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Mea Clouda: SaaS Vendors Can Win Over Customers with Honesty

Mea Clouda: SaaS Vendors Can Win Over Customers with Honesty

How do Salesforce.com, Workday, NetSuite and others respond to unplanned outages? With the type of honesty and transparency that is critical to the future of cloud computing. Watch and learn, Big ERP.

FUD sounds dull, but it can be deathly sharp.

As an example of a step in the right direction, look at what recently happened with SaaS ERP provider Workday, which counts more than 100 companies as customers, including Chiquita. On Sept. 24, 2009, Workday suffered a significant, unplanned outage, related to a network attached storage device.

Aneel Bhusri, Workday's cofounder and co-CEO, took to the Workday blog to deliver "the story" behind the outage. He explained the IT that caused the problem, shared how they were taking steps to not have it happen again, acknowledged that "any unplanned outage is unacceptable," and, most importantly, thanked customers for their "understanding" and "the overwhelming sense of support and teamwork."

In a recent interview with Bhusri and Workday cofounder Dave Duffield, ERP guru Vinnie Mirchandani asked them how "pissed off" their customers were about the outage.

Said Duffield: "Unbelievably, I got e-mails from a couple of our customers basically saying, 'Better you than me.' They are so glad they are not being woken up middle of the night. That's our job now." (For a profile of Duffield and Bhusri, see Can Two Legacy ERP Guys Get IT Executives to Buy into On-Demand Applications?)

Mirchandani, in his blog, lauded them for "transparently blogging the mea culpa." The response from Workday customers, saying "Don't sweat it-you are doing better than what we [would have done]," should concern on-premise vendors who might not overly concerned about SaaS and cloud vendors, Mirchandani concludes.

Time and time again we've seen that companies, politicians or celebrities who honestly and courageously admitted to whatever particular sin they committed stood a much better chance at building a better future for themselves and their "customers," as it were.

I wish that the "on-premise versus SaaS" debate didn't have such a divisive Red State - Blue State feel to it. There's more than enough room for everybody. But I fear that's where this is all headed.

If that is the case, and Salesforce.com, Workday, NetSuite and others want to hunt bigger prey in the fields of Oracle and SAP, then there's one untapped area where they should focus their efforts: dealing in absolute truth with their customers.

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