SaaS makes a mess of the org chart

SaaS messes up organization charts. It takes those boxes that represent separate departments and it smushes them together.

Let me give some examples.

Marketing & Sales: The marketing organization and the sales organization used to work separately, though they'd occasionally meet to cast blame back & forth. "Your leads are worthless; Your sales guys don't follow up," ad nauseam.

But the SaaS model requires an ultra-efficient customer acquisition process, and there's a penalty to pay for that kind of friction. SaaS companies can't afford to run marketing programs that generate leads that the sales force can't or won't follow up on. A disconnect means wasted leads, lost sales, squandered resources, and lots of nasty finger pointing.

Customer Support and Sales: Customer support and sales were also once considered neatly separated on the org chart. Sales brought in new customers, tossed them over to the customer support people, and moved on.

Not so in the SaaS world. Because SaaS customers can leave once their subscription expires and the company's success depends on renewals, the customer support organization is selling as well. Their ability to deliver quality support and a positive experience is critical to renewing customers and reducing churn.

There's no point in sales working hard to bring new customers in the front door only to have an inadequate customer support organization lose them out the back door. Given the high cost of customer acquisition, SaaS companies usually can't afford to win customers more than once.

User Experience and Marketing: I'll add one more example of org chart boxes getting scrunched together in the SaaS model: the user experience (UX) team and the marketing group.

Those clever and creative UX folks who make solutions usable share the same goals as the marketing team: clarity and simplicity.

The UX designers are trying to make applications easy to use. This is especially critical for broadly-deployed SaaS applications such as expense reporting or talent management.

Trying to patch over a confusing UX by providing lots of training and customer support is very expensive and doesn't fit the SaaS model well. Just a handful of long support calls might suck up whatever profit would be gained in a monthly subscription fee.

Similarly the marketing team is striving for clarity and simplicity. Confusing messages that target the wrong audiences will miss the most likely prospects. Worse, they'll bring in inappropriate prospects that won't eventually purchase your product. These bad leads cost you money; they don't make you money.

But the connection between UX and marketing goes beyond the fact that they share common goals. They actually depend on each other.

It's a waste to hide an elegant UX behind a heap of marketing mumbo-jumbo. If prospective customers are unable to quickly grasp how a solution could be helpful to them and why it's better than alternatives, they're not likely to go beyond the company's home page, brochure, or announcement to actually look at the product.

By the same token, no amount of clear messaging can save a complicated UX. If the product is hard to use, it's hard to sell... and even harder to renew.

Good UX demands good marketing and vice versa.