Now that we are all back in the office on the Monday after Saba Insight 2018, I thought it’s a good time to reflect on the Saba Insight 2018 event. First, let me say we really enjoyed the location, the amenities and the hospitality at the Fairmont Scottsdale. It’s a nice place for a conference and the Copper Canyon party location had just the right amount of western boomtown flair, drinks and food to celebrate the evening. And what would a party be without fireworks?
There were about 500 attendees at the conference, which is little smaller than other user conferences we attend for similar size companies in the Learning and Talent space, but perhaps that’s not surprising giving the transformation Saba has been through in the past few years. Overall, the conference was well done!
From the Bluewater perspective, it was interesting to watch the latest Saba news since Bluewater had not participated in an Insight conference for a few years. After the Saba/Halogen acquisition, we stepped back for a while to let the dust settle and to see where the company was headed. As we jump back into the picture it’s clear that the majority of the heavy lifting required to merge the two companies has been done in the last 18 months and Saba now seems ready to push forward aggressively.
We spoke with Saba CEO Phil Saunders for a few minutes while we were there. If you haven’t met him, he’s very approachable and he has great passion and energy for the company and their future. I’d say the future prospects look good in the Saba world; in some ways, they are better than they have been in a long time.
One of the best ways to gauge the success of any company is to talk to their customers. The Bluewater team did just that while exhibiting at our booth, attending sessions and during the social gatherings. It’s not uncommon in the Learning and Talent space to hear customers grumbling about their vendor – that’s pretty much standard. So, we were pleased to find very few examples of upset or angry customers at the event.
For the most part, the Saba customers (both former Saba and former Halogen) seemed pleased with the current state of the company, the software. and the support. I’m sure there are angry customers out there somewhere, but the ones who attended the conference seemed to be positive overall.
While things seem to be going well, that doesn’t mean there are no questions about the future of Saba, their products and how customers will be affected by future changes. Here are a few important ones to consider.
1. Merging SabaCloud and TalentSpace. Saba indicated that they are in the process of merging the SabaCloud and TalentSpace platforms. The 12-18-month plan is to make the overlapping modules in TalentSpace and SabaCloud equivalent in terms of functionality and user experience. That way, a user would have the same experience in either portal. I assume this is a precursor to eventually migrating TalentSpace customers to SabaCloud. However, there was no estimated completion date for when it might be possible to move a TalentSpace client to SabaCloud. When can a customer move and how long will it take Saba to migrate all existing TalentSpace customers to SabaCloud? The answer has not been released publicly.
2. Lumesse Acquisition. Just today, October 1, 2018, Saba announced the acquisition of another company, Lumesse. Lumesse is a big player in the Learning and Talent space in EMEA. The acquisition will immediately expand Saba’s footprint in EMEA, which is good for Saba, the company. However, merging software platforms in a meaningful way is difficult. Now Saba will be responsible for merging two software platforms to SabaCloud at the same time. What benefit will the acquisition have for customers and how long will it take for customers to see this benefit?
3. Enterprise Edition Future. In addition to SabaCloud, TalentSpace, and now Lumesse, Saba obviously still supports the Enterprise Edition (EE). While Saba hasn’t sold new customers on this product for several years they still have plenty of customers who use it. Surely Saba still wants to move as many of these customers to SabaCloud as possible. At the same time, there are more than a few EE customers for whom a migration to SabaCloud would be very difficult due to the software customizations that were made to the product for that customer.
What are Saba’s plans for supporting four different product lines and the various modules in each? How does Saba keep from turning into a SumTotal-like company with multiple products serving a similar market and having difficulty merging the product and the customers into (optimally) one or perhaps two platforms? If Saba is forced to divide their best internal services among multiple product lines, they may struggle to innovate in the future.
These questions are not meant to criticize Saba. Instead, I ask them just to raise important issues that may (or may not) become a problem for Saba in the future.
I personally look forward to seeing everyone again at Saba Insight 2019!