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SaaS An Easy Sell For This CIO

SaaS An Easy Sell For This CIO

RightNow Technologies CIO Laef Olson talks about SaaS and how he approaches it with people who fill shoes similar to his.

Laef Olson

Laef Olson

Is there anything innovative about SaaS

When I talk CIOs I tend to de-emphasise how revolutionary it is. It is great; we are doing things with multi tenancy and how we deploy software. In as much as it meets the definition of innovation, which is a step forward in customer value – that’s how I define innovation, if you are really moving the ball down the field and delivering more value -- then yeah, I really think it is innovative. Is it revolutionary? I don’t want to go too far there. At the end of the day there is a lot of companies that provide technology services via service relationship. We have moved up the stack a little bit in terms of doing that at the applications level. But I don’t make a lot of ground with CIOs by claiming the brave new world of SaaS. I gain more ground by saying ‘you know what, it runs the same way as your stuff runs. It runs in some remote data centre and it runs on your desktops. It is just that I am going to take care some of these things for you.’

We are doing innovative things but I don’t think the whole space is as innovative as people make it out to be.

What apps are ideal for being hosted and what are best keep in-house?

I think it would come down to the preference of business units. It comes down sometimes to security and how comfortable they are with having that stuff be outside the borders of their company and potentially outside the borders of the country. So that tends to drive some decision making there. But technically I guess I would argue that since there is nothing that unique about delivering software over a network there really is no limitations to the types of applications that you can develop and deliver as a service application.

You worked for Traveloprt and Orbitz. What have you taken from there into your new role?

Quite a bit. It is a much bigger company. We have a huge footprint. We manage 2 billion customer interactions a year.

What have I brought to the table? I ran systems for United Airlines. I ran all their reservations, baggage control, all their reservation kiosks around the world. We ran the booking engine for American Airlines. We ran the Web sites for Northwest Airlines. Lots of low cost carriers in Europe like EasyJet [with Travelport]. One third of all travel transactions globally went through our data centre in Denver. The thing about running a global organisation and the operational requirements associated in running infrastructure that large is you are pretty buttoned up. United Airlines doesn’t like it when their systems go down. You have a hard enough time staying in business when systems are up. When they are not flying planes they get pretty upset about that.

The space we [RightNow] are in is contact centre. We are in multi channel chat, email, voice, Web self service. You can’t really sell around IT. IT is going to be involved

Most of my really successful conversations with CIOs today are when the account executives are not in the room. I spent most of career buying and trying to build this stuff, not trying to sell it. What I will say is if you chose RightNow, I tell you what I think you need to do to be successful deploying us. Making sure the deployment is successful. How do you manage upgrades. It is helpful sometimes to have an IT to IT conversation about what works and kind of depressurize the sales environment aspect of it. I do joke that I am not a sales guy but I am on the executive team. At the end of the day it has got to work. And I think I can be pretty helpful in working with customers on how to do it successfully.

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