Humans > Software > SaaS > Outcome-aaS
Humans did all the work themselves and literally moved from one place to another to get their work done.
Then, Software came along and helped them automate a lot of their work as well as the movement it required. It ushered in an increase in productivity that was considered impossible before. Needless to say, Software thrived. But Software needed a lot of management of it own - upgrades, patches, implementation, configuration and so much more. So, a new generation of Humans was then trained to manage Software upgrades, patches, implementation, configuration, and more.
Soon, the amount of Human effort and capital required to manage Software became too much - at the same time compute had become dramatically cheaper from the time Software first arrived.
Marc Benioff recognized this, among many others, and decided to do something about it. He created the “NO SOFTWARE” movement and gave birth to Software-as-a-Service or SaaS. The promise of SaaS was that Humans no longer needed to buy expensive software, then buy expensive hardware to install that Software, and then hire expensive Software-trained Humans to make Software work for them & more. With SaaS, Humans simply needed to “subscribe” to Software without the need to manage anything at all and simply pay for it monthly like they were used to paying for, say, electricity. SaaS solved a lot of problems and brought in even more increase in productivity and Humans were able to do even more work at even lower costs as compared to the early Human-does-all-the-work and Software-does-a-lot-of-work. We saw everything become SaaS-ified over the next two decades, as it should have been.
At its core, Humans were still “getting their work done” whether it was with Software or SaaS. And, while it's often forgotten, this never changed. Software or later SaaS was just a means to “get work done”. SaaS was Software too, just without the overhead of “managing” the Software.
AI, however, is different - very very very different.
AI, as of 2023, has demonstrated to us that “it can actually DO the work by itself” which neither Software nor SaaS did - they both just helped Humans to do work better, faster, and cheaper. AI simply does the work and that is why it may be the largest platform shift in “how work gets done” that Humans have seen yet. Like everything in computing, AI compute costs will also eventually go down so we need to keep that aside and think about what this shift may mean to Humans’ original need to “get work done” and how it changes everything.
As incumbents race to add AI-powered Copilots to their products and startups wonder where the new opportunities lie in this new world, it is important not to take our focus away from the core: Humans’ need to “get work done” which has remained constant from even before Software arrived. There is an important nuance about work itself though that has become relevant now that AI can do the work - which is to ask the question: why were Humans doing the work? They were doing it for an OUTCOME they desired. Outcome is that nuance.
The future of work - that Humans were doing themselves, then transitioned to using Software to do it faster & better & cheaper to the move to SaaS which took away the management of Software - may lie in building AI that delivers Outcome-as-a-Service because it is the outcome that Humans were “working” for in the first place.
Outcome-as-a-Service or OaaS (am not going to try to pronounce this!) also changes the game enough that incumbents’ distribution doesn’t matter at all because OaaS is not about improving SaaS for doing work with AI Copilots but about delivering the Outcome directly. It is a new category of business altogether which has no similarity to Software or SaaS but it delivers what Humans wanted and used Software and SaaS for.
A new generation of Marc Benioffs of OaaS will build a brand new generation of truly disruptive companies.
PS: OaaS is extremely hard to imagine, though. Almost all initial imaginations of OaaS will be Copilot-like extensions of SaaS. That is not OaaS!