SaaS without the Service?

7th September 2010 No Comments
Topics:Blog, EDC

Like millions of other people around the world, last week I bought a book on Amazon. The next day, it arrived on my doorstep. Great! I didn’t need to jump in my car, park, pay for petrol etc. An excellent service.

Amazon was one of these revolutionary websites that starting things moving.

Software as a Service or SaaS has taking things further. Instead of using a website to buy a product, you can use a website to carry out a function. In the past, you had to go to a shop – buy a box with a CD, install the CD into your computer, and then use the software. With SaaS, you can go into a website, pay a fee, and have an equivalent solution to that offered with running software from CD.

This is all good. Why does everyone need to have a copy of the software locally, and a computer doing all the processing when this can be provided centrally. You gain economy of scale… you can have 1000’s of users all paying towards an engineer keeping the machine going… etc.

SaaS is increasingly becoming common in the eClinical world. Many of the leading EDC firms are largely self hosted solution providers with end-to-end tools that support the development and execution of a clinical study.

Oracle recently purchase PhaseForward. This caused quite a stir in the vendor community. The purchase made sense. Oracle had a lumbering old platform dating back to the early 90’s with an ‘ok’, but far from perfect PDF based EDC front end. It was not SaaS compatible. So – they bought the largest company that did have a more ‘SaaS-like’ platform… Whether the merger will be a success, and whether the PhaseForward product has long term viability I will leave for others to comment on. However, from a SaaS perspective, the acquisition may be interesting.

Oracle have a long history of providing ‘toolkits’ rather than full applications. On the back of the sale of the ‘toolkit’ they provide expert consulting and development services to get the best out of the platform (aka. make it work). For organizations with a budget, and a wish for total flexibility – this makes sense. However, they are often ‘re-inventing the wheel’.

So, where do I see things going with the eClinical vendor space in the future – specifically regarding SaaS?

Hosted Products
All successful products will be provided as hosted well integrated solutions. That decision is made.

Proven success
The most successful products will be the ones that actually make a difference for sponsor organizations. The old days of winning business by providing a sexy UI to the sites is past – most EDC companies can do that. Now, sponsors are looking for facts. How much faster can I perform R&D; with your platform.

Consulting and Support

I would assert that most EDC implementations today are under performing. The same great software platform might be in place with different sponsors or CRO’s, but the results differ significantly. The difference between them are the skills of the people, the processes and the best practices being applied. Making the right decisions here will have a far greater impact than the use of any particular EDC platform.

The last item above is where leading eClinical solution vendors will win or lose. How they convert their user base to become highly efficient operators and proponents of their platforms is the key to their success. The standardization of metrics, together with the tools to measure them will highlight the enormous variance in performance. Organizations that provide the excellent services to support what might be termed a SaaS platform is where the future is.

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