The hype surrounding software as a service (SaaS) is beginning to translate into real use as enterprises look for more rapid ways to deploy customer-facing applications.
When the University of Western Australia (UWA) was seeking a solution for a self-service portal that students could access any time, it chose a hosted solution from CRM vendor RightNow, rather than deploying it in-house.
UWA's director of student services, John Stubbs, said it needed to integrate RightNow with its existing student information management system, which includes courses taken and the type of student.
"The time-to-live was 120 days and I'm used to doing ERP projects that take two and a half years," Stubbs said, adding there have been no disadvantages with the SaaS architecture, only advantages.
The portal went live on July 9 this year and already has some 4000 users.
The UWA opted for the hosted model mainly due to cost.
"We only had a small amount of money and we did what we could," Stubbs said. "We wanted to expand our business hours which were nine to five, but now we are 24 by seven and students are using the portal at all hours."
Other RightNow education customers include Monash University, the University of Melbourne, and Edith Cowan University, also in WA.
When asked about customization of a SaaS application, Stubbs said the UWA developed its own look and feel so it looks like any other university page.
Stubbs would like to further integrate RightNow information into the document management system.
Another SaaS subscriber is online retailer and e-commerce site DealsDirect.com.au.
Co-founder and director Paul Greenberg said RightNow's hosted live chat solution is "saving so many sales" and reducing the volume of support calls.
In Australia to meet with customers, RightNow vice president of products David Vap said the company offers both on-premise and SaaS applications, but there is most interest in SaaS.
Vap said SaaS applications can be integrated and customized like on-premise applications to give businesses a unique experience for their customers.