By Eiji Ota, Sales&Marketing Director, Canon Central and North Africa (www.Canon-CNA.com).
The as-a-service model existed long before it became mainstream and even before it was branded ‘as-a-service’. Initially, it was mainly used by SMBs and start-ups so they could access software and infrastructure that they would otherwise not be able to afford upfront. SaaS (Software-as-a-service) has been around as early as the 1960s, where smaller businesses started a time-sharing system so they could access modern computer systems in a cost-effective way. 
Fast forward to the present day and the as-a-service model has moved on significantly. Now companies of all shapes and sizes are capitalising on the benefits that it can provide. The rise of cloud technology revolutionised purchasing models as it enabled organisations to use services with no commitment, instantly, and buy based on demand. The cloud added value by enabling immediate and flexible consumption, ultimately enhancing business agility.
The cloud defines the capabilities of the as-a-service model
Cloud technology, as well as enabling increased agility, underpins the three main modern characteristics of as-a-service that could not exist without it:
- Standardisation – whereby the service is not bespoke, but instead provides the same level of value to all customers. Standardised platforms enable businesses to scale quickly, with ease, and leverage the capabilities of the cloud to roll out any necessary updates overnight
- Flexibility of consumption – going beyond the ability to just pay as you consume. Unlike a flat fee where companies are locked in for a set period, as-a-service is on demand and cloud backed so customers pay based on the duration the service is needed for
- Termination – on the other side of the same coin, as there is no commitment required for consumption, customers can switch off when they wish. This places increased importance on value that consistently needs to be reasserted.
How the new ‘as-a-service’ model prioritises value
As more businesses are seeing the benefits of and investing in as-a-service models, and more vendors are providing them, the level of service required to meet needs has changed. Customers are increasingly looking for added value, whether that’s saving money, outsourcing business functions, or improving software capabilities. And this is where cloud really comes into its own.
The pandemic has taught businesses the hard way that IT infrastructure must be resilient in the face of disruption. In the interest of not only adapting to the new normal, but also future proofing operations, flexibility increasingly becomes a priority. Outsourcing implementation shifts ownership from IT departments to specialised vendors. Without the need for skills and expertise from internal talent pools, services can be installed more quickly and with minimal disruption to infrastructure.
Value for money has always been important, but now customers are expressing a need to have more visibility and control over their expenditure. The as-a-service model can help facilitate this by eliminating substantial upfront payment, allowing businesses to spread the bill across multiple months of service. Maintenance and upgrades incur no extra cost and if something goes wrong, the provider, not the customer, is financially liable. The ability to switch off the service if it does not deliver the value that was originally intended also means wasted expenditure can be avoided.
Data security breaches incur high financial costs and long-term reputational damage. With the stakes so high, it may seem counterintuitive to outsource security infrastructure and lose control. However, as service providers have a vested interest in identifying potential weaknesses in your security infrastructure, it can make your business more resilient as a result.
The more people monitoring a private network, the better, as it ensures a quick response to any vulnerabilities that arise. General IT companies that don’t specialise in security can struggle to follow new threats and lack the personnel to support any action needed. With as-a-service, you can cost-effectively gain access to a dedicated team of experts who, not only follow the market closely so are aware of emerging threats, but are focused 24/7 on securing the network. Shifting to service-based models that increase resilience is a valuable preventative investment.
An upgraded ‘as a service’ model
As-a-service is not a new concept, but it was the cloud that enabled its modern characteristics and made it an attractive option for large and small business alike. Standardised, on demand and no commitment solutions not only bring obvious business benefits, but also heighten customer expectations for sustained value. Cloud technology has certainly revolutionised the value of as-a-service, but in such a saturated market it is no longer enough to remain competitive. Customer needs are changing all the time, and to keep up with the evolution of as-a-service, businesses must prioritise value in every decision they make.
Distributed by APO Group on behalf of Canon Central and North Africa (CCNA).