Beyond Software-as- a-Service

Sumeeth Singh, VMware SSA

What’s going on in the SaaS space?

It’s been almost exactly a decade since Mark Andreessen, the well-known co-founder of venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, wrote in the Wall Street Journal that ‘software is eating the world’. The intervening years have, of course, shown this to be true, but it’s only fairly recently that the as-a-service model has come to prominence. The SaaS market is forecast to reach $122.6 billion this year, according to Gartner, which also has something to do with the rise of the cloud. This is a good time to be in the SaaS business, and The Margin convened a discussion with four channel players to explore the possibilities.

First on the call is Mark Robson, executive director and co-founder of PRP Solutions, which, as he explains, is a people management, or workforce management, software tool that ‘fits between your HR and payroll system’.

PRP’s solution seems to be a comprehensive one, and focuses on the operational side of people management, such as scheduling according to business demand, integration with a time and attendance solution, calculation of payroll information, and forecasting of labour costs. It interfaces with its clients’ existing HR system and its data drives their payroll process. He says it also has an employee communications portal that saw strong uptake during the Covid era, when workplaces changed dramatically.

Early adopters

Mark Robson, PRP Solutions Mark Robson, PRP Solutions
“When we started in 2008, Software-as- a-Service, or cloud-based software applications, was still in its infancy, and it was often quite difficult to convince clients of the benefits of the model,” he says.

“There were a lot of concerns about the cloud architecture. These days, it’s accepted, but we had a lot of clients in the beginning that were quite reluctant and wanted to set things up in the traditional way on their premises. Actually, in every case, we said to them, let’s start off using our cloud offering, and if you want to change, we can deploy an instance in your environment. None of them have done that.”

He says its architecture works extremely well in distributed environments, and it’s being used by some large businesses, such as the Bidvest Group, SAB, Coca-Cola and Tsebo Group, among others.

PRP’s software is now used to manage about 160 000 employees worldwide, and it’s also opened a sales office in Europe.

Andre de Meyer, sales director at IFS, Africa region, interjects, and wants to know from Robson if it can host the IFS business solution for a client.

Robson demurs, saying it’s an application provider, and houses its solution in a private cloud at the Internet Solutions (IS) datacentre.

“That’s where I come in,” says Sumeeth Singh, cloud provider manager at VMware SSA. He looks after all the private VMware cloud providers in Sub-Saharan Africa, he says, and promises to put De Meyer in touch with a channel partner.

De Meyer says his client wants a secure, private hosted cloud solution.

Andre de Meyer, IFS Andre de Meyer, IFS
Singh says he has partners that can fit into any of those models, be it on-prem, cloud or hyperscale cloud, but adds that it appears The Margin’s roundtable has been derailed.

The Margin: Never let it be said that no business gets done at a Margin roundtable, but Mark (Robson), why did you go with IS?

Robson pauses, as though trying to remember the reasoning behind its original decision.

“We started there in 2008 and we’ve just developed the relationship since then. I think we were one of the early competitors in our space that went for a cloud solution and a lot was based on credibility. IS’ services are pretty good, and it gave us a lot of credibility among our big corporate clients.”

Routes to market

VMware’s Singh says that in his business, there are two distinct routes to market.

One route is VMware cloud provider partners that have built infrastructure, backed by VMware technology, and are then offering that to end-customers to host their workloads.

“The other model, the managed service provider (MSP) model, is where partners utilise VMware software – our technology that we host – but offer it to their customers wrapped with their managed services,” he says, adding that this can be solutions such as Security-as-a-Service, Cost optimisation-as- a-Service or Device management-as-a- Service, for example.

He says the topic under discussion is right up his alley, “because my core focus is enabling partners to not only offer managed services to end-customers, but to also gain a monetisation opportunity because they can add their unique skillset to manage these SaaS offerings on behalf of their customers. It’s not just a resell model of SaaS.

“The partners I work with would typically not just sell Technology-as-a-Service, but manage and operate it on behalf of an end-customer.”

He says he has about 60 partners that are offering VMware cloud services as well as managed services across the region.

The Margin: How do you support the partners?

Vishalan Moodley, TechSoft International Vishalan Moodley, TechSoft International
“Each partner has a unique value proposition that allows them to each have an equal share, or at least a slice of the pie, because they play in specific niche areas. I’ve got partners that offer pure Infrastructure-as-a-Service in a channel model. They don’t offer managed services and their model is aimed at SMMEs that will resell cloud without needing to build out their own infrastructure. Then I’ve got partners who work predominantly in the managed services space, and they then buy cloud/infrastructure services from one of my other partners. It’s a co-petitive framework.”

Best in class

De Meyer is a veteran of the technology world, and spent 17 years with SAP. He’s now been with IFS for about six-and-a-half years, which earlier this year appointed local company Technodyne as the sole distributor for IFS software in Sub-Saharan Africa.

IFS is an ERP vendors that services the aerospace and defence, energy and utilities verticals. It also has lots of customers in the engineering and construction areas, and in manufacturing and the services industries.

“Our philosophy is that we try to be the best at what we do, and not be everything for everyone. There are much bigger ERP vendors than us.”

IFS, he says, like most of the world, has moved to a cloud environment.

It also has a partner incentive programme that provides discounts, as well as skills training to empower partners.

“We assist them as a service provider, and in terms of how they partner from a product platform perspective. We also co-design strategies so they can become a knowledge partner and build programmes for Software-as- a-Service.”

Vishalan Moodley, senior solutions consultant at TechSoft International, joins the call and says he represents the United States-based TIBCO in the Sub-Saharan region. TIBCO stands for ‘the integration bus company’ and it has its origins from the integration work it did for the New York Stock Exchange. He says TIBCO picked TechSoft as its local BEE partner and that before its involvement, TIBCO products were priced in dollars, which caused fluctuations. Now there’s a rand price book that was defined for the year.

TIBCO has 52 partners in Sub-Saharan Africa that can on-sell TIBCO technology and deliver services. “We’ve localised the partners, the pricing and the skillset to ensure there’s continuity. We’ve built the entire go-to-market on the partner ecosystem. By putting this local ecosystem in place, we’ve been able to provide localised resource skills based on the local value proposition.

“We build solutions with partners in South Africa. The OEM gives them a massive discount, and then they make the money on their services and platform and are able to onsell and upsell. It’s only when you sell the technology to your customer that you then start paying us back, like a royalty fee on the licences you use.”