A quick search for the terms “AI” and “SaaS” puts the two in opposition to one another. Articles pop up explaining how AI is “disrupting” and “rivialing” SaaS. One particularly dire headline reads “SaaS Is Dead. What Next?” Yikes.
But there is definitely another way to look at it. Most companies are already relying on some for of SaaS technology, and a growing number of companies are also exploring ways to incorporate AI. Marrying the two seems both prudent and inevitable in order to offer businesses time and money saving solutions.
SaaS is incredibly important
According to the Harvey Nash Technology Survey, 52% of companies say that SaaS has a commercial impact on their organization. But considering how widespread SaaS use is across most companies, that number actually seems a little low. Whether it’s the marketing team using Hubspot, the finance team sending invoices with Bill.com, or the entire organization chatting about projects via Slack, it’s hard to imagine any business that operates in the 21st century not using some kind of SaaS platform.
We’re still not sure what is and isn’t AI
One surprise in the report was the rise of AI as a driver of revenue and a means of saving money. According to the survey, 42% of businesses surveyed said that AI had a significant commercial impact on their organization, making it second only to SaaS. The quick rise of AI surprised many and prompted headlines like “AI Rivals SaaS as Technology.”
However, there does still seem to be a bit of confusion around what AI is and isn’t. According to the authors of the study, companies could simply be labeling existing technologies as AI. Still, the rapid rise of AI as an important part of the business world is remarkable, as the study notes:
“It is often the case that when a new technology begins to grow in usage, other existing technology is ‘rebadged’ with that new technology’s name. Whilst that probably is happening in the case of AI, our sense is that there is a genuine surge happening here. It will be interesting to see what this figure looks like next year.”
But is AI really a “rival” for SaaS? Or might the two terms one day co-exist (or even overlap) among standard business tools?
The future will probably mean you can’t have one without the other
The widespread adoption of both SaaS and AI are both important components of what Dan Scarfe, founder of New Signature, calls a “fourth industrial revolution” in an essay at ITPortal. The revolution will mean using these technologies in conjunction with one another to free up valuable human time for more meaningful tasks:
“AI as a component of the fourth industrial revolution is a means to achieving more, not merely doing the same with fewer resources,” Scarfe writes. “It is a catalyst, which has already sparked a workplace evolution. Over the coming years, we will need fewer hands performing menial tasks, but not fewer staff per se. Instead, AI in the cloud will free the existing workforce to take on more meaningful roles. Fifty per cent of the jobs people will be doing in 2025 haven’t been invented yet, after all.”
AI add-ons to existing tools are already saving time
If the fourth industrial revolution is all about adding hours to the day so that human employees can focus on the projects that really matter, we’re off to a pretty good start. For example, AI personal assistants can already boost workflow automation tools by taking the tedium out of setting up business meetings. These add-ons contact meeting attendees, set up meetings, and add them to calendars, though I suppose we’re still waiting on the artificial intelligence that can actually attend a dull meeting and simply send over the highlights.
Other AI add-ons can perform such tasks as entering campaign data, as well as cleaning and sorting that data. These tools work with existing SaaS platforms to take human error out of data collection, leaving users free to put that data to better creative use.
All too often, AI and SaaS are set up to be, if not rivals, then at least frenemies. But these tools prove that’s simply not the case. The future looks bright for a new generation of cooperative AI and SaaS products that save time and offer even more effective solutions.