SaaS, BPO Convergence: What About SLAs?

Ann All

A month ago I wrote about how India's Wipro, Russia's Luxoft and other offshore service providers were moving away from traditional effort-based outsourcing pricing structures and more toward outcome-based ones.


Girish Paranjpe, co-CEO of Wipro's information technology unit, credited the company's new price strategy with a 1.5 percent boost in profit margins at Wipro's computer services unit in 2009's third quarter. Joseph Foresi, an analyst with Janney Montgomery Scott, lauded Wipro for "becoming more adaptable" with the approach and predicted more emphasis on new price models.


To offer this kind of pricing, service providers will no doubt expect to exert more control over the technology that underpins outsourcing agreements. Such control is the primary difference in what Gartner research VP Frances Karamouzis calls "platform BPO" in a Forbes article. Outsourcing companies will decide if and when to use open source software, commodity hardware and other options that allow them to more cost effectively deliver their services, Karamouzis tells Forbes. Hmmm. Think using open source software and commodity hardware sounds a little like software-as-a-service?


I've written about the possible convergence of BPO and SaaS several times over the past few years. In January 2008, I cited several experts who said using SaaS could give early adopter BPO companies a competitive edge. "Entrepreneur Journeys" author Sramana Mitra wrote on her blog that BPO providers "need to diversify their portfolios away from pure body-shopping and process competencies to technology driven advantages" and suggested SaaS as one way of doing so.


Karamouzis tells Forbes that, like SaaS, platform BPO agreements offer more predictable pricing for customers. Also like SaaS, these kinds of agreements "cut[s] out the software and hardware companies from having a direct relationship with the customer," Karamouzis says. She adds that 85 percent of SaaS customers lack a core competency with the software and do not have service-level agreements.


Wow. I wonder if the SLA part of her statement is true. That seems like a high number. Back in 2007, the Software & Information Association suggested in a white paper that well-written SLAs were crucial to SaaS success. Maybe she means SLAs offered by many SaaS providers aren't exactly comprehensive. In sharing his thoughts on what should be included in an SLA with a SaaS provider Dani Shomron writes on his blog:


The SLA provided by most on-demand companies consists of two or three paragraphs at most...


Using SaaS might make it more difficult for BPO providers to offer the kinds of SLAs to which their customers have become accustomed. But if they can figure out out a way to offer more comprehensive SLAs while still taking advantage of lower-cost delivery models, they stand to make a killing. As Phil Fersht wrote last spring on his Horses for Sources blog:

The core benefits for the customer is when the BPO provider takes responsibility for managing the SaaS application. Then the service provider is taking on the governance headaches that SaaS can bring to the table, while offering a one-to-many process workflow to its clients. The service provider can also work with its clients to transform its current processes onto the SaaS application model.

Add Comment      Leave a comment on this blog post
Jan 8, 2010 6:24 AM Graham Perry Graham Perry  says:

Ann raises a good question. SaaS offers a cost advantage over running in-house systems but is the SaaS industry mature enough to provide enterprise-wide applications?

I don't believe an SLA spanning a few paragraphs will cut the mustard - particularly in the wake of's 1 hour outage earlier this week.

SaaS vendors need to move towards more robust commitments and ownership if this concept is to succeed.

May 14, 2010 3:09 AM penelope penelope  says: in response to Graham Perry

Advantages of BPO

Nevertheless, Business Process Outsourcing is also advantageous for the firm. It makes it more flexible. Fixed costs are being converted into variable costs which make the firm respond to possible changes into a given capacity. Another thing is the company's focus. It must definitely prioritize its major competencies rather than be sidetracked. Employees don't have to exert extra effort on non-core processes, thus investing a greater time on core business transactions. A company's flexibility is also improved because of its increased speed.

May 14, 2010 4:26 AM subodh subodh  says: in response to Graham Perry's great achievement for indian


May 14, 2010 12:31 PM Trianz Trianz  says: in response to Graham Perry

Thanks for sharing your view. Yes, it is true that the SaaS vendors have to show firm commitment if they want to move forward with that concept. Basically every business concept is based on skill and commitment. And as the concept is new it demands more time and dig.


Jul 20, 2010 6:10 AM kpo kpo  says:

i am very charming of bpo.

Jan 15, 2011 4:00 AM jhonsmith jhonsmith  says:

To offer this kind of pricing, service providers will no doubt expect to exert more control over the technology that underpins outsourcing agreements. Such control is the primary difference in what Gartner research VP Frances Karamouzis calls "platform BPO" in a Forbes article. wipro is a very nice outsourcing bpo.



Oct 14, 2011 8:54 AM Oliver Oliver  says:

Outsourcing is getting more and more popular for blue chip businesses. Great post thanks for sharing


Post a comment





(Maximum characters: 1200). You have 1200 characters left.




Subscribe to our Newsletters

Sign up now and get the best business technology insights direct to your inbox.