I remember when SaaS was a new buzzword in the tech industry and there was a fresh dearth of products in the market promising business efficiency! I was working as in the consulting field and and one the very first product I got my hands on was a simple project management tool - this was 8 years ago. The promise of the project management tool was that, that it provided visibility to the manager across different projects, tasks, milestones and status - pretty basic stuff for a project management tool. At that time, the one cool thing that I liked about the tool was email notifications. I would know when a teammate finished a task that I was dependent on - it seemed ground breaking to me then. Today, this feature exists in pretty much every web application out there. So much so that I end up opting out of them just so that they don’t keep pinging me!
Anyway, my point is over a period of time great features became basic and essential. And this is just one example. With the evolution of tech products, especially in SaaS domain, I have come to a realization that in order to even being considered by a user or a business, there’s a minimum threshold that modern SaaS applications must fulfill. This threshold is a set of features that are essential for any application that want to enter the market today. And these features being -
First and foremost, Collaboration - From my perspective, collaboration features are a total game-changer for modern day SaaS applications. I mean, think about it. With features like shared document editing, task assignments, and group chat, it's so much easier for teams to work together and get things done.
On-application commenting and working in real-time has pretty much eaten into email market. You don’t need to constantly send emails back and forth or trying to keep track of multiple versions of a document - no more “Client Presentation Final2 - Final - PS Edits”. Everything is all in one place, organized, and easily accessible for everyone on the team. Plus, it helps to keep everyone on the same page and working towards the same goal.
But it's not just about being more productive. Collaboration features also foster a sense of community and collaboration among users. It helps to promote better communication and teamwork, which is essential for any team that wants to be successful. Personally for me it is a major factor while choosing an application, especially after the pandemic!
Next I’d say is Access control and Role Management! yes, it is basically who has access to what. Over the last decade or so, business are becoming more data driven and sensitive. Some business even focus on creating their moat around data of their users. This led to an increase in general notion that information within the organization should be shared on need to know basis - and thus giving rise to the need of providing selective access to information to different users. This makes Access Control features crucial to any modern day SaaS applications, especially more if they are B2B focused!
Lastly, and I believe it is the most essential requirement for a modern SaaS application is cross-platform integrations. When web applications/SaaS applications came to the market, in their first wave, there was an expectation that businesses would change the way they would operate around these SaaS applications. Take example of Salesforces or Jira… the sales and tech teams across companies had to figure to work around and work with these platforms. However, that is not true anymore. Today, I believe the expectation is that the applications work around and fit to my needs. The users now want to use Office suite for emails, Slack for internal communication, Salesforce for CRM needs, Notion for product management, JIRA for managing development, and Figma for collaboration - and they want all these applications to speak with each other! You get the idea!
So coming back to the humble project management tool, if it were to exist today and compete, at the minimum it would need collaboration features to discuss the tasks, comment of people’s work, share files to specific people for feedback! All of these while being connected to Salesforce, MS Teams and SharePoint.
So yeah, the times have changed and so has the new normal for modern day SaaS applications. And at this speed, it seems that expecting basic AI capabilities will soon be the new essential feature!