Opinion

VIEWPOINT: Business in the Era of Everything-as-a-Service (XaaS), By Eiji Ota

Today, products, services, and experiences are all being swept up in the phenomenon of Everything-as-a-Service (XaaS) – remote and on demand access to any business offering provided as a service

The ‘as-a-service’ model, whereby businesses can subscribe to a service or offering without the need to pay upfront, has revolutionised B2B operations forever. It was initially introduced, with Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), a pioneering business model for accessing software through the cloud. SaaS helped businesses offer a standard, distributed solution at a lower cost of entry. This new model also meant that customers no longer needed to worry about large installation and ongoing maintenance costs.

Two decades on from its mass introduction, and the SaaS model no longer exists solely within computing, but now touches every industry. While software industries have been spearheading the as a service model for decades, other industries such as print, are in the earlier stages of applying such models to their own business offerings. The market is moving at pace, and it was the cloud that fully accelerated its widespread popularisation.

More recent adaptations of the ‘as-a-service’ concept include Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS), Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS),and more, that utilise the cloud-based model and offer businesses increased flexibility to scale up or down based on need As the service is hosted in a shared environment, the service itself and updates can be rolled out instantaneously, and allows customers to outsource key business functions, revolutionising industry operations.

Today, products, services, and experiences are all being swept up in the phenomenon of Everything-as-a-Service (XaaS) – remote and on demand access to any business offering provided as a service.

The XaaS model

As early as 2018, it was predicted that the global XaaS market will surpass $340 billion by 2024[1]. The pandemic has only served to accelerate this trend as organisations have sought to adapt their business models to thrive in the new normal. In fact, 60% of adopters believe they are gaining a competitive edge through their use of XaaS[2]. Optimised running costs, freed up resources, faster implementation and providing customers with access to the most up-to-date technology are all benefits too great to ignore.

The rise of the ‘on-demand’ economy has created a shift in consumer behaviour where more is expected from businesses than ever before. The XaaS model uses ‘servitisation’, which is the transformation from merely selling products to also delivering services, to meet these increased demands. ‘Servistisation’ creates an opportunity for businesses to deepen customer relations through engagement and that collaboration is key to the success of an XaaS offering.

Beyond implementation to creating real customer value

Many companies have been using customer delivery techniques for years to analyse how customers are using products and rolling out updates accordingly based on feedback. However, the cloud has advanced this trend by making it easier for businesses to gain real time insights, facilitating a deeper understanding of customer journey.

It is now not enough for businesses to simply provide an as-a-service offering as a tick box. Investment in the model is key to creating a service that the customer sees true value in. Only by leveraging the cloud to engage and collaborate with customers, monitor their usage and make improvements to the product or service, accordingly, can you keep your business truly competitive.

Engagement is the first building block to understanding consumption

Customers are directly connected to a business each and every time they use a product, service or function. The world is changing at speed and customers’ needs are evolving with it. Direct customer engagement allows companies to stay ahead of these changes and understand how, why, and when their product is being used.

Monitoring customer use to ensure a seamless user experience

Businesses can measure how customers are using a product, service or function through usage metrics such as adoption, what functionality is being used, and how quickly an action is completed. This gives them insight to identify and proactively fix any problems that could arise before they impact a customer’s experience. The XaaS model also presents companies with a space to evolve their service or test new strategies in an agile way.

Ongoing collaboration is vital for long-term investment

The XaaS model naturally lends itself to a customer and provider collaborating to ensure that a user gets the best from what they are using. In the old world of purchase and use, solution providers were not so connected to whether a customer managed to extract a purchase’s full value. However, flexibility and scalability has changed this dynamic.

Today, an ongoing collaboration between a customer and XaaS provider is key for long-term investment. The nature of the model means the buyer makes a repurchase decision every subscription term, reconsidering the value of the service more frequently than ever before. In fact, 80% of adopters agree that XaaS has led their organisation to reinvent business processes and even change how they sell to customers[3]. The XaaS model is seeing us into a new era, one in which we ‘pay by outcome’. This payment model holds businesses accountable for bolstering product value on a consistent basis.

XaaS: setting businesses up to thrive in the new normal

The XaaS model represents a new era for the ‘as-a-service’ model and its uptake is quickly becoming an essential building block for business growth. A true XaaS proposition must offer real engagement, close monitoring of a product in use, and a commitment to continuous improvement to meet today’s evolving customer demands. As more and more businesses implement an XaaS proposition it is increasingly difficult to stay competitive just by adding a digital connection and subscription model to current offerings. The as-a-service model is becoming an expectation for consumers, as the demand for convenience and ease is more prominent in a hybrid working world. Customers are now looking for true value in what they consume, and the as-a-service model is no exception.

Ota is B2B Sales and Marketing Director for Canon Central and North Africa

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