The first round of application service providers (ASPs) was a mitigated disaster.
Most ASPs originated in some form of a dot-com in the days when that added value to a companys name. The first ASPs were very proficient at doing what many other dot-coms were doing at the time, and that was raising capital and spending money.
There was often little regard for rational business plans and little indication of when revenue would be coming in the door. I must admit that I was involved in this first round of ASPs, so I speak from personal experience. Even given the meltdown of the dot-coms I still am very bullish on the future of the ASP technology delivery model.
In a prior National Underwriter article, the question raised was “To ASP, or not to ASP” (see NU, July 30, 2001). This was a good introduction to what I believe is the fundamental issue most businesses need to deal with today in this post dot-com environmentto remain competitive, or to not be competitive.
Whether a business is large, medium, or small theres a common thread to being and remaining competitivedo it faster, better, and cheaper (FBC). So perhaps the question of the day is “How can we best obtain what is needed to be FBC?” and thus be competitive in the marketplace.
Technology provides the capabilities necessary for most businesses to vastly improve their processes, workflows, etc., and to become FBC. However, most small- and medium-sized businesses often do not have the internal competencies and experience, or the funds to invest in the hardware, software, telecommunications and staff, required to obtain and utilize this technology.
The Internet and the original dot-coms facilitated the ASP delivery model. Via the ASP model, a customer has access to sophisticated software and transactions processing using only a browser on a personal computer. ASP customers dont have to be concerned about loading and maintaining software, nor do they need to own a “server farm” for storing their data.
The bottom line with the ASP model is that a business doesnt need to have all the technical competencies internally to have access to sophisticated business software and related systems. Thus, the technology can be easily obtained to become FBC and remain competitive.
We are now experiencing Round Two of the ASPs. These ASPs are real businesses with real business plans. Some have survived from the dot-com era, others have remained in business through mergers and acquisitions, and some new ASPs will be appearing shortly.
The experiences and horror stories from Round One are still around, and this has both negative and positive connotations. Those who believe all the “negatives” wont know there is a Round Two and wont take the time and effort to evaluate, or seriously consider, an ASP solution, even though it might be appropriate for their organization.
On the positive side, we can apply what we learned from Round One in our selection process by performing the appropriate due diligence.
As a start, here are some guidelines for evaluating ASPs and the solutions being provided: