and on-premise vendors are going to face stiff competition from a new source: the aforementioned SaaS business platform vendors. 

Customers are going to be influenced more and more by these players and their new systems of delivery. These vendors can offer the connection and ease of use that best-of-breed solutions have ultimately failed to deliver. By enabling automation and more streamlined workflows, platform vendors can deliver solutions that are less costly, require less training time, and need less integration time. That all adds up to a more efficient and overall happier workplace - one that helps you reach your revenue goals and promote workforce happiness.

It is becoming clear that seeking out fewer vendors with more integrated solutions will give organizations a better bang for their buck.

Don’t Be Left Behind

There are several benefits of working with and within a common enterprise business platform:

  • Critical tools, apps, and data are housed and accessed from a common location, improving efficiency and costs. One interface to rule them all.
  • Employees leverage the same training and concepts across all the business solutions of the platform. 
  • A common business data plane underneath all these tools and applications makes it more efficient and accurate to manage the organization. No longer do employees need to undertake expensive and time-consuming extract-load-transform (ELT) data projects to ensure data is consistent and integrated across disparate on-premise and SaaS solutions throughout the organization. Time is of the essence in many business decisions. Exterminating integrations, where possible, eliminates delays and simplifies solutions.

In this next stage of SaaS’ evolution, we will see funding and manpower gravitate to these platform-based approaches to improving the enterprise and its revenues. Platform approaches are a way to drive true collaboration and integration. Continued digital transformation efforts will recognize and embrace this.

What does that mean for you, as a best-of-breed cloud security, identity, or “line-of-business” solution? As this future of SaaS rapidly arrives, if you’re not lining up with a platform and are still approaching your business from a best-of-breed model, you’ll be continually fighting for enterprises to purchase from you. 

Digital transformation, integration, and company improvement are board-level concerns. These decisions affect top-line revenue growth now. Spending is being directed more towards the platform solutions and platform-adjacent technologies that have been shown to make a difference. To succeed, you’ll need to line up in the correct place, or be left behind as a footnote on the road of evolution.

Watch the Keynote >

A New Era Is Upon Us

Watch Jackson Shaw's EIC 2021 keynote where he explores what is driving new kinds of enterprise platforms that converge discrete functionalities into new systems of delivery and how this will shape the future of the identity industry.


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