SaaS applications: Fast food vs. Haute Cuisine

Do you enjoy the occasional croquette? One of those hot ones out of a Febo vending machine? Naughty, but nice... Unfortunately, it’s almost a thing of the past. Even McDonald's now sells salads and even includes cherry tomatoes in its Happy Meals. Burgers are now crafted from lovingly ground beef, ice creams are made from a special kind of yogurt and even butter lowers cholesterol these days. But honestly, who can say no to a fatty, tasty meat croquette?

Fast food is a group of products that can be prepared quickly and are relatively inexpensive. The Dutch eat frikandel sausages, Americans eat hamburgers, Hamburgers themselves eat shawarma and bratwurst; you can carry on round the whole world in the same way, from sate to kebabs and noodles to fish and chips. We all love a bit of fast food. It may be unsophisticated and not very creative, but it tastes so good.

The technical equivalent of the greasy snack from the vending machine is the SaaS application: for a couple of euro’s, you can grab a ready-made application from the cloud that you can use straight away. It may not work exactly as you were hoping, but it will satisfy your cravings.

At the moment, SaaS is going in the same direction as fast food did at the beginning of the 20th century: startups are popping up all over the place, their cloud services quickly growing into applications that even the big bosses in the boardrooms can’t get enough off (anyone still using Evernote?). Now major brands are fighting each other to get their services into organisations via pre-packaged cloudservices - if necessary without involving the IT department, because shadow IT is actually IT too. The only thing you need is your credit card close at hand.

It’s a kind of laziness paradise, with the accent on lazy. Fast food is easy enjoyment, and just like fast food, SaaS is not something you should always purchase without first asking yourself if it’s a good idea. There is nothing wrong with quick and tasty, but the service is obviously not comparable to that of a Michelin-star restaurant.

If you want to adapt your meal to a diet, or need a bit more variety for any other reason, you’re not going to be well served by the deep fryer. For example, if you want to cut down on meat, it would be nice if your choices went a bit further than fish fingers or a fish burger. It would be great if there was someone around to tell you which fish have come fresh straight from the sea, for example, or which seasonal vegetables make a really good combination. The accompanying wine they recommend would also be ideal for including in a friendly selfie which you could send to colleagues who have treated themselves to a can of coke and a frikandel from the vending machine.

It all boils down to choice. If you have guests who are not that bothered about what they’re served, then it doesn’t really matter one bit. Fast food can be served up quickly, and it’s cheap and hassle-free. However, the danger is that soon everyone will be using the same software; all ready-made packages which do exactly the same.

The future of IT cannot be mere uniformity. Fast food is a tool, an easy way to satisfy hunger but a good meal, carefully prepared by professionals and adapted to the occasion, is ultimately much more satisfying.

SaaS is a great invention, but there will always be a market for special software, custom-made with care and attention. It does not even necessarily have to be much more expensive; and in the long term, it is probably healthier too.

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Jeroen van der Meer

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